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National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Director: Jeremiah Chechik (Dir)
Release Date:   1 Dec 1989
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 1 Dec 1989
Production Date:   27 Mar--late Jun or early Jul 1989 in Breckenridge, CO, and Burbank, CA
Duration (in mins):   97
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Cast:   Chevy Chase (Clark [Griswold])  
    Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen [Griswold])  
    Randy Quaid (Eddie)  
    Miriam Flynn (Cathrine)  
    William Hickey ([Uncle] Lewis)  
    Mae Questel ([Aunt] Bethany)  
    Diane Ladd (Nora [Griswold])  
    John Randolph (Clark, Sr. [Griswold])  
    E. G. Marshall (Art)  
    Doris Roberts (Francis)  
    Juliette Lewis (Audrey [Griswold])  
    Johnny Galecki (Rusty [Griswold])  
    Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Margo Chester)  
    Nicholas Guest (Todd Chester)  
    Ellen Hamilton Latzen (Ruby Sue)  
    Brian Doyle Murray (Frank Shirley)  
    Natalia Nogulich (Mrs. Shirley)  
    Cody Burger (Rocky)  
    Sam McMurray (Bill)  
    Nicolette Scorsese (Mary)  
    Keith MacKechnie (Delivery boy)  
    Tony Epper (Bozo #1)  
    Hank Hooker (Bozo #2)  
    Alexander Folk (Swat officer)  
    Jeremy Roberts (Cop)  
    Woody Weaver (Cop)  
    Michael Kaufman (Young executive)  
    Doug Llewelyn (Parade announcer)  

Summary: On the way to a Christmas tree farm, holiday enthusiast Clark Griswold chases a pickup truck that overtakes him on the highway. Clark’s wife, Ellen, and children, Audrey and Rusty, panic as he accidentally drives under the bed of a tractor-trailer. Clark weaves out from under the tractor-trailer and swerves to avoid a snowplow, careening off the highway and into the tree farm parking lot. The Griswolds trek through the snow in search of the perfect tree, and Clark finally chooses a pine that is three times his height. Rusty asks his father if he remembered to bring a saw, but Clark doesn’t answer. Later, the Griswolds return to their suburban home with the entire tree, including its roots, strapped to their station wagon. Clark unbinds the tree in the living room, and its branches break through the windows and smash against the ceiling. That night, in bed, Ellen tells Clark that her parents, Francis and Art, have decided to spend the holiday with them. She reminds him of the tension between her parents and his mother and father, Nora and Clark, Sr., who will also be there, and worries that Clark’s high expectations for the family holiday will be dashed as usual. However, Clark urges Ellen not to worry. On December 14, Clark discusses Christmas bonuses with a co-worker named Bill, and reveals he has already written a $7,500 deposit check for a swimming pool he plans to install with the bonus money. Their boss, Frank Shirley, appears and demands a report on Clark’s latest development, a chemical “crunch enhancer” for cereal. Later, Ellen’s and Clark’s parents arrive at the same time, and Clark seeks refuge in the front yard, putting up Christmas lights with Rusty’s help. Covering the entire house with strands of lights, Clark accidentally staples his shirt to the house, then slides off the roof, catching himself on a rain gutter and sending a large icicle through his neighbors’ window. Later, he invites the family outside for the lighting, but when he plugs in an extension cord, nothing happens. Ellen’s parents tease Clark while Nora and Clark Sr. praise their son’s efforts. In the morning, Clark sneaks into to the attic to hide a Christmas present. Complaining of cold, Ellen’s mother, Francis, discovers the attic door open and shuts it, trapping Clark inside. Ellen ushers everyone out to the driveway for a shopping trip, and Clark shouts for help, to no avail. He stumbles around the attic, stepping on loose boards that knock him in the face, then finds a trunk of old clothes and puts on a fur cape, women’s gloves, and a turban for warmth. He finds old home movies from his childhood and cries sentimental tears as he projects them on the attic wall. Hours later, Ellen opens the attic door and Clark falls on top of her. He goes back to work on the outdoor lights and Ellen offers to help. The lights appear to magically illuminate when Nora flips a light switch in the garage, unaware that the switch controls the Christmas light circuit. In the front yard, Ellen rejoices, while neighbors Margo and Todd Chester are blinded by the glare inside their house. Nora flips off the light switch and the lights go dark again. Frustrated, Clark kicks his Santa Claus and reindeer lawn ornaments, then tries one more time to plug in the extension cord just as Ellen figures out the problem and flips the garage light switch. Weeping with joy, Clark embraces his family members on the front lawn but stops short when he sees his redneck cousin-in-law, Eddie, and his wife, Cathrine. Eddie calls his young children, Rocky and Ruby Sue, who emerge from a rusted recreational vehicle parked on the street. Inside, Eddie and Clark drink eggnog. Eddie explains that his older daughter could not make it because she is at a rehabilitation center for alcoholism, while his older son is working as a carny. Annoyed, Clark asks Eddie where he got his “tenement on wheels,” and Eddie claims he borrowed the RV from a neighbor. Eddie mentions plans to stay until next month, prompting Clark to choke on his eggnog. Eddie’s family joins the Griswolds at a sledding hill, where Clark adds a kitchen lubricant to his sled for a faster ride. When he takes off, however, Clark speeds too quickly downhill. He screams as he blasts through an outhouse and flies onto a busy street. Crashing to a halt in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, Clark is greeted by Eddie, who shouts, “Bingo!” On December 21, Clark worries that he has not received his bonus yet. Staring out his kitchen window, he hallucinates a pool party in his backyard. His reverie is interrupted by Ruby Sue, who confides that Santa Claus did not bring her and Rocky any presents the year before. In the morning, Clark spies Eddie standing outside in a bathrobe, emptying the waste from his RV into the sewer. Joining Clark at the window, Ellen shares her suspicions that Eddie has not bought Christmas presents for his children. Clark condemns Eddie for not getting a job, but later, offers to buy presents for the kids. Eddie demurs at first, but quickly produces an alphabetized Christmas list for the whole family. On Christmas Eve, the Griswolds are joined by octogenarian relatives, Aunt Bethany and Uncle Lewis. Rusty announces that one of the presents Bethany brought is moving, and Clark discovers that she has wrapped her cat. Sitting down to eat, Clark asks Bethany to say grace, but she recites the pledge of allegiance, instead. Clark cuts into the turkey, which fizzles and deflates. Cathrine weeps and apologizes for roasting it too long. Clark discovers that Bethany’s gelatin mold contains cat food, then hears Eddie’s dog, Snots, vomiting underneath the table. In the living room, Bethany’s cat yanks a cord out of a socket, extinguishing the lights on the Christmas tree. When Clark plugs the cord back in, he electrocutes the cat and sets an armchair on fire. Depositing the charred armchair in the front yard, he detects a noxious smell coming from the sewer. Next, Uncle Lewis lights a cigar by the Christmas tree and sets it on fire. Clark is devastated to find the tree burned to the ground, but brightens when a messenger delivers a letter from his company. Assuming the envelope contains his bonus check, Clark announces that he is having a swimming pool installed in the backyard. He apologizes for his irritable behavior of late and admits he wrote a deposit check that would bounce if he didn’t receive the bonus. Opening the envelope, he finds a year-long-membership to a “jelly-of-the-month” club. In a fit of rage, Clark tears up the letter, guzzles eggnog, and says he wants his boss, Frank Shirley, brought to the house with a ribbon on his head. Soon after, Eddie speeds away in his RV. Clark saws down a tree in his front yard to replace the burnt Christmas tree, breaking one of the Chesters’ windows in the process. Ellen confronts him about his reckless behavior, but Clark insists he is fine. Back downstairs, Bethany says she hears a squeaking sound just before a squirrel jumps out of the replacement Christmas tree, sending everyone running. Eddie’s dog chases the squirrel through the house, destroying everything in its wake. Meanwhile, Margo Chester marches up to the Griswold’s front door to complain just as Clark opens the door, unleashing the squirrel and the dog on her. The Griswolds’ houseguests put on their coats to leave, but Clark commands them to stay. Clark Sr. warns his son against acting out in anger, reminding Clark what a good father he is. Soon after, a sense of calm has returned as Clark reads The Night Before Christmas aloud to the family. However, Eddie bursts inside with Clark’s boss, Frank Shirley, bound in chains and wrapped in a bow. Livid, Shirley tells Clark he is fired. Clark responds that Shirley should not have cut Christmas bonuses without warning his employees, and takes responsibility for Eddie’s reckless actions. Realizing the error of his ways, Shirley offers Clark a bonus, twenty-percent higher than the one he received the year before. Just then, police crash through the windows with guns drawn, but Shirley says he will not press charges. Ruby spots a “Christmas star,” and everyone goes outside to see. As he lights a cigar, Uncle Lewis says the “star” is actually the light atop a sewage treatment plant. Clark tries to stop Lewis as he drops his match into the sewer filled with Eddie’s toxic waste. The sewer explodes, sending Lewis and the Griswolds’ lawn ornaments flying. Bethany puts a hand over her heart and sings “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and everyone joins in before they head back inside. Clark kisses Ellen, and stays behind to gaze at the night sky. 

Production Company: Warner Bros., Inc. (A Warner Communications Company)
  Hughes Entertainment  
Production Text: Warner Bros. presents
A Hughes Entertainment production
Distribution Company: Warner Bros., Inc. (A Warner Communications Company)
Director: Jeremiah Chechik (Dir)
  William S. Beasley (Unit prod mgr)
  Matt Earl Beesley (1st asst dir)
  Frank Capra, III (2d asst dir)
  Bryan Denegal (2d 2d asst dir)
  Charles Picerni, Sr. (Dir by, 2d unit)
  Eric Jewett (1st asst dir, 2d unit)
  Vicki Lemay-Jackson (2d asst dir, 2d unit)
Producer: John Hughes (Prod)
  Tom Jacobson (Prod)
  William S. Beasley (Assoc prod)
  Mauri Syd Gayton (Assoc prod)
  Ramey E. Ward (Assoc prod)
  Matty Simmons (Exec prod)
Writer: John Hughes (Wrt)
Photography: Thomas Ackerman (Dir of photog)
  Doug Knapp (Cam op)
  David Parrish (1st asst cam)
  John Wagner (2d asst cam)
  William M. Silic (Chief lighting tech)
  Michael Amorelli (Asst chief lighting tech)
  Ted Rhodes (Key grip)
  Charles J. Bukey (Grip best boy)
  Kurt Young (Dolly grip)
  Rich Cogswell (Video asst)
  Ron Phillips (Still photog)
  Eric Engler (Dir of photog, 2d unit)
  Tama Takahashi (1st asst cam, 2d unit)
  Craig Asato (2d asst cam, 2d unit)
  Kevin Kelly (Chief lighting tech, 2d unit)
  Scott Robinson (Key grip, 2d unit)
Art Direction: Stephen Marsh (Prod des)
  Beala B. Neel (Art dir)
Film Editor: Jerry Greenberg (Ed)
  Michael Stevenson (Ed)
  Kathryn Camp (Asst film ed)
  Carlyn Montes De Oca (Asst film ed)
  D. Bassett & Assoc., Inc. (Negative cutting by)
Set Decoration: Lisa Fischer (Set dec)
  John Rozman (Leadperson)
  Barbara Adamski (Prop master)
  David Newell (Asst prop master)
  Richard Rankin (Const coord)
  Kenneth J. Gagnon (Const coord)
  Neil David Pontecorvo (Greensman)
  Glen Cooper (Standby painter)
Costumes: Michael Kaplan (Cost des)
  Eddie Marks (Men's cost supv)
  Mari Grimaud (Women's cost supv)
Music: Angelo Badalamenti (Mus)
  Ron Payne (Mus supv)
  Jim Harrison (Mus ed)
  Gary Wasserman (Asst mus ed)
  Charles Samek (Orch)
  Andy Barrett (Orch)
  Angelo Badalamenti (Orch)
Sound: James Alexander (Sd mixer)
  Gregg Agalsoff (Boom op)
  Larry Kemp (Supv sd ed)
  Wylie Stateman (Supv sd ed)
  George Anderson (Sd ed)
  David Baldwin (Sd ed)
  Neal R. Burger (Sd ed)
  Dan Hegeman (Sd ed)
  Lou Kleinman (Sd ed)
  Glenn T. Morgan (Sd ed)
  Vickie Sampson (Sd ed)
  Mark Stoeckinger (Sd ed)
  Stan Gilbert (Supv ADR ed)
  John Agalsoff (Cable)
  Joe Gilbert (ADR ed)
  Edward Steidele (Foley artist)
  Gary Hecker (Foley artist)
  Chris Jenkins (Re-rec mixer)
  D. M. Hemphill (Re-rec mixer)
  Mark Smith (Re-rec mixer)
Special Effects: Allen Hall (Spec eff)
  Gary Karas (Spec eff)
  Dreamquest Images (Spec visual eff)
  Justin Klarenbeck (Spec visual eff)
  Dave McCullough (Spec visual eff)
  Bill Hansard, Sr. (Process projection)
  Pacific Title (End titles and opticals)
Make Up: Lee Harman (Makeup artist)
  Kaye Pownall (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Risa Bramon (Casting)
  Billy Hopkins (Casting)
  Heidi Levitt (Casting)
  Mavis Girard (Scr supv)
  Tom Busch (Loc mgr)
  Kirsten Welles (Asst to Jeremiah Chechik)
  Katherine E. Beyda (Asst to Tom Jacobson)
  Christie Johnston (Prod assoc)
  Ellen Adolph (Prod accountant)
  Dan Marrow (Transportation coord)
  Gaston Veilleux (Transportation capt)
  Scott Hart (Animal handler)
  Shirley Randles (Craft service)
  Angel Trujello (Caterer)
  Eileen Peterson (Unit pub)
  Juel Bestrop (Casting asst)
  Chris Ciaffa (Prod aide)
  Craig Dietrich (Prod aide)
  Lisa Boss (Prod aide)
  Kim Bodner (Prod aide)
  Chris Hilsabeck (Prod aide)
Stand In: John Robotham (Stunts)
  Dick Ziker (Stunts)
  Chad Randall (Stunts)
  Annie Ellis (Stunts)
  Cheryl Wheeler-Dixon (Stunts)
  Steve Picerni (Stunts)
  Eric Cord (Stunts)
  Jeannie Epper (Stunts)
  Bill Macintosh (Stunts)
  Sammy Thurman (Stunts)
  Steve Kelso (Stunts)
  Sandy Gimpel (Stunts)
  Janet Brady (Stunts)
  Greg Barnett (Stunts)
  Scott Wilder (Stunts)
  William H. Burton (Stunts)
  Tim Davison (Stunts)
  Harold Jones (Stunts)
  John C. Meier (Stunts)
  Noon Orsatti (Stunts)
  Phil Ramano (Stunts)
Animation: Kroyer Films, Inc. (Main title anim)
Color Personnel: Technicolor® (Col by)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Christmas Vacation," written by Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, performed by Mavis Staples, courtesy of Paisley Park Records; "That Spirit Of Christmas," written by Mable John, Joel Webster and Parnell Davidson, performed by Ray Charles, courtesy of CBS Records, Music Licensing Department; "Mele Kalikimaka," written by Alex Anderson, performed by Bing Crosby, courtesy of MCA Records; "Hey, Santa Claus," written by Harvey Fuqua, performed by The Moonglows, courtesy of MCA Records; "Here Comes Santa Claus," written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman, performed by Gene Autry, courtesy of Everest Record Group; "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer," written by Johnny Marks.
Composer: Alex Anderson
  Gene Autry
  Parnell Davidson
  Harvey Fuqua
  Oakley Haldeman
  Mable John
  Barry Mann
  Johnny Marks
  Joel Webster
  Cynthia Weil
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Brothers, Inc. 12/3/1990 dd/mm/yyyy PA479396

PCA NO: 30065
Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
  Lenses: Lenses and Panaflex® Camera by Panavision®

Genre: Comedy
Subjects (Major): Christmas
  Family life
  Long-lost relatives
Subjects (Minor): Abduction
  Aged persons
  Christmas Eve
  Class distinction
  Employer-employee relations
  Family relationships
  Home movies
  Recreational vehicles
  Shopping malls
  Suburban life
  Swimming pools

Note: End credits include the statement: “Special thanks to the town of Breckenridge, Colorado.”
       The film includes John Stafford Smith and Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner," but the song is not included among onscreen music credits.
       A 9 May 1989 HR production chart indicated principal photography began 27 Mar 1989 in Colorado. Three weeks of filming in the Breckenridge, CO, area “brought $1.5 million to the local economy,” as noted in a 12 May 1989 Back Stage news item. Production notes in AMPAS library files listed the following Breckenridge locations: Highway 9; a ski slope that stood in for a sledding hill; the Breckenridge Golf Course, which doubled as a Christmas tree lot; Summit County High School gymnasium; and the local Wal-Mart. Filming moved to the Warner Ranch lot (formerly the Columbia Ranch) in Burbank, CA. There, the Griswolds' street was created on “Blondie Street.” The Griswolds' and neighboring homes were covered in cotton batting, and treated with sawdust and sparkles to appear snow-covered. The set served as the location for exterior night shoots for the following month. The company then moved to Burbank Studios, where interiors of the Griswold home were shot on two soundstages. A 6 Jul 1989 HR brief announced that filming had been completed. A 16 Jun 1989 DV “Just for Variety” column cited the production budget as $22 million.
       Actor Chevy Chase was quoted as saying the film would be his last sequel, as noted in DV. Chase had recently filmed another sequel, Fletch Lives (1989, see entry), but stated that National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was “definitely the best” sequel he had done.
       Although a 22 Nov 1989 release was originally planned, according to the 16 Jun 1989 DV, the release date was pushed to 1 Dec 1989. The film opened on 1,744 screens according to a 1 Dec 1989 HR “Hollywood Report” column. Announcing Chevy Chase as one of the guests on the pre-Academy Awards Barbara Walters Special, a 25 Mar 1990 LAT article noted that the film had grossed $70 million and described it as a surprise hit.
       According to the 5 Oct 1989 HR, Chase’s loan-out company, TRWM Productions, filed a $4 million lawsuit against Warner Bros., claiming the studio failed to fulfill a four-movie contract that promised the actor “three films and a ‘floater picture.’” National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was the first film to fulfill the contract, followed by 1991’ s Nothing But Trouble and 1993’s Memoir of an Invisible Man (see entries). The lawsuit alleged that Warner Bros. was supposed to submit three additional projects to Chase as potential starring roles with “pay-or-play” deals, but only submitted one. Chase stood to earn $2 million if he rejected all the submissions, and was seeking “compensatory and unspecified ‘consequential’ damages.” The outcome of the lawsuit could not be determined as of the writing of this Note.  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Back Stage   12 May 1989.   
Daily Variety   16 Jun 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   9 May 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   30 May 1989   p. 27.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jul 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   1 Dec 1989   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Oct 1993   p. 4, 141.
Los Angeles Times   1 Dec 1989   p. 9.
Los Angeles Times   25 Mar 1990.   
New York Times   1 Dec 1989   p. 12.
Variety   6 Dec 1989   p. 32, 34.

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