Pop Culture

20 things you probably didn't know about 'National Lampoon's Vacation'

It's been 33 years since the Griswolds hit the road on their trek to Walley World.

While most fans have every line from "National Lampoon's Vacation" memorized, it turns out some of the behind-the-scenes moments are just as memorable.

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Vacation: Anthony Michael Hall, Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Dana Barron, 1983

To celebrate the anniversary of the film's release on July 29, 1983, here are 20 things you probably didn't know about the original "Vacation."

1. Anthony Michael Hall, who played Rusty Griswold, was going through puberty during shooting. He grew three inches throughout production, and as a result, is different heights throughout the film.

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2. The film was written by John Hughes (who would go on to write other '80s classics such as "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles"), and was based on his story "Vacation '58," which was published in National Lampoon magazine in 1979.

3. Shooting for "Vacation" called for a real-life road trip for the cast and crew. The film was shot in more than 15 locations across four states.

4. "Vacation" is the only R-rated movie in the series. In the film's DVD commentary, director Harold Ramis said he was worried the National Lampoon style of comedy may have had too much of an edge for his directorial style and said he was particularly embarrassed by the scene in St. Louis, calling it "the most politically incorrect sequence I've ever shot."

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5. There were five Wagon Queen Family Trucksters used in rotation during production of the film, allowing for each to be altered in various ways to account for the wear and tear the car endures throughout the Griswolds' trip.

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6. During a scene early in the movie, Clark (Chevy Chase) helps Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) clean the dishes, but he never actually rinses them or puts them in the dishwasher. Instead he just wipes them off with a rag and puts them back into the cabinets. Chase says it's one of his favorite bits in the film, but says it goes unnoticed by most fans.

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7. In the family sing-along scenes, Chase notes that Beverly D'Angelo is actually a great singer. Before "Vacation" she starred in the 1979 musical "Hair."

8. During the gas station scene in which Clark is trying to find the gas cap for the Family Truckster, Chase didn't intend to throw the license plate when he removed it. The plate flew behind him and nearly hit the actress parked at the adjacent pump. The look of concern on Chase's face afterward is genuine.

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9. Christie Brinkley was just becoming a superstar in the modeling industry when production began and the studio wanted to feature her in the movie. While she only appeared in a handful of scenes, she traveled with the cast and crew for much of the shoot. "Vacation" was her first movie credit and she would reprise her role for the 1997 sequel "Vegas Vacation."

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10. Randy Quaid based Cousin Eddie's trademark tongue click on a guy he knew in high school and marked every spot in the script where he wanted to incorporate the sound.

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11. Jane Krakowski made her big-screen debut in "Vacation" at age 14 as Eddie's daughter, Cousin Vicki.

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12. Imogene Coca, who played Aunt Edna, was hesitant about taking the role because she was worried she couldn't be mean enough. "She was one of the sweetest ladies in the world," Chase later said of Coca. However, producer Matty Simmons talked Coca into taking the part, assuring her she was a fantastic actress who could play any role.

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13. Chase and James Keach, who plays the highway patrol officer, improvised much of the scene in which the two realize Clark accidentally killed Aunt Edna's dog Dinky by forgetting to untie his leash from the rear bumper. The two are noticeably trying to stifle laughter during the scene.

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14. Stunt coordinator Dick Ziker made a bet against other crew members that he would be able to jump the Family Truckster more than 50 feet during the desert scene. Ziker won the bet.

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15. Lindsay Buckingham's "Holiday Road," which serves as the movie's theme song, rose to No. 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart thanks to the movie's popularity.

16. During Clark and Rusty's father-son scene in which the two share a beer, the beer can is actually empty and the two had to pretend to take swigs from it.

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17. In Hughes' original script, Clark snaps upon arriving at Walley World only to learn the park is closed, and the Griswolds drive to Roy Walley's (played by Eddie Bracken) home to hold him and his top executives hostage. This ending was shot in its entirety, but was ultimately scrapped because it didn't play well in front of test audiences. Director Harold Ramis believed the ending didn't work because the movie builds to the promise of seeing Walley World and audiences felt cheated out of that payoff. As a result, Ramis had Hughes write an alternate ending in which the Griswolds hijack the park. For the rewritten scene, they cast John Candy as Lasky, one of the park's security guards, in what would become one of the movie's most memorable roles. The cast and crew then went back and shot the new ending and cut it into the original film. According to Ramis, test marketing went through the roof once the ending had been changed.

18. Establishing shots of Walley World were created using matte paintings.

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19. The Walley World parking lot scene was shot at Santa Anita race track in Arcadia, California. It was more than 100 degrees during shooting and the scene called for the cast to run from the car all the way to the park's gates. Hall said he remembers actually trying to beat Chase in the race to the gates, but Chase had eight inches on him at the time.

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20. The scenes inside the park were shot at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. The cast had to ride the roller coasters so many times that the looks of fear and nausea on their faces are real.

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Now pack up your bags and head to Walley World!

This post was originally published on May 27, 2015.

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