National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

PG-13 | 97 mins | Comedy | 1 December 1989

Writer:

John Hughes

Cinematographer:

Thomas Ackerman

Production Designer:

Stephen Marsh

Production Companies:

Warner Bros., Inc., Hughes Entertainment
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HISTORY

       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 ... More Less

       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.
      End credits include the statement: “Special thanks to the town of Breckenridge, Colorado.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
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.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. presents
A Hughes Entertainment production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Dir by, 2d unit
1st asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Key grip
Grip best boy
Dolly grip
Still photog
Dir of photog, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
2d asst cam, 2d unit
Chief lighting tech, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutting by
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadperson
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const coord
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's cost supv
Women's cost supv
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Supv ADR ed
ADR ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec visual eff
Spec visual eff
Spec visual eff
Process projection
End titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Casting
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Asst to Jeremiah Chechik
Asst to Tom Jacobson
Prod assoc
Prod accountant
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Animal handler
Craft service
Caterer
Unit pub
Casting asst
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
ANIMATION
Main title anim
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
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
+
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.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 December 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
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
12 March 1990
Copyright Number:
PA479396
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
97
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30065
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

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 ... +


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. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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