One of the things that made Christmas Vacation (which is a part of the Warner Bros. Holiday Gift Guide) so successful is that it touches on the image of a Normal Rockwell Christmas that so many people strive for during the holiday seasons, only to fall devastatingly and hilariously short. An outcome that is also, unfortunately, relateable. But, while you know the film and its mix of loud in-laws and calamity and while it may know you, you may be unaware of some of these facts about Christmas Vacation, so leave the decorations in the garage for another day and read up.
1. If the Griswold’s neighbor’s house looks familiar that’s because it’s the house Murtaugh lived in throughout the Lethal Weapon movies.
Yes, the Griswolds and the Murtaughs all resided on the Warner Brothers Studios lot. Relive the suburban nostalgia with virtual tour of the neighborhood here.
Below is a still of the neighborhood in Lethal Weapon.
2. The Dodge pickup truck that tailgates and provokes Clark and his family during the movie’s opening scenes was also used by Kurt Russel in Overboard.
3. This is the only National Lampoon’s Vacation movie not to feature Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road.”
Presumably because there is no road trip. Instead, we got the song “Christmas Vacation” performed by Mavis Staples.
4. Cousin Eddie’s characteristics were based off a childhood acquaintance of Randy Quaid’s.
Quaid developed many of Eddie’s mannerisms (such as the clicking of his tongue during the meal) from someone he knew while growing up in Texas.
5. Director Jeremiah Chechik is the man pictured on the cover of the People Magazine that Clark is reading in bed.
6. Christmas Vacation is the only one of the Vacation movies to get its own sequel.
With Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure, Cousin Eddie is sent on vacation to the South Pacific after being bitten by a lab monkey. The only appearance of a Griswold in the film is Audrey from the first Vacation movie in 1983.
7. A minor earthquake occurred while filming.
The arrival scene of Uncle Louis and Aunt Bethany. Supposedly, you can see the camera shake a little in the shot with the couple entering the Griswold home.
8. Incredibly, Christmas Vacation was robbed of the number one spot at the box office.
On its opening weekend, December 1, 1989, Back To The Future 2‘s second week edged out Christmas Vacation’s relatively modest opening tally of $11.7 million by about a half a million dollars.
9. The animated credits were a rarity.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen much anymore. The most recent one that comes to mind are the dick drawings in Superbad. Christmas Vacation was one of three movies in 1989 to have animated credits, along with Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and Troop Beverly Hills.
10. One of the most iconic Christmas movies ever, It’s A Wonderful Life, has several tie-ins with Christmas Vacation.
First off, Frank Capra III was the assistant director on Christmas Vacation and is the grandson of Frank Capra, who directed It’s A Wonderful Life in 1946. There’s also Clark taking a chainsaw to the wobbly newel post. This was an homage to the broken newel post at the Baily house in It’s A Wonderful Life. And finally, Russ is seen watching the Jimmy Stewart classic on TV when the grandparents arrive.
11. John Hughes has a habit of drawing upon his earlier works for inspiration.
The concept for Christmas Vacation was actually based on an short story titled “Christmas ’59” that he wrote for National Lampoon magazine in 1980. The part of the movie where Clark digs up an old home movie in the attic labeled “Xmas 59” is, of course, a nod to the article.
12. Jeremiah Chechik had never seen a Vacation movie.
According to an interview with Den of Geek, director Jeremiah Chechik, hadn’t seen the previous Vacation films and was really interested because he hadn’t done comedy and thought that if he “cracked” the film, it might “open up” more options for him as a filmmaker.
13. Clark has roots in black magic sorcery. Sorta.
In his home movie, “Xmas 59,” you can see the exterior of Clark’s childhood home. This is the same house that Darren and Samantha lived in on Bewitched. The entire neighborhood of the Griswolds, the Murtaughs and the Stephens is located on Blondie Street on the Warner Brothers lot.
14. Studio execs were wary about keeping the cat electrocution scene out of fear of offending animal lovers.
It wasn’t until test audiences ranked the cat electrocution scene as their favorite part in the movie that it was deemed worthy of keeping.
15. Actress Mae Questel, who played Aunt Bethany, also provided the voice of Betty Boop.
Questel lent her voice to Betty Boop from 1931 until her death in 1998. I’m guessing the number of Betty Boop cartoons in production had slowed down well before the ’90s, but that’s still a solid gig of 67 years!
16. The movie had no soundtrack release until a bogus bootleg in 1999.
The movie actually had several holiday staples such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Here Comes Santa Clause,” but no soundtrack was released with the movie. In ’99 bootleg copies of the soundtrack labeled “10th Anniversary Limited Edition” began to appear on internet auction sites with the claim that Warner Brothers had pressed 20,000 copies to be given out at Six Flags parks. They were deemed to be fan-made fakes, most notably because of the wrong version of the movie’s title track.
17. Nothing brings Clark and the brood together quite like affordable holiday sweaters.
The Griswolds reunited for a series of Old Navy commercials with original Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall), Euro Rusty (Jason Lively), Audrey (Dana Barron) and Juliet Lewis. Noticeably absent from the Griswold reunion was Johnny Galecki, though. Sadly, Euro Audrey, Dana Hill, passed away in 1996.
18. Rusty gives a nod to one of Chevy’s old SNL gags.
After the light show fails to ignite, a perplexed Clark asks Rusty about double checking the lights. Rusty looks down at his bare wrist, pretending to have a watch and excusing himself to go inside.
19. Being that the Griswolds are from the Chicago area (this is a John Hughes movie after all), it’s only natural that Clark would be a Bears fan. Clark sports his trademark Bears baseball cap at some point in each of the Vacation movies.
20. Cousin Eddie has ties to Rocky Balboa.
So, Eddie’s kid is named Rocky and wears a Las Vegas t-shirt. Footage from Christmas Vacation appeared the next year in Rocky V, and the next film in the Vacation series was Vegas Vacation. If only Cousin Eddie had gotten Clark gambling on a Rocky boxing match instead of Keno, the Vacation/Rocky universe would have been complete.
Hope you enjoyed our look back at Christmas Vacation. Our friends at Warner Bros. asked us to remind readers that the Christmas Vacation Steel Book Blu Ray is available for purchase here.
Now Watch: The Best ‘Christmas Vacation’ Quotes To Use This Holiday Season
(Portions of this post ran previously)