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The third feature in National Lampoon's film franchise about the Griswold family, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation arrived at cinemas in 1989 with an ad campaign touting the slogan, "Yule crack up!". Once again, Chevy Chase plays the hapless Clark and Beverly D'Angelo his ever-optimistic wife Ellen but this time their goal is to host a big family Christmas celebration ...which predictably ends in disaster. Like the first Vacation (1983), Christmas Vacation is also based on a short story by screenwriter John Hughes - "Christmas '59," which was printed in the National Lampoon's magazine in December 1980. Hughes' involvement itself was a rare exception for the writer-director; he recalled in an interview, "The only sequels I was involved in were under duress - I was only involved in the third Vacation movie, for example ...the studio came to me and begged for another one, and I only agreed because I had a good story to base it on." Like the other Vacation films, Hughes did not direct Christmas Vacation; with only commercials under his belt, Jeremiah Chechik tried his hand with a feature film. He appears onscreen as well, albeit briefly: he's the face on the cover of the People magazine Clark reads in one scene.
Surprisingly enough, there are some unusual connections between Christmas Vacation and the venerable classic It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Not only is the newel post that Clark ends up sawing off a reference to the loose one in Wonderful Life, but you can see the Frank Capra film playing on the television during the grandparents' arrival scene. Behind the scenes there was another connection: the assistant director was Frank Capra III, the grandson of Wonderful Life's legendary director. And it was the television premiere of Christmas Vacation that secured higher ratings than the first network telecast of It's a Wonderful Life in 1994!
Fans who enjoyed the first Vacation film were delighted to see the return of dreadful Cousin Eddie, gleefully played by Randy Quaid. In another reference to Vacation, Eddie and Clark toast their eggnog in glass moose head mugs, a wink to Marty Moose and Walley World. Ed-heads should also know that one of his most memorable outfits, a black dickie visible under a white sweater, was actually Quaid's wife's idea. The character's popularity spawned a sequel of its own, the imminently forgettable Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure (2003).
Producer: William S. Beasley, Mauri Syd Gayton, John Hughes, Tom Jacobson, Matty Simmons, Ramey E. Ward
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Screenplay: John Hughes
Cinematography: Thomas Ackerman
Film Editing: Gerald Greenberg, Michael Stevenson
Art Direction: Beala Neel
Music: Angelo Badalamenti
Cast: Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold), Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen Griswold), Juliette Lewis (Audrey Griswold), Johnny Galecki (Rusty Griswold), John Randolph (Clark Griswold, Sr.), Diane Ladd (Nora Griswold).
by Eleanor Quin