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.”

No “Kiss My Ass. Kiss His Ass. Kiss Your Ass. Happy Hanukkah.” Line

Instead, the script simply has a reflection from Clark about his boss when he leaves. “He may not be the warmest guy in the world, but at least he’s fair and signs the checks.” I think I like what I assume is improvised dialogue better that’s in the film.

Slightly Different Dialogue with Mary

Clark and Mary’s interaction in the script changes the “Tis the season to be merry.” “Well, that’s my name.” “No shit.” dialogue. After she tell him her name, Clark says “Huh?” and she points to her nameplate on her blouse and says “Mary.” Clark responds “Christmas” and she follows with “And a happy New Year.” Again, I’ll defer to the film’s dialogue.

Deleted Scene in the Mall With Russ After “Cant See The Line Can You Russ?”

Embarrassed by the interchange with Mary, Clark tries to play down Mary’s beauty which I assume is in case the conversation should pop up later in front of Ellen. Carrying lingerie boxes, Clark and Russ continue walking through the mall with Clark telling him that “funny-looking gal back there was so helpful.” Russ questions his adjective with Clark explaining she was unusual as in “tall and skinny, top heavy, wide hips, narrow waist, real big eyes and lips, and cheekbones that if were any higher she’s have to open her mouth to put in her contacts. But she was nice and knew her underpants so that’s all that’s important.” Russ corrects him that she was “cover girl material” with Clark responding “For like a medical journal, sure.”

Just as Clark thinks he’s downplayed the situation, he let’s out one more verbal slip to Russ: “Gee, I hope I remember were I parked the old dickster…Truckster.” He pushes Russ ahead through a door to get one more glimpse at Mary. As she waves, Clark enters the door realizing it’s the women’s bathroom. Ladies shriek and two big slaps are heard as Clark and Russ exit rubbing their faces.

No Doorbell When the Grandparents Arrive

One of my favorite parts of the film, the door bell chimes when the grandparents arrive, are substituted for ominous music and looks of horror from the family in different parts of the house. Then three bangs are heard at the front door.

Extended Dialogue for the Grandparents Appearance

Too much to list here, but the Grandparents shine when they enter the house and “attack” the family with kisses and conversation. Highlights include the Grandfathers both complaining about sleeping in the bunk beds, and Francis warning Audrey about open-mouthed kissing and Nora asking Ellen if she saw the “skinny women” episode of Oprah.

More Todd and Margo Dialogue After “Break His Neck” Lines

When Clark is rigging up the lights, Todd and Margo comment on them not being lucky enough for him to fall and break his neck. Their dialogue continues in the script to further express their yuppiness with Todd saying “There should be some sort of ordinance prohibiting outdoor lights.” Margo follows “If we can’t keep dogs and kids out of the neighborhood, we’re not going to prevent Christmas lights.”

Grandmothers Have Dialogue While Watching the Parade

The film has a scene with no dialogue where the Grandmothers are watching a parade on TV while making a gingerbread house. The script gives them some lines (loud ones to talk over the Grandfathers’ snoring) with Nora complaining to Francis about eating the shingles on the Gingerbread house. Then they turn the TV up even louder to determine if the host is “the fella from Jeopardy” or “the sports guy who is married to the news gal with the drinking problem.”

No “Ellen are you smoking again?” Line

The script follows the meal prep scene with Ellen and Audrey just like in the film. However, the line that Francis utters at the end is omitted which in turn means Ellen does not chop the head of lettuce in half with the butcher knife.

Russ’ Excuses to Get Out of Helping with the Lights Are Not Scripted

Many fans have noted that Russ’ look at his fake watch and excuses to not help Clark with the lights (like “feeding the hog”) are a nod to a classic Chevy Chase gag. That was not in the script and appears to be ad-libbed on set.

Clark Finds 3 Dusty Gifts in the Attic

Other than the Happy Mother’s Day gift that Clark finds in the Attic nook in the film, the script notes he finds an old Christmas gift for his Mom and an anniversary gift for Ellen first.

Clark Tests for Bad Bulbs From Inside the Attic

While being trapped in the attic, the film shows Clark trying to get Ellen’s attention from the small swiveling attic vent. When the car pulls away, the script adds that Clark reaches through the vent to test Christmas light bulbs within reach.

Deleted Scenes At The Mall While Clark is Trapped in the Attic

The script calls for scenes of the Grandparents at the mall buying Christmas presents as a back-and-forth with Clark’s scenes in the attic. Clark Sr. and Nora argue over getting Russ an air rifle for Christmas against Ellen’s wishes. They instead decide to get him a manicure set because according to Clark Sr. “(sarcastically) There’s nothing more important to a young fella than well-groomed fingernails.” Then in another scene, Art and Francis decide to get Audrey a monogrammed leather purse and matching gloves. After seeing the $110 price tag, Art suggests they “go back to the toy section and get her that loom.”

Clark Makes Footprints in the Ceiling When Walking Between the Joists

The script has shots of Clark’s footprints being seen from inside the house as he walks between the joists in the attic.

Todd is the One That Won’t Kiss Margo Until She Showers

In the movie, Margo spouts the “after you shower, of course” line when Todd expresses he wants to kiss every square inch of her body.” In the script, Todd hesitates and says the line himself.

John Hughes Description of The Griswold House When It First Lights Up Is…

…the home edition of the Disnelyland Electric Parade. I thought that was perfect when reading in the script.

Art’s Line To Clark “The Little Lights Are Not Twinkling” Is Swapped For…

…”You’ve got too many blues lights” in the script. I think I like the film’s line better.

Eddie’s “I Don’t Know” after Ruby Sue’s Eye-Crossing Explanation is Ad-Libbed

I’m only noting this because Eddie’s “I Don’t Know” line is a common one I use throughout the year.

Deleted Scene of Art in the Bunk Bed Confused By the Hole in the Ceiling

The script has a scene with Art on the top bunk trying to figure out why there are two holes in the ceiling through the pinup poster. He finally gives up and rolls over (away from the camera) to reveal plaster dust all over the back his head.

Deleted Scene of Rocky and Ruby Sue’s Gerbils

Apparently Eddie’s line to Catherine about the gerbils and the rubber sheets was innocent. The script calls for a scene of Rocky and Ruby Sue sleeping on a hide-a-bed with “a cage of anxious gerbils” between them. The script also notes Rocky smiling, followed by the sound of a “soft splatter of water on rubber” indicating that Rocky wets the bed.

Deleted Scene of Clark and Ellen in Bed Discussing Eddie’s Arrival

The script says Clark is concerned about the ability to have a nice Christmas with Eddie there. Ellen reminds him that “they are sleeping in the driveway” which causes Clark to complain that “the shack on wheels” makes the house look like a junkyard. Ellen reminds Clark that he’s never judged anyone by how much or little they have. Clark comes to his senses stating “No, I never will. If Eddie was rich…He’d be worse.”

Clark Gives Mr. Shirley a Poinsettia

You’ve probably noticed in the film that Clark’s present is identical to all of the other presents on Mr. Shirley’s table. In the script, Clark’s present is a poinsettia plant and sets it among a table “jammed with 50 other poinsettia plants.”

Eddie’s “Bingo” After The Sled Scene Was Scripted After All

In my research for TRN Drive-In, I had found an article somewhere that his infamous tongue clicking followed by “Bingo” was something Randy Quaid ad-libbed. The tongue click might have been but “Bingo” is in the script.

Ruby Sue Has More Dialogue After Clark’s Dream Sequence

Ruby Sue’s first dialogue comes after Clark’s fantasy at the pool. In the film, she tells Clark that the reason she’s awake is Rocky’s nervous about Christmas. What the script tells us is that Ruby Sue is awake because Rocky bit her thumb. She says “My mom puts bad tasting crap on his thumb so he don’t suck it, so sometimes he sucks mine and he has a bad dream, sometimes he bites it.” Ruby Sue also tells Clark she is in “firstus” grade.

Clark Goes Back to the Window To Look For Mary

Anxious for another glimpse of Mary, the script tells he goes back to the frosted kitchen window after Ruby Sue goes to bed, but only finds Mary’s bathing suit on the frozen ground.

Eddie Says “Shitter Is Full” Just Once

The film and script has him yelling the line to Clark as he looks to the street. In the script, Eddie only greets Todd with “Merry Christmas!” omitting the line a second time like in the film. Chances are the second utterance was dubbed in the film because Eddie says it off camera to Todd.

Clark Puts Uncle Lewis’ Toupee Back On Frisbee-Style

In the script, Clark doesn’t immediately place Uncle Lewis’ toupee back on his head when removed with his hat. Instead, Lewis steps forward on Clark’s initial attempt which misses. Clark then waits for the opportune moment which happens to be when Lewis follows Aunt Bethany to say “Hello, Everybody.” He throws the toupee Frisbee-style which lands on Lewis’ head who reaches up and adjusts it when entering the living room.

Aunt Bethany’s Jello Mold is Cherry Not Lime

Not a big deal, but was probably easier to see the cat food on film using green jello instead of red.

Uncle Lewis is Fowl Mouthed and Hates Clark’s Tree

The script adds many curse words to Uncle Lewis’ dialogue. He mainly uses them to express his affections toward Clark’s Christmas Tree in a deleted living room scene where he utters “that’s the ugliest goddamn Christmas tree I’ve ever seen. What the hell did you do to it?” He later adds “This son of a bitch can’t wait to catch fire and kill a household.”

The “Oh Dear, Did I Break Wind?” Gag Continues in the Living Room

Continuing the deleted scene mentioned above right before the family dinner, Eddie let’s out a “Hmm, boy! Do you smell that?” Aunt Bethany again apologizes thinking she broke wind with Lewis correcting her “The turkey, Bethany! He smells the turkey!”

A Can of Dressing is Found Inside the Turkey

In the script, Clark discovers a can of prepared poultry stuffing inside the turkey. He asks Eddie if he made the stuffing to which he replies “I gotta confess, Clark, it’s store bought. Found it in the R.V. last night. All you gotta do is pop the top off of it and serve it up.”

Further Details About the Fried Pussycat

In the script, there is an extended scene of Clark and Eddie carrying the chair to the curb after the cat gets electrocuted. Ellen seems concerned that the chair is ruined with Clark assuring her that “You and I will not outlive the stink in this piece of furniture.” She then asks what happened to the cat itself. Clark says “It blew up. Eddie found its asshole stuck to the wall, for God’s sake.” Russ chimes in “Oh sick! I thought that was a piece of licorice that Rocky had spit on the wall.” Eddie then responds “You know, Clark, if somebody hadda got hit with that thing, it could’ve put an eye out.”

Rocky Speaks!

After Lewis burns down the Christmas tree, Rocky finally gets a line in the script asking “Will Santy Claus still come?” Eddie thinks on that for a minute and says “That’s a good question, Rock. Catherine? If the tree’s…” Catherine interrupts Eddie’s thought pattern by assuring her nervous son that “Of course he’ll still come, Rocky.”

Russ yells Squirrel!

Another funny moment in the film is the close-up of Clark Sr. yelling “Squirrel!!!!!!!” when the creature jumps from the newly cut Christmas tree. In the script, when Clark sees the squirrel he exclaims “Holy infant” followed by Russ screaming the creature’s name.

The Squirrel Runs Up Aunt Bethany’s Skirt

Aunt Bethany gives a puzzled look on her face after this happens in the script declaring “On my! I hope somebody got me a girdie. This one is pinching and binding something terrible.” Lewis then tells Clark “You can write that son of a bitch off. Nothin’ goes up there and lives to tell about it.”

Mrs. Shirley’s Description of Eddie Was Not Scripted

After Eddie kidnaps Mr. Shirley at Clark’s request, there is a scene with Mrs. Shirley on the phone with the police describing Eddie. “He was wearing a blue leisure suit and the plates were from Kansas. He was a huge beastly, bulging man…” It’s a very funny moment but her description wasn’t in the script.

More Lines For Ruby Sue at the End

When Uncle Lewis drops his match to ignite the sewer gas and sends Santa’s sleigh rocketing into the air, the script gives another Ruby Sue line. As the sleigh crosses the moon, she looks at Clark and shouts “Santy Claus ain’t bullshit! He’s real.”

Clark Gives Snots a Christmas Present in the Final Scene

The film ends with Clark alone in the front yard staring at the moon and letting out a deep sigh followed by “I did it.” That scene extends in the script with Eddie’s dog Snots appearing after Ellen heads back into the house. Clark stares down at Snots whose front paw is now between Clark’s legs. Ellen opens the front door asking if Clark is coming in. He tells her “In a few minutes, honey” and then looks back at the Mississippi leg hound…”Merry Christmas, Snots.” Clark smiles as the dog-barking rendition of Jingle Bells plays and the movie fades out.

Todd and Margo Post Credits Scene

The movie script adds a post credits scene with Todd consoling Margo in bed after the nights events. Todd says “It’s over, honey. Griswold had his Christmas. Nothing else can happen. It’s quiet, it’s peaceful, all is calm.” Margo asks him to hold her, that she is still so tense from the evening. Todd adds “Sweetheart, if you don’t go to sleep Santa won’t come.” Margo replies “You’re so cute” as Santa’s sleigh from Clark’s yard crashes through their bedroom ceiling.

WOW. So much to digest from the script that didn’t make it into the film. I never thought it could be improved but after reading the script, there are scenes that I wish would have made it in. I love that post credits scene! We can only hope that most of these deleted scenes were filmed (the Jolly Jerry scene would be a great start) and released someday for the fans to enjoy.

I’m definitely doing more of these film/script articles for TRN and will be appealing to Warner Bros on Twitter to #ReleaseTheDeletedScenes for Christmas Vacation!

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About Jason Gross 307 Articles
'80s Kid, '90s Grad, and '00s Dad. I've been writing and podcasting about 1980s pop culture since 2011 at my Rediscoverthe80s.com website. I collect vinyl, cassingles, '80s comics, Batman memorabilia, and all things Mobile Armored Strike Kommand.