Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Vacation (1983)

The Quest: The Griswold family vacation.  The Destination: Walley World Theme Park.  The Problem: EVERYthing!  Especially when husband and father, Clark, gets distracted by a smokin'-hot blonde in a red Ferrari!  This cross-country vacation has gone too far!

On July 29, 1983, National Lampoon's "Vacation" made its premiere in the U.S. and won critical acclaim, eventually becoming the fourth most popular film for that year (under "Star Wars: Episode VI -- The Return of the Jedi," "Scarface," and "The Outsiders").

Directed by Harold Ramis and written for the screen by John Hughes (based on his own short story, "Vacation '58), "Vacation" stars Chevy Chase (Clark), Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen), Anthony Michael Hall (Rusty), Dana Barron (Audrey), and legendary Imogene Coca (Aunt Edna).  Co-stars consisted of Randy Quaid (Cousin Eddie), Miriam Flynn (Cousine Catherine), Eugene Levy (car salesman), John Candy (Lasky, guard at Walley World), and also legendary Eddie Bracken (Roy Walley).

From getting lost in a high-crime part of a city at night to wandering around in a desert to having a picnic on a sunny day and opening up their packed lunches of which a dog already discovered, "Vacation" is full of laughs.  Budgeted an estimated $15 million and grossing in an approximate $61.4 million, this is worth every penny and is still a favorite of all ages around the world.

Here's some more behind-the-scenes info you might not have known about it...

1.  Based on the article "Vacation 58" by John Hughes, which appeared in the September 1979 issue of National Lampoon.   

2.  Imogene Coca originally turned down the part of Aunt Edna because she did not think she could portray such a mean character. Even during filming, she was often concerned that she was being (too) mean to her fellow cast members.  Imogene Coca and her long-time comic partner, Sid Caesar, played Mr. Ellis in "Vegas Vacation." Both of the characters die of old age in each film.

3.  According to director Harold Ramis he cast John Candy in the role of Laskey the Guard because he had enjoyed working with Candy on SCTV (aka SCTV, Canada's version of Saturday Night Live) and that he also loved Candy's "Paul Fistinyourface" character from the show. Ramis had Candy play the character as a sort of relative to Paul Fistinyourface. Also worth mentioning is that Eugene Levy (the car salesman) also worked with Candy and Ramis on SCTV.

4.  Daisy Mabel (Cousin Eddie's tongueless daughter) was played by director Harold Ramis' daughter, Violet Ramis.

5.  The "W" in Clark W. Griswold stands for Wilhelm.

6.  The opening scene at the Chicago car dealership was filmed at Star Ford in Glendale, California.  As of early 2009, the dealership is still there as well as the same buildings that were in the movie.

7.  The Star Ford car dealership in Glendale, California, the location scene where Clark purchases the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, is located two blocks north of Chevy Chase Drive.

8.  The Wagon Queen Family Truckster is actually a modified Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon.   

9.  The childhood pictures of Audrey on the living room wall were actual portfolio shots of Dana Barron when she was making commercials as a child actress.

10.  Exterior filming of the Griswolds "on the road" took the greater part of three months during production, crossing numerous states including California, Arizona, Colorado, Misouri and Illinois, which was filmed by a second unit. While most of the principal filming took place in California, the cast did travel on location for scenes set in Colorado, Utah and Arizona.   

11.  Director Harold Ramis said in the DVD commentary the scene where the Griswolds get off the wrong exit in St. Louis and get lost in the ghetto was one of the most politically incorrect sequences he ever shot and that it practically demonized everyone involved. He also admitted that he wasn't proud of shooting it the way it appears in the film and that he was not even sure if he would shoot that particular scene today, and if he did, he would shoot it or write it out in a different and more politically-correct way.

12.  The St. Louis inner city and the Dodge City main street were created and filmed on the Warner Brothers' studio back lot.   

13.  In the DVD commentary, Chevy Chase mentions that the scene in which Rusty puts his feet up on top of the driver's seat was originally not in the script, but the producers liked it, so it was kept in the movie.

14.  There were two scenes which were in the original script and shot but were cut from the final version of the film. One scene had the Kamp Komfort manager (Brian Doyle-Murray) dress up in a moose costume and sneak into Clark and Ellen's tent to scare them (which explains the "wildlife fun" the manager mentioned as they checked in). That scene was cut because it made the sequence run too long, so it was re-written to have Dinky sneak into the tent instead. The second scene originally written/filmed but cut was one featuring the two Indians (the same ones who see Clark wandering aimlessly through the desert and say "What an a**hole") as well as a camel rider who finds Ellen and the rest of the family and rescue them. That scene was cut because, according to director Harold Ramis, the camel had been raised in Burbank and had only ever walked on pavement, and the camel did not take to walking on hot sand very well. All the shots of the camel were unusable. Remnants of both cut scenes appear as photos during the ending credits photo montage.

15.  For the scene where Clark ties Dinky's leash to the rear bumper and forgets all about it before driving off, producer Matty Simmons, said that after the movie's release, he received numerous letters from people who had seen the movie and admitted that they had made the same grievous error with their pets as Clark did in the movie.   

16.  Apparently, it was originally scripted that after Aunt Edna was tied to the roof of the car, there was a shot of her fingers moving implying she was, in fact, still alive. This was considered "cruel" to have a live person on the roof of a car by the ratings board, so it was cut and she remained dead.   

17.  For the scene in Dodge City where Clark taunts the ornery bartender who ends up shooting him with a blank-loaded rifle, one of the prop guys ended up playing a practical joke on the cast members during one of the takes. During that particular take, after the bartender shoots at Clark, the prop guy tossed down a fake dummy from the second level of the set and the entire cast jumped in surprise afterward.   

18.  The scene where the station wagon goes airborne in the Arizona desert actually caused some production changes due to the hard nose-landing that wasn't expected. Among those were matching the exact front-end damage on other station wagons used in other scenes.

19.  In the DVD commentary, director Harold Ramis mentions that for the scene in which the Family Truckster jumps into the air, several of the crew members had made bets against 2nd unit director Dick Ziker that he couldn't jump the car more than 50 feet (even drawing lines in the sand to measure the distance). Ziker ended up winning that bet, as he jumped the car more than 50 feet.

20.  According to Harold Ramis, he was inspired to shoot wide-angle shots of Clark alone in the desert by the film "Quest for Fire."

21.  The script originally called for Disneyland as the Griswolds' destination, but Disney objected, pointing out that they are open 365 days a year.

22.  The character of Roy Walley was based on a combination of the brothers Roy Edward Disney and Walt Disney, right down to the thin mustache.   

23.  The original ending of the film consisted of the Griswold family, after seeing that Walley World is closed, going to the Hollywood house of Roy Walley (Eddie Bracken of both movie and TV fame since 1939), the owner of Walley World, and holding him and his family hostage and making them sing and dance Walley World theme songs before the police arrive to arrest all of them. This did not go over well with test audiences and the scenes in the park with John Candy were a last-minute alternate filmed over two weeks, four months after production ended. The original ending was deleted and is believed to be lost. Bracken nevertheless appeared as Roy Walley in both endings.

24.  The original ending in which the Griswolds hold Roy Walley and his family hostage in their home was re-created as part of the ending to "Christmas Vacation."   

25.  In the Walley World scenes near the end, Anthony Michael Hall is taller than Beverly D'Angelo; in previous scenes with her he was the same height as her. This was because Hall grew three inches after principal photography finished; the ending was re-shot four months afterward, because the original ending failed with test audiences.   

26.  All of the distant shots of Walley World, including the sign the family truckster drives under, were matte paintings.

27.  The theme park that served as Walley World was actually Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA. The roller coaster referred by Clark as the "Whipper Snapper" is actually called "The Revolution" and was the first roller coaster to have a 360-degree vertical loop.

28.  Harold Ramis has an uncredited role as an off-camera voice of one of the police officers at Walley World.
29.  The gas station and sporting goods store where Clark pulls into and purchases his BB gun were located at the intersection of Ocean Ave. and Santa Monica Blvd. in Santa Monica, CA. Both buildings have since been torn down and replaced by apartment high-rises.

30.  All the cast members had terrible experiences when it came to filming the scenes inside Walley World, where they rode all of the roller coasters and other rides. In the commentary, Chevy Chase mentions that many of the rides made him and the other cast members sick to their stomachs, especially since they all had to ride them several times for each take. Dana Barron mentioned in the commentary that the coasters made her so sick she had to take motion sickness pills and would pass out on nearby benches between takes. Finally, Anthony Michael Hall mentions that in the shots on the roller coaster where he looks scared, he wasn't acting--his fear in those shots was genuine.

31.  There was a Walley World Water Park in London, Ontario, Canada, which opened several years after the movie was released. John Candy was invited to the opening of the park but the park owners couldn't afford his appearance fee.

32.  This was the only "Vacation" movie to receive an "R" rating in the US by the MPAA. The "European Vacation" and "Christmas Vacation" sequels received "PG-13" ratings, while "Vegas Vacation" was rated "PG".

33.  Chevy Chase appears in some scenes wearing a black Chicago Bears ball cap. He wears the same Chicago Bears cap throughout all four Vacation movies.

And now you know.

But wait!... One more thing...

If you're a fan of the "Vacation" movies (which you probably somewhat are or else why read this blog?), you might be interested to know that there was yet another "Vacation" movie planned.  On April 24, 2013, “Vacation” plans were put on hold.  A reboot of the popular 1983 Chevy Chase comedy had been delayed indefinitely due to creative differences, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The new “Vacation,” which is set to star Ed Helms and Christina Applegate, was scheduled to start filming in July under the helm of writers and first-time directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. But New Line halted production because some parties wanted to make it a PG-13 movie and others felt it should be rated R (like the original). Sources tell the trade paper that the delay could last just a couple months or until the end of the year. The reboot focuses on Helms' character, Rusty, the son of Clark Griswold. Chase and his “Vacation” wife, Beverly D'Angelo, will make cameos in the new movie.  That is if it ever gets released.

And now you know even more.

Here are some pictures from the film you might enjoy...



Clark: Why aren't we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.

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