12 – National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

In National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes along with uncredited screenwriters, director Harold Ramis and Chevy Chase, tell the story of a white, middle-class, suburban family and their journey cross-country during their annual two-week vacation. It was a relatable story to many North American’s, who during the 70s and 80s would travel across country for days to visit family or holiday destinations, without the distraction of iPads, cassette decks or even decent radio coverage. Vacation tapped into the collective memory of being stuck in long car rides alongside the family. In the off-colour comedic-style of the National Lampoon Magazine, the film tackled race, incest, infidelity and animal welfare, alongside its observations of family values, the fallout of Reaganomics, and urban crime. It also proved that Hughes’ work could be great when placed in the hands of a skilled director that shared his sense of humour, and was able to step somewhat outside the insular suburban-world that would become Hughes stock-in-trade.

National Lampoon’s Vacation is available on iTunes, Amazon Video, and probably a bunch of other places.

Read John Hughes’ Original National Lampoon Vacation Story That Started the Movie Franchise via The Hollywood reporter.


The wacky Griswold clan goes on an ill-fated cross-country odyssey, hell-bent on going to their favorite theme park, Walley World. (Netflix description)

Select Cast & Crew

  • Chevy Chase … Clark Griswold
  • Beverly D’Angelo … Ellen Griswold
  • Imogene Coca … Aunt Edna
  • Randy Quaid … Cousin Eddie
  • Anthony Michael Hall … Rusty Griswold
  • Dana Barron … Audrey Griswold
  • Eddie Bracken … Roy Walley
  • Brian Doyle-Murray … Kamp Komfort Clerk
  • Miriam Flynn … Cousin Catherine
  • James Keach … Motorcycle Cop
  • Eugene Levy … Car Salesman “Ed”
  • Frank McRae … Grover
  • John Candy … Russ Lasky, Guard at Walleyworld
  • Christie Brinkley … The Girl in the Ferrari
  • Jane Krakowski … Cousin Vicki
  • Mickey Jones … Mechanic
  • Popeye the Dog … Dinky (uncredited)
  • Harold Ramis … director
  • Matty Simmons … producer
  • Susan Arnold … casting director
  • Bill Borden … location manager: Colorado/Arizona
  • Sam Mercer … location manager
  • Victor J. Kemper … cinematographer

The Soundtrack

The score was written by Ralph Burns and a soundtrack was issued in 1983 on vinyl, and on CD in 2003 with audio clips from the film. Only selections of Ralph Burns score were released.

  • “Holiday Road” – Lindsey Buckingham
  • “Mr. Blue” – The Fleetwoods
  • “Blitzbrieg Bop” – Ramones
  • “Deep River Blues” – Ralph Burns
  • “Summer Hearts” – Nicolette Larson* This song was part of the original changed ending and only appears on the soundtrack.
  • “Little Boy Sweet” – June Pointer
  • “Trip (Theme)” – Ralph Burns
  • “He’s So Dull” – Vanity 6
  • “Christie’s Song” – Ralph Burns
  • “Dancin’ Across the USA” – Lindsey Buckingham

Bonus Tracks:

  • “I’m So Excited” – The Pointer Sisters, was in the original theatrical release, and has appeared on television releases, but was replaced by “Little Boy Sweet” on VHS, BluRay, and some DVD releases.
  • “Chariots of Fire” – Vangelis. Appears when Clark and Rusty are racing across the Walley World parking lot. The version in the film was performed by Ralph Burns.
  • “Work That Sucker To Death” – Xavier—mentioned in the script, but was replaced by “Blitzbrieg Bop” in the final film.
  • “Mockingbird” – Carly Simon and James Taylor. Simon and Taylor’s arrangement is the one used by D’Angelo and Chase. Even their vocal stylings are similar.

Take a listen to the spotify playlist.


Episode artwork is adapted from the movie poster artwork, created by Boris Vallejo, 1983.

Boris Vallejo’s artwork for National Lampoon’s Vacation (from NL July 1983).
Cover to the National Lampoon, July 1983. The issue included a reprint of Hughes “Vacation 58” story.
“Vacation 58” National Lampoon, July 1983. Artwork by Alan Reingold.
1958 Plymouth Sport Suburban Six station wagon, cited in Hughes original story
The Process trailer, developed by Victor J. Kemper and Harold Ramis.


Additional Reading, Viewing and Tidbits

On October 26, 1983, Comedian David Brenner has filed a $27.2 million suit against Warner Bros, in federal court, claiming that the film Vacation was plagiarized from a screenplay he wrote titled Goodbye Grandma that he submitted to Warner Bros in 1979. (I was unable to find the result of the lawsuit.)


  • Alaway, Nick. “National Lampoon’s Vacation” The Eighties Movies Rewind.
  • American Film Institute interview. March 1, 1985.
  • Bernstein, Jonathan. “Mean. Arrogant. Delusional. Why did America fall in love with Chevy Chase?” The Telegraph. Aug 22, 2015.
  • Blumstein, Michael. “Is the National Lampoon Still Funny?” The New York Times. September 26, 1983.
  • Box Office Mojo.”National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Boxofficemojo.com.
  • California Environmental Protection Agency. “History of Air Resources Board” Arba.ca.gov. October 22, 2014.
  • Carter, Bill. “Him Alone” New York Times. August 4, 1991.
  • Evans, Bradford. “Talking to Matty Simmons About Producing Animal House, Publishing National Lampoon, and His New Book Fat, Drunk, and Stupid” Splitsider. April 10, 2012.
  • Fruchter, Rena. I’m Chevy Chase … and you’re not. Virgin Books, 2007.
  • Gliato, Tom. “Sweet Imogene,” People.com. June 18, 2001.
  • Griffin, Nancy and Kim Masters. Hit and Run: How Jon Peters and Peter Guber Took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood. Simon and Shuster. 2016.
  • Goldberg, Rob. Inside Story: National Lampoon’s Vacation. Pangolin Pictures for Bio. The Biography Channel. 2011 A&E Television Networks.
  • Grovsvenor, Charles, R., Jr. “Eighties Movie Locations That Really Exist, Movies Beginning with N” Inthe80s.com.
  • Hall, Anthony Michael. “Vacation.” AMH Film and TV Cast: Sept 11, 2006.
  • Hamilton, Keegan. “Setting the Record Straight: East St. Louis and National Lampoon’s Vacation” Riverfront Times. May 26, 2009.
  • Holmes, Chris. “Retrotisements — 1958 Plymouth New Car Lineup” The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. August 21, 2012.
  • Honeycutt, Kirk. John Hughes: A Life on Film. Race Point Publishing. 2015.
  • Hughes, John with Harold Ramis (uncredited) and Chevy Chase (uncredited). National Lampoon’s Vacation. Fourth Draft. April 30, 1982.
  • Hughes, John. National Lampoon’s Vacation. Directed by Harold Ramis. Warner Brothers Pictures. July 29, 1983.
  • Hughes, John. “Vacation ’58” National Lampoon Magazine. NL Communications Inc. Sept 1979, reprinted July 1983.
  • Hughes, John. “Vacation ’58 / Foreword ’08.” Zoetrope All-Story. Volume 12, Number 2. Summer 2008.
  • Kart, Larry. “Few good gags make for dull ‘Vacation’ trip” Chicago Tribune. Jul 29, 1983. pg. C3
  • Letterman, David. “Interview with Harold Ramis.” Late Night with David Letterman. NBC. 1983.
  • Lyman, Rick. “It’s a Rare Scene: Movie Executive With 9 Lives; From Warner Brothers to Columbia, and, Now, Paired With Ovitz” New York Times. Feb 20, 2002.
  • Martin, Murilee. “What About the Malaise Era? More Specifically, What About This 1979 Ford Granada?” The Truth About Cars. May 5, 2011.
  • Maslin, Janet. “Review: National Lampoon’s Vacation.” New York Times. July 29, 1983.
  • Mills, Bart. “Youthpix seducing a new teenage generation.” The Age. November 5, 1983. Reprinted from The Guardian.
  • Movie District, The. “Vacation (1983)” themoviedistrict.com
  • New York Times. “Miss Coca Injures an Eye in Crash,” New York Times. Jan 2, 1973.
  • Rabin, Nathan, Keith Phillips, Josh Modell, and Scott Tobias. “Last Thoughts on John Hughes.” AV Club. August 10, 2009.
  • Ramis Harold. “John Hughes Remembered: Harold Ramis (director of ‘Vacation’)” ew.com. August 13, 2009.
  • Ramis, Harold, Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Matty Simmons, Anthony Michael Hall, and Dana Barron. “Griswold Family Commentary.”National Lampoon’s Vacation. Directed by Harold Ramis. Warner Brothers Pictures. 2006.
  • Retro Ladyland. “On Vacation with Dana Barron – An interview.” Retro Ladyland. Jan 26, 2014.
  • Ross, Deanna and Jerrell Marquise Mcgirt. “Transcript of New Hollywood Cinema (1960 to 1977)” Prezi.com. Nov 21, 2012.
  • Schreiber, Ronnie. “QOTD: Did The Griswold’s Family Truckster Kill the American Station Wagon?” The Truth About Cars. August 5, 2015.
  • Simmons, Matty. Fat, Drunk, and Stupid: The Inside Story Behind the Making of Animal House. St. Martin’s Press, 2012.
  • Seely, Mike. “A River Runs Through It: The Route 3 detour means wannabe Griswolds needn’t set foot in East St. Louis” Riverfront Times. May 5th 2004.
  • Sneed & Lavin, Inc. “Between the Pages” The Chicago Tribune. October 31, 1983.
  • Spitz, Marc. “Sex, Drugs & Holiday Roads” Maxim. May 2009
  • Stein, Ellin. That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick: The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream. WW Norton and Company. 2013.
  • TV Tropes. National Lampoon’s Vacation:Trivia. retrieved Aug 2, 2017. Sources unlisted. Original source lists American Werewolf in London, though the timing wouldn’t be correct. More likely the film Landis was working on—if he was asked and if this true—was Trading Places
  • Vanderbuilt, Mike. “R.I.P. Michael Gross, National Lampoon alum and designer of the Ghostbusters logo” AV Club. Nov. 18, 2005.
  • Vallejo, Boris and Julie Bell. Facebook post. January 30, 2015. (info cut from final mix)
  • Warner Brothers Pictures. “Vacation: Chevy Chase On The Role Of Clark Griswold” New York Times. July 22, 2015.
  • WBBM Channel 2. Channel 2 News Special Report: “Blizzard ’79: Public Questions, City Answers”. January 18, 1979. via Fuzzymemories.tv


Theme music by Bradley Davis (Fresh Snow). Incidental music, by Rob Christiansen (24 Hour Music People). This episode was recorded during an air show, so there are some problems with the main audio track, but hopefully not too distracting. This episode was released as a mono recording, in homage to Vacation.

With sound effects by Freqman, Orehek, Panzen, Racoonanimator, and Raymonster from freesound.org.

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