MOTW: Interesting Facts about "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
December 3rd, 2013

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MOTW: Interesting Facts about "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is a 1989 comedy starring Chevy Chase and directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik. This classic has earned cult status as one of the most hilarious and beloved Christmas films of all time. From slapstick antics to a surprisingly heartwarming plot, some of America's favorite movie moments come from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." While many fans have seen it a hundred times, most viewers probably don't know every fun fact about this film.

All in the Family

Associate director Frank Capra III comes from an illustrious family of filmmakers. As the Griswold family is decking out their Christmas tree with lights and tinsel, "It's a Wonderful Life" is playing on the television in the background. This scene serves not only as homage to one of the most iconic Christmas films of all time but to Capra's family as well. Frank Capra III is the grandson of Frank Capra, the legendary director of "It's a Wonderful Life." It seems that directing award-winning Christmas masterpieces runs in the family, making this one of the most interesting inside jokes and nods of the film.

From Book to Movie

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is based on the short story by John Hughes called "Chrismas '59." The story was considerably different from the film it inspired, although it was published as a holiday piece in "National Lampoon" Magazine. The book is the sequel to "Vacation '58," which inspired the first film. In the film, Clark is going through old home movies and pulls out a dusty film reel titled "Xmas '59," which is yet another nod to the film's origins and inspiration. Few other films have as many Easter eggs for fans to discover as "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." From the cast and crew to minor details in insignificant scenes, you can discover something new with each subsequent viewing.

Family Reunion

"Saturday Night Live" is one of the longest-running comedy television shows in the world, and "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" will feel more like a cast reunion to fans of the show than anything else. Chevy Chase, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Randy Quaid have major roles in this film, and all were well-respected cast members of "Saturday Night Life" during the 1980s. All four actors have since gone on to become comedy legends, but the film served as a launch pad for the career of several of its actors.

Magazine History

"National Lampoon" was one of the longest-running comedy magazines, with a run from 1970 to 1998. The magazine's primary competition was "MAD Magazine," and they both featured the same style of outrageous comedy and often crude humor. The magazine had its origins as a parody of the "Harvard Lampoon," but it eventually took on an identity all its own. From theater appearances and radio recreations to movies, the "National Lampoon" brand began to take over the comedy scene. The magazine eventually expanded into nearly every form of media and launched the successful "National Lampoon" vacation movie franchise that is beloved by millions of comedy fans around the world today.

Controversial Decisions

Although "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" may seem like a relatively tame film compared to such recent offerings as "Bad Grandpa" and "Bad Milo," the film was actually quite controversial upon its debut in 1989. The film's most iconic scene takes place toward the end of the movie, in which the family cat winds up electrocuting itself by chewing through the electrical light cords on the Christmas tree. Initially, beta testers at the movie studio believed that the scene was too violent and controversial to make it to the big screen. The producer and director lobbied against the censoring decision, arguing that it was a major part of the film. That decision certainly paid off, and the scene has since earned its place as one of the funniest movie scenes of all time.

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is a charming film that tells the reality of family vacations compared to the rosy picture that everyone expects before embarking on their first cross-country road trip. The Griswold family is in for one nightmarish road trip and an even more harrowing stay with their exhausting family members when all they want to do is celebrate a peaceful holiday. Although the film is amusing enough on its own with hilarious acting and great writing, keep a look out for the numerous hidden surprises and subtle nods laced throughout each scene.