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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 tree as “a little full … lotta sap”?
It’s hard to believe that “Christmas Vacation” came out all the way back in 1989. While many of the movie’s oldest cast members have since passed away — William Hickey (Uncle Lewis), Mae Questel (Aunt Bethany), Doris Roberts (Francis), John Randolph (Clark, Sr.) and E.G. Marshall (Art) among them — many of the stars are still working, while others have left Hollywood for more private lives.
Here’s a look at the cast of “Christmas Vacation” then and now!
Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold) — Then
The top-billed actor in “Christmas Vacation,” Chevy Chase got his onscreen start on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
In 1980, “Caddyshack” proved him to be a bankable movie star and he had a great run throughout the 1980s, capping it off with our favorite holiday comedy. By the time “Christmas Vacation” came around, he was 45 years old and had Clark W. Griswold’s “hap, hap, happiest” character down pat, as Chase had already played the try-hard patriarch in 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and 1985’s “European Vacation.”
Chevy Chase — Now
Chase’s career as a Hollywood leading man took a downturn in the 1990s but he has played Clark Griswold twice more since “Christmas Vacation,” in 1996’s “Vegas Vacation” and 2015’s “Vacation.” His most memorable recent role was as a main cast member in the TV series, “Community.” Chase, now 79, remains friends with his longtime onscreen wife, Beverly D’Angelo, nearly 40 years after the release of the first Griswold-family outing hit the big screen.
Beverly D’Angelo (Ellen Griswold) — Then
As the ever-patient and upbeat Ellen Griswold, Beverly D’Angelo, who was 37 at the time, made viewers question what Clark was thinking when he flirted with that department store clerk in “Christmas Vacation.” Like Chase, D’Angelo has played her part in all the “Vacation” movies since 1983, including the most recent entry in 2015.
“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.”
Beverly D’Angelo — Now
D’Angelo, now 71, has stayed active on the screen outside of her recurring role as the Griswold matriarch. She’s had recurring roles in recent TV series like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and Netflix’s “Insatiable,” while also appearing in movies like 2022’s “Violent Night,” an R-rated Christmas flick that’s even more over-the-top than “Christmas Vacation.”
Juliette Lewis (Audrey Griswold) — Then
As the old Griswold child, daughter Audrey, in “Christmas Vacation,” Juliette Lewis played a bored teen with just the right tone. It makes sense when you consider she was 15 years old at the time of filming. According to Rolling Stone, Johnny Galecki, who played Lewis’ 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.
Juliette Lewis — Now
Of all the cast members of “Christmas Vacation,” Lewis, now 49, has had one of the most memorable following that movie’s release. After acclaimed performances in edgy films like “Cape Fear,” “Natural Born Killers” and “From Dusk Till Dawn,” Lewis began a second career as a musician. She never stopped acting and has had major roles on TV in recent years, including as co-star of ABC’s “Secrets & Lies” and a recurring role in Showtime’s acclaimed “Yellowjackets.”
Johnny Galecki (Rusty Griswold) — Then
Playing Rusty Griswold was one of Johnny Galecki’s first big roles, and his castmates were protective of him as a 13-year-old actor. Galecki has talked about how encouraging Chevy Chase was during the making of the film.
“He was so supportive, teaching me comic timing,” Galecki 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.”
Johnny Galecki — Now
After “Christmas Vacation,” Galecki went on to have an amazing career in television that continues to this day. The 47-year-old star is best known for his roles in the top-rated hits “Roseanne” and “The Big Bang Theory.” Like his onscreen sibling, Juliette Lewis, Galecki turned out to be one of the rare child actors who successfully transitioned to stardom as an actor in his adult years.
Diane Ladd (Nora Griswold) — Then
Diane Ladd was a seasoned screen actor — she’d already received an Oscar nomination for her work in 1974’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” — by the time she played Clark’s mother, Nora. She was only 12 years older than Chevy Chase, who played her son in the movie. Ladd, 57 at the time, had been hesitant to take the part of an older character, but has said that it’s been the most lucrative role of her career because of the annual residual checks that accompany the movie’s holiday broadcasts.
Diane Ladd — Now
After her relatively minor turn in “Christmas Vacation,” Ladd would receive Oscar nominations for her roles in “Wild at Heart” and “Rambling Rose,” as well as a trio of Emmy Award nominations. Ladd, now 90, has often acted alongside her Oscar-winning daughter, Laura Dern. Most recently, she has maintained a long-standing role on the Hallmark TV series, “Chesapeake Shores.”
Randy Quaid (Eddie Johnson) — Then
As Cousin Eddie Johnson, “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Randy Quaid added the final nut to the already nutty Griswold “old-fashioned family Christmas.” Chevy Chase has said that he loved working with Quaid, 39 at the time of “Christmas Vacation,” in the franchise, going back to the first outing in 1983.
“He just gets right into it,” Chase told Rolling Stone. “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.”
Randy Quaid — Now
After “Christmas Vacation,” Quaid played memorable roles in hit movies like “Independence Day” and “Brokeback Mountain.” He also reprised his most famous role in 2003’s “Christmas Vacation 2,” which aired on NBC and saw Eddie play the lead role. He made news off-screen for a series of arrests in 2009 and the early 2010s and hasn’t picked up many screen credits since then.
Miriam Flynn (Catherine Johnson) — Then
Second City comedian Miriam Flynn has played Eddie’s wife, Catherine, since 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” 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. Flynn was 37 in the holiday outing and you can see her on the far right of this cast photo shared by Ellen Latzen, who played her daughter, 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
Miriam Flynn — Now
Since “Christmas Vacation,” Flynn has kept adding to her list of credits. She had recurring roles in the sitcoms “Grounded For Life” and “Suburgatory,” for starters. Now 70, she has also taken on some notable voice roles over the years, including the role of Grandma Longneck in “The Land Before Time” animated movies and the voice of Maa, the old sheep in the Oscar-nominated movie, “Babe.”
Cody Burger (Rocky Johnson) — Then
Cody Burger was just 6 years old when he played Clark Griswold’s nephew, Rocky. He had no lines in the entire movie but managed to be an adorable presence in the film all the same, as evidenced in the personal photo Burger posted on Facebook of himself with Mae Questel, aka Aunt Bethany. He went on to act in only six more movies, the last of which was Disney’s 1995 cult favorite, “Heavyweights.”
Cody Burger — Now
Burger, now 39, has left the acting world far behind him. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where he works in IT, according to his LinkedIn page. He was also teaching at a taekwondo academy in the area as of 2019 and has shared photos on Facebook of his family decked out in full uniforms. And, adorably, it seems like he and Ellen Latzen, who played sister Ruby Sue, have stayed in touch.
Ellen Latzen (Ruby Sue Johnson) — Then
Ellen Latzen played Michael Douglas’ daughter in “Fatal Attraction” before winning the role of Ruby Sue in “Christmas Vacation.” Since Latzen, 9, had short hair in real life, she had to wear a wig for the part, which saw her steal one memorable scene from co-star Chevy Chase. Even so, she still gets vaguely recognized as Ruby Sue to this day.
You can see her and onscreen brother Cody Burger in a shot the latter shared on Facebook taken during the making of the film.
Ellen Latzen — Now
Latzen, now 42, 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, you can request a Cameo video from Ruby Sue herself, which could make a unique Christmas gift for the fan in your life. In 2016, Michael Douglas shared a photo of his own surprise reunion with Latzen at a Hollywood event where she was volunteering.
Sam McMurray (Bill) — Then
Sam McMurray, who played Clark’s co-worker and friend, Bill, acted in “21 Jump Street,” “The Edge of Night” and “Raising Arizona,” among other projects before “Christmas Vacation.” He was also a regular on “The Tracey Ullman Show.” McMurray was 37 years old when the movie came out.
Sam McMurray — Now
After “Christmas Vacation,” McMurray, now 70, continued to rack up character roles in movies and on TV, with arguably his most recognizable appearances coming in “Freaks and Geeks” and “The King of Queens.” He’s also popped up in “Friends,” “Mom,” “Elementary” and “Grace and Frankie.”
Nicholas Guest (Todd Chester) — Then
I bet you can close your eyes and hear Nicholas Guest saying, “I don’t KNOW, Margo!”
Guest was about 38 years old when he played the most punchable character in “Christmas Vacation,” the Griswolds’ yuppie neighbor, Todd Chester. Before that role, he had mostly popped up in one-off TV roles and had a role in 1983’s “Trading Places.” Also in 1989, he appeared as the creepy father in the music video for Aerosmith’s controversial hit, “Janie’s Got a Gun.”
Nicholas Guest — Now
After his turn as Todd, Guest played a headmaster on “USA High,” along with numerous other smaller roles. In recent years, he’s mostly focused on voice work in shows like “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” and the “MacGyver” remake, and he also played John Teller in “Sons of Anarchy.” Guest, now 71, is the younger brother of actor and filmmaker Christopher Guest.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Margo Chester) — Then
When 28-year-old Julia Louis-Dreyfus appeared as the Griswolds’ uppity neighbor, Margo Chester, she likely never imagined people would one day buy gear emblazoned with her lines from the film. The up-and-coming comedy star had endured a short tenure on “Saturday Night Live” before uttering those infamous words, “Why is the carpet wet, Todd?”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus — Now
A year after appearing in “Christmas Vacation,” Louis-Dreyfus scored the life-changing role of Elaine in “Seinfeld,” launching what has been a remarkable career on the small screen. She later landed starring roles on acclaimed shows like “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Veep,” racking up enough Emmy wins to make history in the process. Now 61, Louis-Dreyfus was public about her battle with breast cancer in 2017 and earned the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor a year later.
Nicolette Scorsese (Mary) — Then
Nicolette Scorsese was 35 when she played “‘Tis the season to be” Mary, the affable lingerie counter worker whom Clark drools over in front of Rusty and later daydreams about. No, Scorsese is not related to director Martin Scorsese, but she was notable for dating both Antonio Sabato Jr. and Sean Penn during the 1980s.
Nicolette Scorsese — Now
After “Christmas Vacation,” Scorsese appeared in both “Boxing Helena” and “NYPD Blue,” but disappeared from the public eye after the 1990s. However, you can still buy authenticated autographed photos of her from “Christmas Vacation.” She’s now 68 years old and you can see her on the left in the photo below, taken at an event in 2006.
Brian Doyle-Murray (Frank Shirley) — Then
The husky-voiced Brian Doyle-Murray played Frank Shirley, Clark’s gruff boss-turned-Christmas-bonus softie when he was 44. He also happens to be Bill Murray’s older brother and has appeared in smaller parts in several of the same films as Bill, including “Caddyshack,” for which Doyle-Murray also co-wrote the screenplay. Before he wore a big red bow over his pajamas, Doyle-Murray also wrote for and appeared on “Saturday Night Live.”
Brian Doyle-Murray (Now)
Doyle-Murray, 77, went on to play the town announcer in “Groundhog Day,” among other character roles. He has also voiced The Flying Dutchman in “SpongeBob SquarePants” and has put his distinctive vocal talents to work elsewhere. He even reconnected with “Christmas Vacation” co-star Julia Louis Dreyfus for a couple episodes of HBO’s “Veep,” and later played Don Ehlert in ABC’s “The Middle.”
Natalija Nogulich (Mrs. Shirley) — Then
Chicago-born of Serbian descent, Natalija Nogulich, 39 at the time, made the most of her meager screen time as 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 regarding the lack of Christmas cash bonuses. She also played dramatic roles, like the one depicted below in 1988’s “War and Remembrance” on ABC.
Natalija Nogulich — Now
“Star Trek” fans know Nogulich for her turns as Star Fleet Admiral Alynna Nechayev in two separate series from the legendary franchise. In addition to that, she’s appeared in many of the top network shows in one-off roles in recent years, including “Chicago Med,” “NCIS” and “Suburgatory.” Now 72, Nogulich published her debut novel in 2012.
Additional reporting contributed by Clint Davis.