Christmas Vacation: 47 Differences Between The Film and Script

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is my favorite Christmas movie. This year, I’ve had some memorable experiences that have really energized me as a fan like never before. First, I went to see it in the theater for the first time which was better than that time Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny…well, you know the rest. And then, I spent an insane amount of time researching the film for our Christmas Vacation at TRN Drive-In podcast. So many new facts were illuminated and I’m now at the point of obsession where I should make a reservation at the nuthouse.

During the podcast and through my research, I was puzzled that deleted scenes have never surfaced despite seeing trailer footage that didn’t appear in the film along with several pictures like this image at the tree lot…

The film’s writer John Hughes is known for his long movie scripts (see Planes, Trains, and Automobiles) so I decided to do something I’ve never done before…read the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie script! While the script has many subtle differences and additions, it did reveal that there are several full scenes that were deleted (assuming the script I read was the shooting script.) In all, I’ve compiled 47 differences between the film and script. Here they are for your enjoyment in chronological order:

Clark Flips Double Bird to the Redneck Truck

When Clark distracts the kids with the line “Hey Kids, look a deer!” and gives the redneck truck the one finger salute, the script called for a double middle finger.

Eat My Rubber and “I Hope Their Hungry!”

After Russ corrects Clark’s comment about Burning Dust and Eating Rubber, Clark’s reply in the script is not the “Whatever, Russ” in the film but “Yup. And I hope they’re hungry!”

Audrey Confesses a Sin

Before Ellen spouts her rendition of the Lord’s prayer underneath the log truck, the script has Audrey confessing a sin from the back seat. Ellen says “Forgive us our sins…” with Audrey asking “Is lying about why you got home so late a sin?” Audrey then goes into detail that she was under the railroad bridge downtown with Sean Marley and not at Cassandra Reed’s house. Clark’s asks if this was the boy that was caught sacrificing June bugs in the cemetery and Audrey clarifies that her sin in question happened before the June bug incident.

A Walk Through The Christmas Tree Farm

The script calls for a more lengthy scene at the tree lot before the family traipses through the snow to find their tree. More families are seen “stumbling, shivering, cursing, and grousing” between rows of trees. Clark ignores them and the weather commenting on the fresh air and asking the family to notice the smell. Russ thinks it “Smells like Pinesol” with Clark interjecting “and isn’t that a Christmasy smell?” Ellen then suggests a “nice” looking tree to Clark with him responding “The bottoms all dead, hun. A deer probably lifted its leg on it.”

Russ’ Lips Also Freeze

In the film when finding the Griswold Family Christmas Tree, Clark’s lips start to freeze when he says “Thith tree ith a thymbol of the Grithwold Family Chrithmath.” In the script, Russ responds “Dad, did you bring a thaw?” Clark then responds “Thit.”

Scene With Jolly Jerry

According to the script, the sign that the Truckster smashes from the highway reads “Jolly Jerry’s Saw ‘N Save Christmas Tree Ranch.” There is a scene with Jolly Jerry between finding the Griswold tree and then seeing it strapped to the roof of the station wagon (shown in an image on the back of the DVD.) The family walks back to a double wide trailer near the entrance of the farm. “A sour-looking middle-aged man smoking a cigarette and wearing a dirty Santa hat” greets them at the door. Clark tells him he forgot a saw with Jerry responding “Rules say buyer provides own damn saw” and points to a sign that reads “Buyer pays in advance. Buyer don’t use the ranch as bathroom. Buyer don’t cut down more trees than he pay for. Buyer provides own damn saw.” We then learn that Clark paid $75 for the tree and appeals once again for “some way to get it out of the ground.” Jerry reaches behind the office door and hands him a shovel.

Scene With Family Decorating the Tree

One of the funniest scenes in the film is Clark revealing the Christmas tree in living room which is then followed by Clark dealing with his sticky, sappy fingers when reading a magazine in bed. The script actually combines those two scenes into one with the family decorating the tree after the big reveal. Clark continues trimming the massive tree as the family creates strands of popcorn and cranberries. The kids complain as we learn it was Clark’s idea to decorate with old-fashioned ornaments. He gives the kids a history lesson on ornaments made on prairie homesteads using balls of mud, wood shavings, and donkey tails. Russ asks Clark if he’s making their Christmas presents in the same fashion. “Sounds like fun, but no.” Clark strings the lights behind the tree with Ellen worried he’ll get sap all over his sweater. After swallowing a cocoon that tastes like “cashews but not so salty”, Clark appears from behind the tree covered head-to-toe in sap and pine needles. As Ellen begins helping Clark clean off the needles, she reveals her parents are coming for Christmas too (like the bedroom scene in the film.) Clark then gets a wastebasket stuck to his hand when trying to get rid of the sticky needles. Ellen helps and gets the waste bag stuck to herself. He also removes his sweater which sticks to his hand and eventually his face.

Ellen and “Sparky” Get Frisky in Bed

After the decorating scene in the script, Clark and Ellen are found in bed with Clark wanting to do “a little home shopping.” Ellen agrees to let him “thumb through her catalog” if she can go through his catalog first. Audrey then peeks in the door as Ellen tells Clark “What a big catalog you have this year.” Clark responds with “All the better to serve you with.” He tells her she’s now in the sporting goods section as Audrey quickly opens the door saying “Oh sick! What are you guys doing?” Surprised, Ellen leaps from the bed with Clark exclaiming “Ellen! Your hand!” and drags Clark to the floor screaming in pain.

Clark’s Coworker Bill Hates Christmastime

Some extended dialogue between Bill and Clark at the office reveals that Bill hates Christmastime. After he calls Clark “the last true family man”, he says that “Christmas is big pain in the ass” and he gets “a sore face from smiling for five days at people I hate.” Bill’s perfect holiday is “piling the kids in the car, driving by his sister’s house, blowing the horn, and throwing presents in the yard.”