Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold)
THEN: Chevy Chase led the Griswold clan as patriarch Clark. The comedian picked up the role after previously appearing as the father figure in 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation and 1985’s National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Before attempting to get his fictional family in the holiday spirit in Christmas Vacation, Chase also earned credits for Foul Play (1978), Caddyshack (1980), and ¡Three Amigos! (1986), and rose to fame with a gig on Saturday Night Live.
NOW: Christmas Vacation was hardly the last time Chase played Clark Griswold. He revisited the gig in 1997’s Vegas Vacation, a 2007 episode of Family Guy, and 2015’s Vacation. He expanded his resume beyond the famed role, however, hitting the big screen in Snow Day (2000), Orange County (2002), and Hot Tub Time Machine (2010). Chase’s most successful role in recent years, however, was that of Pierce Hawthorne on NBC’s Community.
Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen Griswold)
THEN: After making a name for herself with appearances in 1977’s Annie Hall, 1980’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, and 1984’s Finders Keepers Beverly D’Angelo joined National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as Ellen Griswold. She played the wife to Chase’s Clark and the mother of the Griswold family for a third time, after previous turns in National Lampoon’s Vacation and National Lampoon’s European Vacation.
NOW: D’Angelo joined Chase in 1997’s Vegas Vacation, a 2007 episode of Family Guy, and 2015’s Vacation. She expanded her range with Man Trouble (1992), Eye for an Eye (1996), American History X (1998), and The House Bunny (2008). She also hit the small screen with roles in Rude Awakening in 1999, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Entourage throughout the 2000s, and Mom in 2015.
Randy Quaid (Eddie Johnson)
THEN: The older brother to actor Dennis Quaid, Randy Quaid picked up a familial gig in Christmas Vacation as Ellen’s relative, the famed Cousin Eddie. The gig was hardly his first, as his filmography was filled with movies like The Last Detail (1973), Midnight Express (1978), and The Long Riders (1980) long before the comedy hit theaters in 1989.
NOW: Following National Lampoon’s Vacation, Christmas Vacation, and Vegas Vacation, Quaid got his own spinoff with the 2003 made-for-TV movie, Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure. He continued to act throughout the 2000s, booking gigs in The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000), The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002), and Brokeback Mountain (2005). In recent years, however, Quaid has been famous more for his widespread legal troubles than his career.
Juliette Lewis (Audrey Griswold)
THEN: Juliette Lewis picked up one of her earliest gigs as resident daughter Audrey of Christmas Vacation‘s Griswold family. She came into the role after a 1987 turn on the short-lived ABC series I Married Dora, a two-episode arc on The Facts of Life in 1988, and big-screen gigs in 1988’s My Stepmother Is an Alien and 1989’s Meet the Hollowheads.
NOW: Following Christmas Vacation, Lewis turned to television jobs in The Wonder Years and A Family for Joe before making an Oscar-nominated appearance in the 1991 movie Cape Fear. One of the comedy’s most famous alumni, Lewis stayed busy, booking movies such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries, From Dusk Till Dawn, Old School, Starsky & Hutch, Whip It, and August: Osage County. She most recently hit the small screen as Detective Andrea Cornell in ABC’s Secrets and Lies.
Johnny Galecki (Rusty Griswold)
THEN: With a handful of TV movies, 1988’s A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, and 1989’s Prancer to his name, relative unknown Johnny Galecki picked up a gig as Rusty Griswold, the son to Chase’s Clark and D’Angelo’s Ellen. He followed in the footsteps of Anthony Michael Hall and Jason Lively, who played Rusty in National Lampoon’s Vacation and National Lampoon’s European Vacation, respectively.
NOW: Now best known for his role of Leonard Hofstadter in The Big Bang Theory, Galecki filled his resume with TV and film projects in the years between Christmas Vacation and his TBBT debut. The star made appearances in episodes of Blossom, American Dreamer, Billy, and Roseanne in the ’90s, hitting the big screen in 1997’s Suicide Kings and I Know What You Did Last Summer, 2000’s Bounce, and 2001’s Vanilla Sky.
John Randolph (Clark Griswold, Sr.)
THEN: A veteran star, John Randolph came to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation after decades in the industry. His pre-Clark Griswold, Sr. films include Seconds (1966), Serpico (1973), King Kong (1976) and Prizzi’s Honor (1985). He also made small screen appearances in the likes of Hawaii Five-O, Bonanza, Columbo, Kojak, Dallas, and Matlock.
NOW: Randolph continued to act well into his eighties. The actor starred as Schuyler Fox in 1998’s You’ve Got Mail, picked up a role in 1999’s The Dogwalker, and starred in 2000’s Sunset Strip. Randolph died at the age of 88 in 2004.
Diane Ladd (Nora Griswold)
THEN: The mother of actress Laura Dern and ex-wife to actor Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd played Nora Griswold, the mother to Chase’s Clark. After making her Hollywood debut in the ’50s, the star raked up credits with TV appearances in The Secret Storm, Gunsmoke, Alice, and The Love Boat. She also became a big-screen star with The Wild Angels (1966), The Reivers (1969), Chinatown (1974), and All Night Long (1981).
NOW: After Christmas Vacation, Ladd teamed up with her daughter for 1990’s Wild at Heart and 1991’s Rambling Rose. She went on to make mid-’90s appearances in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Touched by an Angel, and Grace Under Fire, and continued her movie career with Father Hood (1993), Primary Colors (1998), and 28 Days (2000). She recently booked a gig in David O. Russell’s Joy alongside Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro.
E.G. Marshall (Art Smith)
THEN: E.G. Marshall played the father to D’Angelo’s Ellen, the cranky Art Smith. Before his role in the Christmas classic, Marshall was best known for appearances in 1957’s 12 Angry Men, the 1960s TV series The Defenders, and the 1970s series The Bold Ones: The New Doctors.
NOW: The longtime actor added to his TV credits with ’90s gigs on The Cosby Show, Chicago Hope, and Courthouse. He made his final appearances as Lawrence Preston in The Defenders‘s spinoff TV movies in the late ’90s before he died at the age of 84 in 1998.
Doris Roberts (Frances Smith)
THEN: Appearing opposite Marshall, Doris Roberts played Ellen’s mother, Frances Smith. The famed actress had more than three decades in Hollywood experience under her belt when she took on the role, boasting credits for 1967’s Barefoot in the Park, 1974’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, 1979’s The Rose, and the ’80s series Remington Steele. She also picked up an Emmy nomination for her role in Perfect Strangers and won for St. Elsewhere.
NOW: Roberts picked up her most famous role as of late in the mid-’90s, when she debuted Marie Baron in Everybody Loves Raymond. The star played Raymond’s mother for nearly 10 years and won four Emmys during that time. She also made cameos in Murder, She Wrote, Step by Step, The King of Queens, The Middle, and Melissa & Joey, and appeared in movies such as Used People (1992), The Grass Harp (1995), Grandma’s Boy (2006), and Madea’s Witness Protection (2012).
Miriam Flynn (Catherine Johnson)
THEN: Miriam Flynn dropped in on the Griswolds’ Christmas celebrations as Ellen’s cousin Catherine Johnson. She debuted the role in 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation, also earning credits for the ’80s TV series Maggie, 1983’s Mr. Mom, and the late ’80s series Raising Miranda.
NOW: Flynn expanded her filmography with voice work, lending her vocals to the character Grandma Longneck in various Land Before Time movies, in the animated DuckTales and Taz-Mania in the late ’80s and early ’90s, respectively, and to the sheep Maa in 1995’s Babe. She also appeared in Waiting for Guffman (1996), a 1998 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Evolution (2001), and starred as Sister Helen in Grounded for Life throughout the 2000s. In recent years, she booked cameos in 2012 and 2013 episodes of Suburgatory, a 2014 episode of Bones, and a 2015 episode of Scandal.
Ellen Hamilton Latzen (Ruby Sue)
THEN: In her short-lived run as a child star, Ellen Hamilton Latzen was just 9 years old when National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation arrived in theaters. Latzen played Ruby Sue, the daughter of Flynn’s Catherine and Quaid’s Eddie, picking up the role after already debuting in 1987’s Fatal Attraction, making a cameo in a 1987 episode of Family Ties and a 1989 episode of The Equalizer, and appearing in 1988’s Mr. North.
NOW: Following Christmas Vacation, Latzen’s acting career all but ended with final roles in a short film, a TV episode of ABC Afterschool Special, and an appearance in 1997’s Boys Life 2. Now a self-described “creative soul with an entrepreneurial spirit and a tireless work ethic,” Latzen attended the California College of the Arts and spent years in sales.
William Hickey (Uncle Lewis)
THEN: Industry vet William Hickey joined the Christmas Vacation family as Uncle Lewis, the man responsible for the movie’s bang-up ending. Hickey came into the role after previously starring alongside Vacation costar E.G. Marshall in the ’60s series The Defenders and John Randolph in 1985’s Prizzi’s Honor.
NOW: Hickey went on to appear with Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, and Joan Cusack in 1990’s My Blue Heaven. He also had early ’90s arcs in Baby Talk and Wings, and returned to the big screen in 1995’s Major Payne and 1997’s Mousehunt. Hickey died at the age of 69 in 1997 after battling emphysema and bronchitis.
Mae Questel (Aunt Bethany)
THEN: Mae Questel appeared opposite Hickey as Lewis’ wife Aunt Bethany. Much of the star’s work was vocal in her early career, as she voiced Olive Oyl and Betty Boop. Her other credits before Christmas Vacation include Funny Girl (1968), Move (1970), and New York Stories (1989).
NOW: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was Questel’s final feature film credit. She died at the age of 89 in 1998.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Margo Chester)
THEN: One year after she wrapped her stint as Seinfeld‘s Elaine Benes, Julia Louis-Dreyfus starred as Margo Chester in Christmas Vacation. The role marked her fourth big-screen appearance, following Troll, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Soul Man in 1986.
NOW: While the Saturday Night Live alum may still be best known for her role as Elaine, she found continued success in the years since the Christmas Vacation. In addition to movie gigs in 1997’s Fathers’ Day and 2013’s Enough Said, Louis-Dreyfus booked starring TV roles in The New Adventures of Old Christine and Veep, and made appearances in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Watching Ellie, and Arrested Development.