“We’re going to keep going, and we’re going to have the happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby taped Danny (curse) Kaye!”
It was Clark Griswold who predicted an enjoyable vacation in 1989’s “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, ranked No. 2 on Esquire’s list of “40 Best Christmas Movies.”
Its star, Chevy Chase – a member of the original cast of “Saturday Night Live,” who also starred in the comedies “Caddyshack” and “Fletch” – will host a screening of “Christmas Vacation” in “An Evening with Chevy Chase. Thursday, December 9, at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, where Chase will answer questions and discuss his career.
âI (visit) a lot of cities,â Chase said in a telephone interview. “(People) can see ‘Christmas Holidays’ – a movie that I loved – then they can see the star – me. It’s a big deal for thousands of people; they love it. I love it. love because I love to remember that movie again and how fun it was to do it.
In “Christmas Vacation” – the third in Lampoon’s “Vacations” franchise – the distraught Clark wants to spend a traditional Christmas as a family with his wife, Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), son Rusty (Johnny Galecki) and Audrey ( Juliette Lewis). In each “Vacation” movie, Russ and Audrey have been played by different actors.
“It’s a long-standing joke,” says Chase, 78, who lives in Westchester, NY. “It’s too much fun to keep these kids young.”
Clark also invites the extended family, played by actors of yesteryear: John Randolph, Diane Ladd, EG Marshall, Doris Roberts, William Hickey and Mae Questel, who originally voiced Betty Boop, in her latest film.
âI loved being with these older actors; they made me look better, âsays Chase.
Things are bad, of course. Clark can’t seem to get the Christmas lights to work. Dinner is a debacle. The cat is electrocuted. The Christmas tree is burning. There are problems with the neighbors (one is played by Julia Louis-Dreyfuss). Uncouth Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) introduces himself uninvited. Clark learns he’s not getting his Christmas bonus, so cousin Eddie kidnaps Clark’s boss (Brian Doyle-Murray), eliciting a response from the SWAT team.
Chase broke his pinky while punching a garden decoration during filming – and it was used in the final cut.
âHere’s what happened,â he said. âI couldn’t turn on the lights. I kept trying to make it work and I was so upset about it. That’s right, by the way, looking to my right while they were shooting, I realized there was this group of reindeer on the lawn. I decided, ‘Why don’t you go over there and hit them with anger?’ In my head I thought they would be made of rubber, anything but what they were made of which is hard plastic. I hit that thing and – whoa! – broke my finger. We kept shooting there, but I could feel that broken finger for a while. What a great joy! “
“Christmas Vacation” was based on a short story, “Christmas 59,” which the late John Hughes – a Lansing native who wrote the first three “Vacation” films – wrote for “National Lampoon” magazine in 1980.
âI thought John was a good writer,â says Chase. “(He) gave us something really good.”
Chase says he stays in touch with D’Angelo, his onscreen wife throughout the franchise.
âI love it,â he said. âWe are still very close. We talk all the time. She knows all the big stars in the business. She’s just a funny, adorable woman. While preparing the first film, they auditioned a lot of girls – they were called âgirlsâ in those days. She stood out because she was insanely funny and fun with – she’s my Bev.
His last appearance as Clark Griswold was in 2015 in “Vacations”, starring Ed Helms and Christina Applegate, in which Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a trip to Walley World, a fictional imitation of Disney World which was the destination of Clark in the original “Vacations” film in 1983.
Of the five “Vacation” movies, “Christmas Vacation” is Chase’s favorite, though he says he enjoyed doing them all and wouldn’t mind making another one.
âOh my God, if you say what was my favorite movie to do, it would be ‘Three Amigos’ because of my friends (Steve Martin and Martin Short) or ‘Fletch’,â he says. âI think ‘Fletch’ is at the top for me. I also say âChristmas Vacationâ because it’s such a touching and charming story and I love to do comedy. “
“An Evening with Chevy Chase”
âNational Lampoon’s Christmas Vacationâ will be played at 6 pm on Thursday, December 9 at the Masonic Temple, 500 Temple St., Detroit. After the screening, star Chevy Chase will talk about her career and answer questions from the audience. Tickets cost from $ 49.50 to $ 755 on AXS.com.