‘We’re All in This Together’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’
It’s a bona fide Christmas classic. It’s the one where Chevy Chase uncomfortably lusts after a young woman for absolutely no reason. It’s the movie that features four SNL cast members and stars Mae Questel, the voice of Betty Boop — a fact that the internet seems to discover anew every holiday season. It’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, so let us rapidly recite the Pledge of Allegiance before plowing into this feast of movie trivia.
Brought to You By Stanley Kubrick
Christmas Vacation was Jeremiah Chechik’s directorial debut. He originally worked as a fashion photographer for Vogue before going into commercial directing. “I had made these commercials that became quite iconic here in the U.S.,” Chechik once explained to Den of Geek. “They were very dark and sexy and sort of a little bit ahead of their time in terms of style. And what happened was they gained the notice of (Stanley) Kubrick, who had mentioned them as his favorite American filmmaking, ironically, in a New York Times article.” It didn’t take long for feature film screenplays to start making their way to Chechik.
Beverly D’Angelo Went Nuts Improvising
During the SWAT team scene, Ellen takes the command “Freeze” as meaning “Grab and protect my husband’s crotch immediately.” Explained D’Angelo: “I did that spur of the moment and told Chevy, just to see if anyone on set noticed. But we did a couple takes, and no one mentioned it.”
Based on A (Racist) Short Story
The Vacation franchise is based on a couple of short stories John Hughes wrote himself. Christmas Vacation, specifically, was based on “Christmas ‘59” and features a Thai college student named Xgung Wo who, as we’ve pointed out before, speaks in a “cartoonishly offensive accent.”
Almost Directed by Chris Columbus
It turns out that Columbus was set to direct the 1989 slapstick Christmas movie — until he met Chase. “Chevy treated me like dirt,” Columbus told Chicago magazine, but he needed the job, so he started working on the film anyway. Columbus started off only shooting establishing shots, but after meeting with Chase again, he called Hughes and told him, “There’s no way I can do this movie. I know I need to work, but I can’t do it with this guy.”
Two weeks later, Hughes sent Columbus the script for Home Alone.
On Cousin Eddie
His most famous character this side of Independence Day, Randy Quaid has said that playing Cousin Eddie really put him on the map. (His fervent, unhinged QAnon beliefs, of course, have completely removed him from it.)
It’s Tied to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’
Not only does footage of It’s a Wonderful Life feature in the film, but Frank Capra’s grandson, Frank Capra III, served as assistant director on Christmas Vacation.
It seems Chase got a little carried away while acting out the “acting out” scene on the lawn with the non-responsive Christmas lights. He went so bonkers that he ended up breaking his finger.
Going in Blind
“I hadn’t seen the first two (Vacation films), and so, I wasn’t really influenced by anything other than the fact that it was — at the time — their big Christmas movie, and comedy,” Chechik told Den of Geek. “And I just felt if I could crack this, maybe there’s a whole other world of filmmaking for me.”
Filled With Cartoon Voices
Not only is Aunt Bethany played by the actress who voiced Betty Boop, but Cousin Eddie’s wife Catherine is played by Miriam Flynn, the voice actress behind Maa the sheep in Babe, Taz’s mother in Taz-Mania and The Piñata Lady in The Emperor's New Groove.
The Inside of the RV Was Pretty Gross
Ellen Hamilton Latzen, who played little Ruby Sue, once told HuffPost that she remembered “being really excited about starting out in the RV because I thought it was fun, like a big camper.” It turned out, however, that the inside of the RV was pretty filthy. “I think it was probably pretty indicative of what it would’ve looked like had the audience been able to go look inside the trailer,” the former actress explained.
Some Real Childish Censorship
“So many people get pissed off at me because I stopped them from seeing boobs,” Latzen also explained, “because it’s like right at the point where Mary’s coming out of the water, and you’re about to see her tits, and I say, ‘Santi Claus!’ instead.”
The Audience is How Old?
“There was a big discussion on whether Bill Hickey’s cigar should be called a cigar or a stogie, because he says, ‘Get me my stogie,’” D’Angelo revealed during an interview with Rolling Stone. “They weren’t sure people would know what a stogie was, because research showed that our average audience was nine years old or something. I thought, ‘What!?’”
An Earthquake Was Captured on Screen
The movie’s DVD commentary revealed that Uncle Lewis and Aunt Bethany’s arrival at the Griswold home was accompanied by an actual real-life earthquake and that you can supposedly see the camera shaking slightly as Aunt Bethany walks through the door.
The ‘Overboard’ Connection
The ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ Fan Houses
Californian Jeff Norton not only adorned his house and yard with the Christmas lights and even cousin Eddie’s RV, but he even put up an animatronic Randy Quaid that will give anyone eternal nightmares.
While Norton got some fines for showcasing his fandom over the holidays, one woman in Kentucky saw her display of Cousin Eddie lead to a 9-1-1 call. Apparently, a concerned neighbor took the yard doll to be an actual man exposing himself out on the lawn.