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There’s no question that “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is a true holiday classic. I mean, is it even officially the Christmas season if you’ve yet to hear Clark Griswold assess the family Christmas tree as a “little full, lotta sap”?
It’s hard to believe that the film came out back in 1989. Here’s what some of the movie‘s actors were up to back in the day, and what they’re doing now. Rest in peace William Hickey (Lewis), Mae Questel (Aunt Bethany), Doris Roberts (Francis), John Randolph (Clark, Sr.) and E.G. Marshall (Art), who have all passed away since the film’s release.
Like several other actors in “Christmas Vacation,” Chevy Chase got his onscreen start on “Saturday Night Live.”
“Caddyshack” made him a bankable movie star and, by the time the holiday film came around, he had Clark Griswold’s “hap, hap, happiest” character down. Chase also played the character in “National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation,” “European Vacation” and, later, “Vegas Vacation.”
Since “Christmas Vacation,” Chase has starred in numerous movies and TV guest roles. Chase’s most recent long-term role was on the TV show “Community.”
He also remains friends with Beverly D’Angelo, who played his wife Ellen in the Vacation films.
As the patient and upbeat Ellen Griswold, Beverly D’Angelo made one question what Clark was thinking flirting with that department store clerk. The actress also played Ellen in the other three “Vacation” movies, and had a cameo in 2015’s “Vacation.”
Of her role as Ellen, D’Angelo told Rolling Stone, “There was nothing that would qualify me as a suburban housewife. That wasn’t me. But my mother was devoted to her family and husband, and her motto was ‘It has to all add up to 100 percent. So it doesn’t matter if you give 99, just as long as it adds up to 100.’ And that was the source for me.”
D’Angelo hasn’t stopped acting since her “Vacation” days. She had a recurring part as a defense attorney on “Law & Order: SVU,” and she played Arie’s business partner and mentor on “Entourage.” She also had recent roles on “Shooter” and “Insatiable.”
As Griswold daughter Audrey in “Christmas Vacation,” Juliette Lewis played a bored teen with just the right tone.
Johnny Galecki, who played her onscreen brother, said, “At that time I was, and still am, in awe of her. It was no surprise that within two years she was up for an Oscar [for her role in “Cape Fear”].”
Lewis went on to an award-winning acting career after “Christmas Vacation” and then a successful second career as a singer.
But she says of the holiday film, “I love that I’m part of a Christmas classic. As a youngster, you don’t think past that week. Now, as 40-year-old Juliette, I think back and say to myself, ‘I was a Griswold. How cute.'”
Playing Rusty Griswold was one of Johnny Galecki’s first big roles, and his castmates were protective of him. Galecki recalls how encouraging Chevy Chase was in coaching him in the part.
“He was so supportive, teaching me comic timing,” he said. “That took a patience and consideration because the movie would have been funny enough without Rusty having that specific timing. He was terribly generous with me.”
Today Galecki is best known for his roles on “Roseanne” and “The Big Bang Theory.” He’s turned out to be a child actor who successfully transitioned to an adult star.
“Now Galecki’s making 100 million a year, and I’m sitting here,” Chevy Chase joked of his former co-star.
Diane Ladd was a seasoned actress (she received an Oscar nomination for “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”) by the time she played Nora Griswold, Clark’s mother. This despite the fact that she was only a few years older than Chevy Chase, who played her son. Ladd had been hesitant to take the part of an older character, but she recently said it’s been the most lucrative role of her career.
“Every year around this time, I get my own bonus thanks to ‘Christmas Vacation,'” she told Rolling Stone. “Isn’t that funny?”
After “Christmas Vacation,” Ladd would receive Oscar nominations for roles in movies”Wild at Heart” and “Rambling Rose.” She’s often acted alongside her daughter, Laura Dern.
As Cousin Eddie Johnson, “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Randy Quaid added the final nut to the nutty Griswold “old-fashioned family Christmas.”
Chevy Chase said of Quaid, “I loved working with Randy on all of the ‘Vacation’ movies. I never even got a hint there was anything going on emotionally or physiologically with him. He just gets right into it. When we’re in the grocery store and he gets that huge 100-pound bag of dog food and slams it down. I don’t think anybody wrote that. That was just Randy reaching out and grabbing it.”
After “Christmas Vacation,” Quaid played memorable roles in movies like “Independence Day” and “Brokeback Mountain.” But he also became increasingly offbeat, a pattern that eventually led to his arrest, alongside with his wife.
Second City comedienne Miriam Flynn played cousin Eddie’s wife, Catherine, in all the “National Lampoon” vacation movies, including a TV movie.
In “Christmas Vacation,” she may not have known how to cook a turkey, but Catherine did know how to rock a curled gift wrap ribbon in her hair, as shown below in this behind-the-scenes photo posted by Ellen Latzen, who played her onscreen daughter, Ruby Sue.
Flynn had the title role in the short-lived TV series “Maggie,” and a part in “Mr. Mom” in the early ’80s, along with a bunch of other credits. She has also taken on some notable voice acting roles over the years. She was the voice of Grandma Longneck in the “Land Before Time” animated movies and the voice of Maa, the old sheep in the movie “Babe.” Flynn’s also played the recurring role of Sister Helen on “Grounded for Life.”
Cody Burger was just 5 when he played Clark Griswold’s nephew, Rocky. He had no lines in the entire movie but managed to be adorable all the same, as evidenced in the personal photo Burger posted on Facebook of himself with “Aunt Bethany.” He went on to act in only six more movies, the last of which was “Heavy Weights.”
Today, Burger has left the acting world. He lives in Tallahassee, where he’s a senior network engineer, a family man and a Taekwondo Black Belt, as seen in his martial arts post below. And adorably, it seems like he and Ellen Latzen, who played Ruby Sue, have stayed in touch.
Ellen Latzen played Michael Douglas’ daughter in “Fatal Attraction” before winning the role of Ruby Sue in “Christmas Vacation.” Since Latzen had short hair in real life, she had to wear a wig for the part. Here she’s seen with her movie uncle, Chevy Chase, in a personal photo she posted to Instagram.
Latzen decided to leave acting after high school. She has since produced a podcast about child actors, and she works in the restaurant industry today.
She told the Huffington Post in 2015 that her favorite memory of filming “Christmas Vacation” was the Christmas dinner scene.
“I remember sitting at the end of the table that was the kids section with Cody [Burger] and Juliette [Lewis] and Johnny Galecki, who I had a massive crush on — a huge crush on Johnny Galecki — and I remember having little marshmallow fights with him and always trying to get his attention,” she said. “But I remember that being fun because it was a real family element. It was always nice to be together.”
Sam McMurray acted in “21 Jump Street,” “The Edge of Night,” and “Raising Arizona,” among other projects, before he played Clark’s co-worker Bill. He was also a regular on “The Tracey Ullman Show.”
After “Christmas Vacation,” McMurray has continued to win roles on TV and in movies. Most recently, he appeared on two episodes of “Mom.”
After his turn as Clark’s yuppie neighbor Todd, Nicholas Guest played a headmaster on “USA High,” along with numerous other smaller roles. In recent years, he’s mostly focused on voice artist work in shows like “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” and as John Teller in “Sons of Anarchy.” He is the Robot voice on the reboot of “MacGyver.”
In real life, Nicholas is the brother of actor Christopher Guest. He’s the presumptive heir to be the next Baron Haden-Guest if his brother, the current baron, passes away before him. Christopher’s two children are adopted and not eligible to be the next heirs to the title.
The actress we now know and love from wildly popular television shows probably never dreamed that, when she played the Griswolds’ uppity neighbor Margo Chester, people would one day buy gear emblazoned with her quotes from the film, including “Why is the carpet wet, Todd?”
A year after appearing in “Christmas Vacation,” the “Saturday Night Live” alumna scored the role of Elaine on “Seinfeld.”
Post-“Seinfeld,” Louis-Dreyfus landed starring roles on shows like “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Veep,” racking up enough Emmy wins to make history. Last year, she received her sixth consecutive Emmy for best actress in a comedy category for her role on “Veep,” leaving her with the most Emmys won by a single performer for one role.
The actress played “‘Tis the season to be” Mary, the lingerie counter girl Clark drools all over and later has a poolside fantasy about. Scorsese is not related to director Martin Scorsese, but she dated both Antonio Sabato Jr. and Sean Penn during the “Christmas Vacation” era.
Scorsese appeared in both “Boxing Helena” and “NYPD Blue,” but seems to have disappeared from the public eye in recent years. However, you can still buy autographed photos of her in “Christmas Vacation.”
The actor played Frank Shirley, Clark’s gruff boss turned Christmas bonus softie. He also happens to be Bill Murray’s older brother. He appeared in smaller parts in several of the same films as Bill, including “Caddyshack,” for which Doyle-Murray also wrote the screenplay. And Doyle-Murray wrote for and appeared on “Saturday Night Live.”
Doyle-Murray went on to play the town announcer in “Groundhog Day,” among other character roles. He has also voiced The Flying Dutchman on “Spongebob Squarepants” and put his distinctive voice to work in other voice roles. Most recently, he played Don Ehlert on “The Middle.”
The actress became known for playing the distraught — and then appalled — wife of Clark’s boss.
“Well, of all the cheap lousy ways to save a buck!” she exclaims when learning of her husband’s stinginess. But the Chicago-born-and-bred actress also played dramatic roles like the one depicted below in 1988’s “War and Remembrance.”
Nogulich went on to play a “Star Trek” admiral among many other guest and recurring TV roles. She’s also acted in indie films and recently published her first novel.