TV & Movies

'Christmas Vacation' Actors Wore Cue Cards To Help Chevy Chase During Clark Griswold's Meltdown Scene

All Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants in Christmas Vacation is for his family to have a nice holiday. But one thing after another goes wrong culminating in an epic meltdown on Christmas Eve.

In one of the most memorable moments in the entire movie, Chase’s co-stars wore cue cards so the actor could easily reference his lines if needed. 

Clark Griswold gets enrolled in a jelly of the month club

Clark gets an unwelcome surprise on Christmas Eve after days of waiting to receive his annual company bonus. Having already put the money toward an inground pool, he breathes a sigh of relief when what he thinks is a check arrives. 

Clark shares the news with his family and everyone’s excited about the prospect of a pool as he rips open the envelope. The mood quickly changes when he discovers his employer’s enrolled him in a jelly of the month club.

Enraged, Clark goes on a rant about his boss, Frank Shirley (Brian Doyle-Murphy). He calls him all sorts of names while his relatives stand before storming out of the room in search of Tylenol. 

It’s a particularly low point for the character who, up to this point, has kept a positive attitude despite multiple setbacks. It’s also a moment where Clark thinks Christmas can’t get any worse. Not long after, he’s proven wrong when Eddie takes his words literally and kidnaps Mr. Shirley.

Chevy Chase shot his ‘Christmas Vacation’ meltdown in sections

Watching Clark’s meltdown on YouTube, fans of the movie can see Chase had lots of lines to deliver in quick succession. According to his co-star, Beverly D’Angelo, who played Clark’s wife Ellen Griswold, there were cue cards hidden in the scene. 

“Well, when you run a scene, you have to block it,” she told The Dinner Party Download in 2015. “You are assigned a place to stand for camera placement and all that kind of stuff. But this particular scene, it was blocked in a way that would allow each of us to have around our necks a piece of rope that was attached to a big cue card.”

“The rant was divided into sections so that he could go all the way through from the beginning to end without a chance of forgetting his lines or flipping his lines. They were all right there,” she explained. 

“So we didn’t have the lines in order exactly, and if you watch it you can see him,” she added with a laugh. “His eyes go from character to character as he’s going on in the speech because we’ve got the lines there.”

D’Angelo, who starred in multiple National Lampoon movies with Chase, clarified that it wasn’t because Chase couldn’t remember his lines. 

“It had to do with our knowledge that the way to have Chevy sail was to have it there at his fingertips in case he needed it,” she said.

‘Christmas Vacation’ is now a holiday favorite

Christmas Vacation became a commercial success when it opened in theaters on Dec. 1, 1989. Somewhat of a surprise because sequels didn’t typically perform better than originals, it’s now the most popular National Lampoon movie starring Chase. 

There is plenty of Christmas Vacation memorabilia and it’s still quoted all these years later. The movie is aired multiple times throughout the month of December joining the ranks of Home Alone and The Nightmare Before Christmas as some of the most beloved holiday movies of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. 

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