AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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National Lampoon's Vacation
Director: Harold Ramis (Dir)
Release Date:   1983
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 29 Jul 1983
Production Date:   Began 5 July 1982
Duration (in mins):   98
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Cast:   Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold)  
    Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen Griswold)  
    Imogene Coca (Aunt Edna)  
    Randy Quaid (Cousin Eddie)  
  Co-starring Anthony Michael Hall (Rusty Griswold)  
  Co-starring Dana Barron (Audrey Griswold)  
  Spec appearances by Eddie Bracken (Roy Walley)  
  Spec appearances by Brian Doyle-Murray (Kamp Komfort clerk)  
  Spec appearances by Miriam Flynn (Cousin Catherine)  
  Spec appearances by James Keach (Motorcycle cop)  
  Spec appearances by Eugene Levy (Car salesman)  
  Spec appearances by Frank McRae (Grover)  
  And John Candy (Lasky)  
  And introducing Christie Brinkley (Girl in the red Ferrari)  
    Jane Krakowski (Cousin Vicki)  
    John Navin (Cousin Dale)  
    Nathan Cook (Man giving directions)  
    Christopher Jackson (Pimp)  
    Mickey Jones (Mechanic)  
    John Diehl (Assistant mechanic)  
    Jeannie Dimter Barton (Dodge City cashier)  
    Randolph Dreyfuss (Wyatt Earp)  
    Virgil Wyaco, II (Indian)  
    Gerry Black (Davenport)  
    James Staley (Motel desk clerk)  
    Adelaide Wilder (Car hop)  
    Tessa Richarde (Motel guest)  
    Fritz Ford (Neighbor)  
    Eric Stacey, Jr. (Neighbor)  
    Scott Perry (SWAT leader)  
    Dennis Freeman (Policeman)  
    Michael Talbot (Cowboy)  
    John Craigmile (Camel rider)  

Summary: In Chicago, Illinois, Clark Griswold readies for a family vacation to the Walley World theme park in California. Clark and his son, Rusty, trade-in their old car and wait for their new “Antarctic Blue Super Sports Wagon.” The slick salesman, Ed, brings out a “Metallic Pea Wagon Queen Family Truckster” which Clark ends up taking home. His wife, Ellen, and daughter, Audrey, are not impressed with the new car and Ellen suggests flying to California. Clark is adamant about driving in order to spend time with his family. On the road, the family happily sings the Walley World theme song. Clark and Ellen continue singing and the kids quickly put on headphones. Hours later, only Clark is still singing. At a gas station, Clark cannot find the gas tank and rips off the license plate in his search. In St. Louis, Missouri, they take the wrong exit and end up in a bad neighborhood. When Clark stops for directions, the man demands money and gives confusing directions while his buddies steal the Griswold’s hubcaps. Back on the road, the kids fall asleep. Ellen worries that Clark is too tired to drive, but Clark insists he is fine and she dozes off. Soon, Clark is asleep at the wheel. The car speeds down the freeway, off an exit and through city streets. Sleepily, Ellen pokes Clark and asks him to turn off the TV. Clark awakens, screams and slams on the brakes. The car spins around and flies backward into a parking spot at a motel. Clark has planned a romantic evening with wine and quarters for the vibrating mattress, but the mattress is loud and starts bouncing wildly. Clark pulls blankets onto the floor and they crawl under the covers, ready for sex. The kids rush in from the connecting room to investigate the noise. Rusty unplugs the bed before the kids go back to their room. At a Wild West tourist stop in Dodge City, Kansas, the Griswolds go to the “saloon” for a drink. Clark teases the bartender who whips out a gun and “shoots” Clark. Ellen is horrified by the joke. On the road, the kids bicker in the backseat and Ellen tries to quiet them. Clark is distracted by a beautiful girl driving a red Ferrari. He speeds to keep up with her, but Ellen turns her attention back to the front seat and orders Clark to stop driving so fast. They arrive in Coolidge, Kansas for a visit with Ellen’s cousins, Catherine and Eddie, who have a large family. Their older children, Vicki and Dale, show Audrey and Rusty around the farm. Dale impresses Rusty with a stack of “nudie books” and Vicki brings out her home-grown pot for Audrey. Clark and Ellen learn of Catherine and Eddie’s financial troubles and lend them money. Crusty Aunt Edna has been living with Catherine and Eddie, but announces the Griswolds are driving her back home to Phoenix. Edna’s vicious dog, Dinky, goes with them. When they stop for lunch, Clark spots the girl in the red Ferrari across the parking lot. She flirts with him. Clark flirts back until Ellen realizes the dog urinated on the sandwiches they are eating. They arrive at run-down Kamp Komfort in South Fork, Colorado and rent three tents. That night Dinky attacks Clark and Ellen’s sleeping bag when they try to have sex. The next morning Clark ties Dinky’s leash to the bumper while he reloads the car. A motorcycle cop soon pulls them over. Clark forgot Dinky was tied to the bumper and the dog is dead. Later in the day, everyone but Clark is asleep when the red Ferrari passes them again. Clark speeds up, drives on the wrong side of the road to flirt with her and narrowly avoids a collision. Unnoticed by the Griswolds, Ellen’s vanity case falls off the roof. It contained her credit cards but Clark is not worried; they can always cash a check. They get lost in the Arizona desert, crash through a “road closed” sign, fly over an abutment and wreck the car. Before Clark leaves to find help, he has a man-to-man talk with Rusty and they share a beer. Clark walks for miles across the desert. He finally makes it to a remote gas station only to find that Ellen, Aunt Edna and the kids are already there. Two Indians saw Clark in the desert and arranged a tow. Two mechanics, one of whom is also the local Sheriff, take all of Clark’s money in exchange for repairing the car. The Griswolds are out of money when they arrive at the Grand Canyon motel. The motel manager refuses to cash a check, even when Clark tries to bribe him. When the manager steps away to take a call, Clark slams his hand in frustration which opens the cash register. Clark takes the money, leaves a check to cover it, and runs outside. Edna is asleep in the car but Ellen and the kids want Clark to see the Grand Canyon. He looks at it for two seconds and rushes them back into the car. They drive off and soon discover Edna is dead. Clark and Ellen argue over what to do and finally agree to take Edna’s body to Cousin Normie’s house in Phoenix, as planned. Clark straps Edna’s body to the roof. It is raining when they arrive in Phoenix and Normie is gone until Monday. Against Ellen’s wishes, they leave Aunt Edna’s body on the back patio. The family argues as they drive away. Ellen and the kids want to go home but Clark will not hear of it. It is no longer just a vacation; it is now “a quest for fun.” When they stop for the night, Ellen is mad at Clark’s outburst. Clark angrily leaves their motel room, goes to the bar and runs into the girl in the red Ferrari. Clark pretends he owns the chain of motels and travels incognito, with a fake family, to check on operations. Clark and the girl stroll into the pool area. She undresses and dives into the pool. Clark strips and dives in too. He screams in surprise at the cold water and everyone comes out of their rooms to investigate. Clark makes up a story to explain the situation but Ellen does not buy it. Clark says goodbye to the girl in the red Ferrari and apologizes to Ellen. She accepts his apology and wants to have more fun, too. Ellen takes off her top and dives into the pool. Clark undresses again and joins her. The family reaches Los Angeles, California and arrives at Walley World but it is closed for repairs. Ellen wants to fly back home but Clark is furious, and has another plan. He drives to a sporting goods shop, runs inside, and then heads back to Walley World for an explanation from Roy Walley. Security Guard Lasky stops them and Clark pulls out a gun. Another guard arrives and Clark orders him to lie down. Clark forces Lasky to take the family on rides throughout the park. SWAT arrives. Lasky realizes Clark has a BB gun and starts to leave so Clark shoots Lasky with a BB. SWAT officers surround them, and the family is handcuffed. Roy Walley arrives and Clark convinces him not to press charges. Everyone rides the rollercoaster before the Griswolds return to Chicago on a plane.  

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures (A Warner Communications Company)
Production Text: A Matty Simmons Production
A Harold Ramis Film
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. (A Warner Communications Company)
Director: Harold Ramis (Dir)
  Robert Grand (Unit prod mgr)
  Robert P. Cohen (1st asst dir)
  Ross Brown (2d asst dir)
  Carl Bath (2d unit dir)
  Brad Gross (2d unit 1st asst dir)
Producer: Matty Simmons (Prod)
  Robert Grand (Assoc prod)
Writer: John Hughes (Scr)
Photography: Victor J. Kemper (Dir of photog)
  Robert Stevens (Cam op)
  Earl Clark (Cam asst)
  Kevin Jewison (2d cam asst)
  Elliot Marks (Still photog)
  Earl Gilbert (Gaffer)
  Pat Marshall (Rigging gaffer)
  Rhio Haessig (Best boy)
  Gaylin Schultz (Key grip)
  Robin Knight (2d grip)
  Bernie Schwartz (Dolly grip)
  Paul vom Brack (2d unit dir of photog)
Art Direction: Jack Collis (Prod des)
Film Editor: Pem Herring (Film ed)
  Tim Board (Asst film ed)
  Donah Bassett (Negative cutter)
Set Decoration: Joe Mitchell (Set dec)
  Karen Holley (Leadwoman)
  Robert Visciglia, Sr. (Prop master)
  Sonny Van Hecke (Asst prop master)
  Dick Bayard (Const coord)
  Bob Lattanzio (Paint foreman)
Costumes: Barbara Siebert (Women`s cost)
  Robert Harris, Jr. (Men`s cost)
Music: Ralph Burns (Mus)
  Eugene Marks (Mus ed)
  Arthur Piantadosi (Mus mixer)
  Chris Boardman (Addl mus)
Sound: Bob G. Henderson (Sd ed)
  Alan Robert Murray (Sd ed)
  Bub Asman (Sd ed)
  Caryl Wickman (Dial ed)
  Brooke E. Henderson (Asst sd ed)
  Les Fresholtz (Dial mixer)
  Dick Alexander (Sd eff mixer)
  Marty Bolger (Sd mixer)
  Hal Whitby (Boom man)
  Tom Mar (Cable man)
Special Effects: Dream Quest (Matte paintings by)
  Rocco Gioffre (Matte artist)
  Wayne Fitzgerald (Title des)
  John Margolies /ESTO (Main title photog)
  The Image Bank West (Main title photog)
Make Up: Frank Griffin (Makeup artist)
  Adele Taylor (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Trevor Albert (Prod assoc)
  Susan Arnold (Casting)
  Phyllis Huffman (Casting)
  Sam Mercer (Loc mgr)
  Alan Greedy (Scr supv)
  Amy McElhenney (Prod secy)
  Jayni Chase (Loc secy)
  Carol Bahoric (Asst to Matty Simmons)
  John Woodward (Transportation coord)
  Bill Borden (CO/AZ loc mgr)
  Julian Richard Sylvester (Animal trainer)
  Karen Dew (Animal trainer)
  Jo Doster (Loc casting)
  Olivia Maggard (Loc casting)
  U.A.A. Films Ltd. Australia (Prod services)
  Al Sand (Catering)
Stand In: Dick Ziker (Stunt coord)
  Pam Bebermeyer (Stunts)
  Jophery Brown (Stunts)
  Chere Bryson (Stunts)
  Bill Burton (Stunts)
  Jim Connors (Stunts)
  Mike Deluna (Stunts)
  David Ellis (Stunts)
  Tony Epper (Stunts)
  Hugh Hooker (Stunts)
  Julian Richard Sylvester (Stunts)
  Don Pulford (Stunts)
  J. N. Roberts (Stunts)
  Kenny Studer (Stunts)
  Glenn R. Wilder (Stunts)
  John Woodward (Stunts)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: "Holiday Road," written and performed by Lindsey Buckingham, produced by Richard Dashut, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records; "Dancin' 'Cross The U.S.A.," written and performed by Lindsey Buckingham, produced by Richard Dashut, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records; "Little Boy Sweet," written by Peter Ivers and Franne Golde, performed by June Pointer, produced by Richard Perry, courtesy of Planet Records; "He's So Dull," written by Dez Dickerson and Vanity, performed by Vanity 6, produced by The Starr Company and Vanity 6, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records; "Blitzkreig Bop," written and performed by The Ramones, produced by Craig Leon, courtesy of Sire Records; "Mr. Blue," written by Dewayne Blackwell, performed by The Fleetwoods, produced by Bob Reisdorff, courtesy of Liberty Records; "I'm So Excited," written by Anita Pointer, June Pointer, Ruth Pointer and Trevor Lawrence, performed by The Pointer Sisters, produced by Richard Perry, courtesy of Planet Records; "Walley World National Anthem," music by Bruce Belland and Roy M. Rogosin, lyrics John Hughes, Bruce Belland and Roy M. Rogosin.
Composer: The Ramones
  Bruce Belland
  Dewayne Blackwell
  Lindsey Buckingham
  Dez Dickerson
  Franne Golde
  John Hughes
  Peter Ivers
  Trevor Lawrence
  Anita Pointer
  June Pointer
  Ruth Pointer
  Roy M. Rogosin
  Vanity
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Brothers, Inc. 25/10/1983 dd/mm/yyyy PA192966

PCA NO: 27018
Physical Properties: Sd:
  col: Color by Technicolor®
  Lenses: Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®

 
Genre: Comedy
  Adventure
Sub-Genre: Road
 
 
Subjects (Major): Amusement parks
  Automobiles
  Family relationships
  Vacations
 
Subjects (Minor): Arizona
  Aunts
  Camping
  Chicago (IL)
  Colorado
  Cousins
  Death and dying
  Deserts
  Dogs
  Grand Canyon (AZ)
  Hostages
  Infatuation
  Kansas
  Los Angeles (CA)
  Marijuana
  Motels
  St. Louis (MO)
  Swimming pools

Note: End credits include the following written statement: “The Producers wish to thank The Arizona Film Commission, California Motion Picture Council, Colorado Film Commission, Illinois Film Office, Missouri Film Commission and The Navajo Film and Media Commission.”
       Studio production notes from AMPAS library files and an article in the 7 Aug 1983 LAT noted the movie is based on Vacation 58, an original short story written by John Hughes and published in the National Lampoon magazine in 1978. The 7 Aug 1983 LAT article also reported that Hughes wrote the “semiautobiographical story” from the perspective of a twelve year-old boy vacationing across the United States with his family in 1958. After John Hughes wrote the first draft of the script, director Harold Ramis and star Chevy Chase handled the rewrite. In an 11 Sep 1982 LAT article, Ramis stated that he and Chase revised the story to the “the father’s point of view” so that it would “have a more mature entry.”
       Production notes and a 28 Jul 1982 Var news item reported model Christie Brinkley made her feature film debut in the picture. Lindsey Buckingham, the composer of the film’s opening and closing songs, was a guitarist for the rock group Fleetwood Mac.
       Production notes reported that filming began on 5 Jul 1982 in Boone, CO, and included almost 100 cast and crew members, three tractor-trailers, plus multiple trucks, trailers, mobile dressing rooms and motor homes. They also utilized “five ‘Family Truckster’ picture cars.” They shot at more than ninety locations in five states, returning to CA nearly three days earlier than scheduled. In the 11 Sep 1982 LAT article, Ramis noted that they shot in sixty-five locations over seven weeks. Production notes stated CO filming locales also included Alamosa and Durango. AZ locations included Flagstaff and Monument Valley, which is located on the Navajo Indian reservation near Kayenta, AZ. In Southern CA, filming took place in Long Beach, Arcadia, Glendale, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Pasadena. A second production unit filmed establishing shots in Chicago, IL and St. Louis, MO.
       The 7 Aug 1983 LAT reported the movie opened in 1,175 theaters nationwide and made $8.3 million over the first weekend which, according to Warner Bros. Inc., was the largest opening for a comedy that summer. An article in the 2 May 1984 Var reported that domestic grosses reached $65 million. Var added that television networks, such as Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), were backing off from “pre-buys of theatrical movies with built-in escalators attached to box office grosses.” CBS negotiated a $4.5 million payment for two runs of National Lampoon’s Vacation over two years, starting with the 1985-86 season, but with the movie’s unexpected success, Warner Bros. raised the fee to $8.5 million. CBS was also disadvantaged by Warner Bros.’s deal to air the film on two cable stations prior to its presentation on CBS. According to Var, Warner Bros. profited over $8 million from sales of the film to pay-television and made even more from video rentals and purchases.
       A 27 Dec 2009 LAT news item reported that housing rental company HomeAway.com would feature Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as the Griswolds in their Super Bowl advertisement.
       As reported in various contemporary sources, including the 28 Oct 1983 LAT and the 16 Nov 1983 Var, comedian David Brenner filed a $27.2 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Warner Communications Inc., Warner Bros. Inc., Matty Simmons, Harold Ramis and John Hughes. Brenner claimed his 1979 script Goodbye Grandma, which he sent to several studios, including Warner Bros., was the basis for National Lampoon’s Vacation. Additionally, a 16 Nov 1993 DV article stated that Warner Bros. settled a fraud suit with J2 Communications for $80,000. J2 owned the National Lampoon trademark and was disputing residuals for the first three National Lampoon’s Vactation movies. J2 filed a similar suit against producer Matty Simmons who had sued J2 claiming he was owed $700,000 because J2 “failed to live up to a 1989 agreement relating to the films.” Simmons and J2 were purportedly dropping their suits as part of the Warner Bros. settlement.
 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   16 Nov 1993.   
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jul 1983   p. 3, 11.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Oct 1983.   
Los Angeles Herald Examiner   28 Oct 1983.   
Los Angeles Times   11 Sep 1982   p. 1, 7.
Los Angeles Times   29 Jul 1983   p. 16.
Los Angeles Times   7 Aug 1983   p. 18.
Los Angeles Times   28 Oct 1983.   
Los Angeles Times   27 Dec 2009.   
New York Times   29 Jul 1983   p. 10.
Variety   28 Jul 1982.   
Variety   3 Aug 1983   p. 20.
Variety   16 Nov 1983.   
Variety   2 May 1984.   

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