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National Lampoon's Vacation Turns 40!

Today, on July 17th, National Lampoon's Vacation turns 40!  This marks a special anniversary for arguably the greatest road trip comedy ever!  

My wife and I are big fans of this film, and we still watch it once or more per month from bed before going to sleep.  As a couple who have taken many long road trips together, we can only laugh at the familiar moments that happen as we try to turn small moments during the trip into special memories, similar to how Clark Griswold tries yet fails numerous times during the movie.  

We love this film and all of its road trip glory.  As annual visitors to Walt Disney World, my wife and I both understand the desire to make moments special for our daughter.  Me more so than my wife.  She's much more of a "go with the flow" kind of person, while I'm the planner, often down to every detail.  Well, as much detail as I can with a toddler in tow.  

When Clark arrives at Walley-World to find it closed, the disappointment in his children is too much to bear.  Last year, I had a similar moment at Disney World.  My daughter's favorite character is Mickey Mouse, and after talking up the only ride that features him, I messed up the purchase of our "Lightning Lane" (formerly Fast Pass).  The disappointment on her face nearly made me see red.  Thankfully, my wife was the calm one, like Ellen Griswold, and suggested we speak to someone.  An employee (excuse me, cast member) could see I had the Fast Passes in my digital cart but apparently never hit "Confirm" to make the purchase earlier that day.  He extended us a one-time favor, and rather than stand for 3 hours in line with a hot, tired 3-year-old, we were allowed to walk right in.  

That one dude literally turned our vacation around.  We had all been slightly under the weather, plugging along, and not getting onto Mickey's Runaway Railway was the last straw.  This one act lifted our spirits and carried us through the end of the week.

Too bad he wasn't around when Clark arrived to talk to Marty Moose, but I tell you my story to say that I completely understand Clark's frustrations.

For those handful of you who have never seen National Lampoon's Vacation, this classic comedy follows the misadventures of the Griswold family on a cross-country road trip to the fictional amusement park "Walley World."  Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is a well-meaning but hapless father who is determined to create the perfect vacation for his wife, Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), and children, Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron).  The Griswolds encounter a series of outrageous and hilarious mishaps along the way.  

They face numerous obstacles in their "quest" to reach Walley World.  Clark grows increasingly frustrated after accidentally killing Aunt Edna's (Imogene Coca) dog, getting lost in the desert, and having their car vandalized.  Clark's determination and optimism keep him moving forward as his family is ready to give up and fly home.  The film shows the humorous and chaotic moments that arise from taking a family across the country on a long car ride.

Witty dialogue, slapstick humor, and hilarious moments bring laughter to audiences, young and old.  Of the four National Lampoon's Vacation films, this first entry is the only one to be Rated "R" (for nudity and language.)  While it's a movie about a family road trip, and the reasons for the R rating are tame by today's standards, it's not exactly a movie for families, so maybe put the kids to bed before watching.

The film introduced several catchphrases that entered the lexicon of popular culture.  Fans will remember and often use lines such as "This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy!" and "I'm so hungry, I could eat a sandwich from a gas station!"  Personally, I tend to repeat the lines where Clark loses his cool 10 miles from the fun park.  I'll let you Google that for the full quote :)

Forty years after its release, National Lampoon's Vacation remains a comedic masterpiece that continues to bring joy and laughter to audiences around the world.  With its comedic situations and sharp, witty humor, the film has left a permanent mark on the comedy genre.  Its cultural impact and loyal fanbase are a testament to its status as a beloved piece of film history.  

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary, it will forever hold a cherished place in my heart and the hearts of many.  To celebrate the 40th anniversary, I thought it would be fun to list ten things you might not have known about National Lampoon's Vacation!  

1.  The movie was based on a short story originally written by famed director/writer John Hughes called "Vacation '58."  The story was originally published in the National Lampoon magazine, where Hughes later wrote the screenplay.  

2.  The film was originally supposed to be a sequel to the 1978 hit "Animal House" (by National Lampoon), but John Hughes wished to make a stand-alone film instead.  

3.  Harold Ramis, the director, did not want to cast Chevy Chase in the lead role.  He felt Chase was too comedic and wouldn't perform the serious scenes well.  Chase eventually proved Ramis wrong and entered what many consider the best performance of his career.  

4.  Many scenes were improvised during the film, most famously, Clark's dancing with the "wet" sandwich at the truck stop.  Rusty guzzling the can of beer and Clark's eulogy to Aunt Edna was also completely improvised.  

5.  Imogene Coca turned down the role of Aunt Edna because she didn't think she could portray someone so mean and nasty.  Even during filming, she kept apologizing and was concerned she was too mean to the rest of the cast.  

6.  Harold Ramis plays the voice of Marty Moose during the recorded message that sets Clark off on a rampage.

7.  The Griswold family car, the 1979 Ford Country Squire station wagon, "The Family Truckster," is still owned by Chevy Chase.  

8.  While filming the scenes inside Walley World, the cast all relate terrible experiences.  During DVD commentary, Chevy Chase mentions that many of the rides made him and the other cast members motion sick, especially since they all had to ride them several times for each take.  Dana Barron mentioned that she took motion sickness pills and was so drowsy she would fall asleep on nearby benches between takes.  

9.  The scenes inside Walley World were filmed at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California.  

10.  The film's original ending was quite different than the one that made the film.  The original script called for the Griswolds to never make it to Walley World after Clark has a nervous breakdown.