12 – The making of 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.)


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.

Episode sources can be found here.

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