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There’s no question that “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is a true holiday classic. I mean, is it even officially the Christmas season if you haven’t heard Clark Griswold describe the family Christmas tree as a “little full, lotta sap”?
It’s hard to believe that “Christmas Vacation” came out back in 1989. Here’s what some of the movie‘s actors were up to back in the day, and what they’re doing now. Rest in peace William Hickey (Lewis), Mae Questel (Aunt Bethany), Doris Roberts (Francis), John Randolph (Clark, Sr.) and E.G. Marshall (Art), who have all passed away since the film’s release.
Like several other actors in “Christmas Vacation,” Chevy Chase got his onscreen start on “Saturday Night Live.”
“Caddyshack” made him a bankable movie star and, by the time the holiday film came around, he had Clark Griswold’s “hap, hap, happiest” character down. Chase also played Clark Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation,” “European Vacation” and “Vegas Vacation.”
Since “Christmas Vacation,” Chase has starred in numerous movies and TV guest roles. Chase’s most recent long-term role was on the TV show “Community.”
He also remains friends with Beverly D’Angelo, who played his wife Ellen in the “Vacation” films.
As the patient and upbeat Ellen Griswold, Beverly D’Angelo made viewers question what Clark was thinking flirting with that department store clerk. The actress also played Ellen in the other three “Vacation” movies, and had a cameo in 2015’s “Vacation,” starring Ed Helms.
“There was nothing that would qualify me as a suburban housewife,” D’Angelo told Rolling Stone of her role as Ellen. “That wasn’t me. But my mother was devoted to her family and husband, and her motto was, ‘It has to all add up to 100%. So it doesn’t matter if you give 99, just as long as it adds up to 100.’ And that was the source for me.”
D’Angelo hasn’t stopped acting since her “Vacation” days. She had a recurring part as a defense attorney on “Law & Order: SVU,” and she played Arie’s business partner and mentor on “Entourage.” She also had roles on “Shooter” and “Insatiable,” and she has roles in a few movies that are still in production.
As Griswold daughter Audrey in “Christmas Vacation,” Juliette Lewis played a bored teen with just the right tone.
According to Rolling Stone, Johnny Galecki, who played Lewis’s onscreen brother, was “in awe of her.”
“It was no surprise that within two years she was up for an Oscar [for her role in ‘Cape Fear’],” he said.
Lewis went on to enjoy an award-winning acting career after “Christmas Vacation” and then a successful second career as a singer. She continues to act in movies and TV shows to this day, and she still has fond memories of being in “Christmas Vacation.”
“I love that I’m part of a Christmas classic,” she told Rolling Stone. “As a youngster, you don’t think past that week. Now, as 40-year-old Juliette, I think back and say to myself, ‘I was a Griswold. How cute.'”
Playing Rusty Griswold was one of Johnny Galecki’s first big roles, and his castmates were protective of him. Galecki recalls how encouraging Chevy Chase was in coaching him in the part.
“He was so supportive, teaching me comic timing,” he said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “That took a patience and consideration because the movie would have been funny enough without Rusty having that specific timing. He was terribly generous with me.”
Today Galecki is best known for his roles on “Roseanne” and “The Big Bang Theory.” He turned out to be a child actor who successfully transitioned to stardom as an actor in his adult years.
“Now Galecki’s making 100 million a year, and I’m sitting here,” Chevy Chase joked of his former co-star.
Diane Ladd was a seasoned actress (she received an Oscar nomination for “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”) by the time she played Nora Griswold, Clark’s mother. This despite the fact that she was only a few years older than Chevy Chase, who played her son. Ladd had been hesitant to take the part of an older character, but she has said that it’s been the most lucrative role of her career.
“Every year around this time, I get my own bonus thanks to ‘Christmas Vacation,'” she told Rolling Stone. “Isn’t that funny?”
After “Christmas Vacation,” Ladd would receive Oscar nominations for roles in movies “Wild at Heart” and “Rambling Rose.” She has often acted alongside her daughter, Laura Dern. Most recently she has had a long-standing role on the TV series “Chesapeake Shores.”
As Cousin Eddie Johnson, “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Randy Quaid added the final nut to the nutty Griswold “old-fashioned family Christmas.” Chevy Chase has said that he loved working with Quaid on the “Vacation” movies.
“I never even got a hint there was anything going on emotionally or physiologically with him,” Chase told Rolling Stone. “He just gets right into it. When we’re in the grocery store and he gets that huge 100-pound bag of dog food and slams it down. I don’t think anybody wrote that. That was just Randy reaching out and grabbing it.”
After “Christmas Vacation,” Quaid played memorable roles in movies like “Independence Day” and “Brokeback Mountain.” But he also became increasingly offbeat, a pattern that eventually led to his arrest.
Second City comedian Miriam Flynn played cousin Eddie’s wife, Catherine, in all the “National Lampoon Vacation” movies, including a TV movie.
In “Christmas Vacation,” she may not have known how to cook a turkey, but Catherine did know how to rock a curled gift wrap ribbon in her hair, according to Ellen Latzen, who played her onscreen daughter, Ruby Sue. Latzen posted a throwback photo of the “Christmas Vacation” cast on Twitter in 2019.
It’s hard to fathom that after 30 years, #christmasvacation is still as beloved as it’s ever been. I’m humbled to have played a role in something so special and revered, and I thank all of those that continue to bring us into your homes every year. #shittinbricks #rubysue pic.twitter.com/CCVwOaz9oj
— Ellen Latzen (@ellenlatzen) December 1, 2019
Flynn had the title role in the short-lived TV series “Maggie,” and a part in “Mr. Mom” in the early ’80s, along with a bunch of other credits. She has also taken on some notable voice acting roles over the years. She was the voice of Grandma Longneck in the “Land Before Time” animated movies and the voice of Maa, the old sheep in the movie “Babe.” Flynn also played the recurring role of Sister Helen on “Grounded for Life.”
Cody Burger was just 5 years old when he played Clark Griswold’s nephew, Rocky. He had no lines in the entire movie but managed to be adorable all the same, as evidenced in the personal photo Burger posted on Facebook of himself with “Aunt Bethany.” He went on to act in only six more movies, the last of which was “Heavy Weights.”
Today, Burger has left the acting world. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where he’s a senior network engineer, a family man and a tae kwon do black belt, as seen in the Facebook post below. And adorably, it seems like he and Ellen Latzen, who played Ruby Sue, have stayed in touch.
Ellen Latzen played Michael Douglas’ daughter in “Fatal Attraction” before winning the role of Ruby Sue in “Christmas Vacation.” Since Latzen had short hair in real life, she had to wear a wig for the part.
Even so, she still gets vaguely recognized as Ruby Sue to this day. In 2019, she tweeted that Christmastime always brings some interesting interactions with strangers.
I get a lot of strange looks from people around this time of year. It’s that kind of furrowed brow, hard thinking look where someone’s trying to place where they know me from. And 99% of the time they won’t figure it out. This tickles me.
— Ellen Latzen (@ellenlatzen) December 16, 2019
Latzen decided to leave acting after high school. She has since produced a podcast about child actors.
She told Huffington Post in 2015 that her favorite memory of filming “Christmas Vacation” was the Christmas dinner scene.
“I remember sitting at the end of the table that was the kids section with Cody [Burger] and Juliette [Lewis] and Johnny Galecki, who I had a massive crush on — a huge crush on Johnny Galecki — and I remember having little marshmallow fights with him and always trying to get his attention,” she said. “But I remember that being fun because it was a real family element. It was always nice to be together.”
Today, “Christmas Vacation” superfans can request a Cameo video from “Ruby Sue,” according to this tweet from Latzen:
Great news- Ruby Sue is on @cameo! Need a unique present for a friend? Dying to know something about one of my movies? Just want me to say hi? Check out this link and let the awesomeness commence. #christmasvacation #fatalattraction #rubysue https://t.co/BwW9DgTXdp
— Ellen Latzen (@ellenlatzen) March 1, 2021
Sam McMurray acted in “21 Jump Street,” “The Edge of Night,” and “Raising Arizona,” among other projects, before he played Clark’s co-worker Bill. He was also a regular on “The Tracey Ullman Show.”
After “Christmas Vacation,” McMurray has continued to win roles in movies and on TV, including on episodes of “Mom,” “Elementary,” “Grace and Frankie” and more.
After his turn as Clark’s yuppie neighbor Todd, Nicholas Guest played a headmaster on “USA High,” along with numerous other smaller roles. In recent years, he’s mostly focused on voice artist work in shows like “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” and as John Teller in “Sons of Anarchy.” He was the Robot voice on the reboot of “MacGyver.”
In real life, Nicholas is the brother of actor Christopher Guest. He’s the presumptive heir to be the next Baron Haden-Guest if his brother, the current baron, passes away before him. Christopher’s two children are adopted and not eligible to be the next heirs to the title.
The actress we now know and love from wildly popular television shows probably never dreamed that, when she played the Griswolds’ uppity neighbor Margo Chester, people would one day buy gear emblazoned with her quotes from the film, including, “Why is the carpet wet, Todd?”
A year after appearing in “Christmas Vacation,” the “Saturday Night Live” alumna scored the role of Elaine on “Seinfeld.”
Post-“Seinfeld,” Louis-Dreyfus landed starring roles on shows like “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Veep,” racking up enough Emmy wins to make history. In 2017, she received her sixth consecutive Emmy for best actress in a comedy category for her role on “Veep,” leaving her with the most Emmys won by a single performer for one role.
The actress played “‘Tis the season to be” Mary, the lingerie counter worker who Clark drools over and later has a poolside fantasy about. Scorsese is not related to director Martin Scorsese, but she dated both Antonio Sabato Jr. and Sean Penn during the “Christmas Vacation” era.
Scorsese appeared in both “Boxing Helena” and “NYPD Blue,” but seems to have disappeared from the public eye in recent years. However, you can still buy autographed photos of her in “Christmas Vacation.”
The actor played Frank Shirley, Clark’s gruff boss turned Christmas bonus softie. He also happens to be Bill Murray’s older brother. He appeared in smaller parts in several of the same films as Bill, including “Caddyshack,” for which Doyle-Murray also wrote the screenplay. And Doyle-Murray wrote for and appeared on “Saturday Night Live.”
Doyle-Murray went on to play the town announcer in “Groundhog Day,” among other character roles. He has also voiced The Flying Dutchman on “Spongebob Squarepants” and put his distinctive voice to work in other voice roles. He even reconnected with “Christmas Vacation” co-star Julia Louis Dreyfus for a couple of “Veep” episodes, and later played Don Ehlert on “The Middle.”
The actress became known for playing the distraught — and then appalled — wife of Clark’s boss.
“Well, of all the cheap lousy ways to save a buck!” she exclaims when learning of her husband’s stinginess. But the Chicago-born-and-bred actress also played dramatic roles like the one depicted below in 1988’s “War and Remembrance.”
Nogulich went on to play a “Star Trek” admiral among many other guest and recurring TV roles, including a three-episode arc on “Fuller House.” She has also acted in indie films and published her first novel.