Hard to believe it's been 30 years since the Griswold family first took to the road in "National Lampoon's Vacation." Ever since its release on July 29, 1983, the landmark comedy seems a permanent fixture of pop culture, having created the signature roles of Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, and Randy Quaid's careers, having helped make stars out of Anthony Michael Hall and Jane Krakowski, and having helped launch the filmmaking career of John Hughes. The movie seems to play on an endless loop on TV, like the neighbors' slideshow of a nightmarish trip you were grateful not to have taken yourself. (Except, let's face it, you probably have a family road trip this disastrous in your past.)
Still, as many times as you've seen the film, there are some details you may have missed. Read on to learn about the in-jokes you haven't spotted, the scenes you didn't get to see, and other secret "Vacation" lore.
1. In Hughes' original story "Vacation '58," initially published in National Lampoon magazine in 1979, it's Disneyland that's closed and Walt Disney who gets taken hostage by the irate dad. The story's memorable first line: "If Dad hadn't shot Walt Disney in the leg, it would have been our best vacation ever!" Warner Bros. snapped up the movie rights almost immediately.
2. Anthony Michael Hall had a mouth full of metal when he passed the audition to play Rusty. The producers' only note on his casting: make sure he keeps the braces. The movie marked the first of his four films with Hughes, followed by "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "Weird Science."
3. Dana Barron was 16 (two years older than Hall) when she landed the role of Audrey.
4. Imogene Coca, the legendary co-star of Sid Caesar's classic TV sketch comedy series "Your Show of Shows," wasn't sure she had it in her to be mean enough to play Aunt Edna, but producer Matty Simmons convinced the 75-year-old to take the part by reassuring her that she was a great actress who could play anything.
5. Supermodel Christie Brinkley made her film debut as the nameless temptress in the Ferrari. Though she had only a few scenes in the movie, she was along for the ride throughout the whole shoot, spending her off-camera days horseback riding and whitewater rafting.
6. Jane Krakowski made her film debut at 14 as Vicki, Cousin Eddie's teenage daughter.
7. Roy Walley, the entertainment mogul behind Marty Moose and the Walley World theme park, was played by comic actor Eddie Bracken, who, at the time, was best known for his starring roles in the 1940s Preston Sturges comedies "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" and "Hail the Conquering Hero."
8. Director Harold Ramis has said the production needed five Wagon Queen Famliy Trucksters (which were actually modified Ford LTD Country Squire station wagons) to complete the cross-country odyssey because they took such a beating throughout the shoot. Stunt coordinator Dick Ziker won a bet during the shoot that he could jump the car more than 50 feet.
9. Ramis has claimed that he and Chevy Chase rewrote much of Hughes' screenplay. "At first, I was supervising John Hughes's rewrites," Ramis told Ellis Stein, author of the new book "That's Not Funny, That's Sick: The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream." Ramis added, "Then Chevy and I took over when we thought he'd gone as far as he was going to go."
10. Chase claims that no one ever spots the gag early in the film, when Ellen and Clark are doing the dishes and the dishes don't actually get washed. Ellen scrapes the food off of them, and Clark dries them and puts them back in the cabinet.
11. Hughes' movies sometimes traffic in cringe-worthy racial and ethnic stereotypes. (See also: "Sixteen Candles" and "Weird Science.") Of the scene where the Griswolds get lost in a St. Louis ghetto, Ramis has said, "This is probably the most politically incorrect sequence I've ever shot" and that it "dehumanizes everyone involved." He has said he's not sure if he'd include the scene if he were making the movie today.
12. Ramis cast his daughter Violet as Daisy Mabel, Eddie's silent daughter, the one born without a tongue.
13. Deleted scenes include one where campground manager Brian Doyle-Murray would scare the sleeping Griswolds while disguised as a bear. (That's the "wildlife fun" he promised when the family checked in.) Ramis ended up cutting the scene for timing reasons and just had Aunt Edna's dog Dinky attack Clark and Ellen instead.
14. Another deleted scene would have had Clark spot a camel while wandering through the desert. But the camel the filmmakers rented had been raised in captivity in southern California and balked at filming the scene because it had never walked on sand before.
15. Doyle-Murray and Chase have made six movies together, including "Caddyshack," "Modern Problems," "Christmas Vacation," and "Nothing But Trouble."
16. Chase and James Keach (as the highway patrolman) improvised the scene where they realize that Dinky is roadkill because Clark forgot to untie him from the bumper. Both had to struggle to keep from cracking up. After the film's release, Simmons claimed to have received numerous letters from guilty viewers who claimed they'd made the same fatal lapse with their dogs.
17. The parking lot of Walley World was actually that of the Santa Anita race track in Arcadia, California. The rides shown were at California's Six Flags Magic Mountain. The park's Revolution rollercoaster (with its vertical loop) and Colossus (the wooden, two-track coaster) both appear. The cast had to ride the coasters many times, so the fear and nausea you see on their faces are real.
18. The original ending had the Griswolds, livid over the closing of Walley World, invade Roy Walley's house, hold him and his associates hostage, and force them to entertain them by dancing and singing Marty Moose songs. Test audiences hated this ending, so Hughes had to write a new one in which Clark and Walley's confrontation ends peacefully and the family gets its fun time at the park. To shoot the new finale, the cast had to be reunited four months after principal filming had wrapped. In that time, they'd all lost their tans, and Hall had grown three inches, so that he was now taller than D'Angelo, as sharp-eyed viewers have noted. Hughes used the kidnapped-mogul ending in the sequel "Christmas Vacation" (1989).
19. Hughes had preferred the original ending, but for him, the upside of the new climax was meeting John Candy, cast as the Walley World security guard. With Candy, Hughes recalled later, "I would eventually match the coherence of cruelty, sorrow, disappointment, and farce that underpinned 'Vacation '58.'" Hughes would cast Candy as a comic champion of mediocrity and averageness in seven more movies, including "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," "Uncle Buck," "Home Alone," and "Only the Lonely."
20. "Vacation" opened just one week after "Mr. Mom," also scripted by Hughes. The back-to-back hits led to a $30 million, three-picture deal for Hughes with Universal.
21. The soundtrack album didn't chart, but Lindsey Buckingham's theme song, "Holiday Road," rose to No. 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
22. The movie cost an estimated $15 million to produce. It grossed $61.4 million, making it the 11th highest-grossing movie of 1983.
23. At 68, Bracken saw his career get a second wind from "Vacation." Hughes would cast him again in "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" (as the kindly toy store mogul) and in "Baby's Day Out." He also landed a variety of guest parts in TV shows and movies. He kept working until shortly before his death in 2002, at age 87.
24. Chase and D'Angelo have portrayed Clark and Ellen Griswold in four "Vacation" movies, several commercials, and one episode of "Family Guy." Randy Quaid played Cousin Eddie in three of the films and one made-for-TV movie.
25. A reboot has been in the works that would star Ed Helms ("The Hangover") as the grown Rusty, taking his own wife (Christina Applegate) and family on vacation to Walley World, with Chase and D'Angelo to return as his parents. So far, however, the project has yet to make it off the drawing board.