Harold Ramis Changed the Original Ending of ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ to Make Chevy Chase More Likable
Specifically, the ending of National Lampoon’s Vacation, in which the exasperated patriarch Clark Griswold takes Wally World security guard John Candy hostage, was even more sinister in John Hughes’ original script. Though few would find kidnapping Canada’s greatest treasure charming or affable, the alternative was one wherein Clark drives his family to the estate of the Wally World owner, Roy Walley, played by the owl-faced Eddie Bracken, where Clark breaks in and attempts to strong-arm not-Walt Disney into letting his family enter the closed-down amusement park.
Dana Barron, who played Audrey Griswold, spoke to Yahoo! Entertainment about the abrupt change in ending that required reshoots after a full cut was finished. According to Barron, “Home Invader and Hostage Taker Clark Griswold” played much worse for test audiences than the eventual “Just A Hostage Taker Clark Griswold” did. Both, of course, tested better than “N-Bomb Dropper Pierce” did during his last day on Community.
“I have the original script, so I can always go back (to it) and say, ‘Oh, this is what happened,’” Barron told her host, mentioning that she’s currently working on a behind-the-scenes memoir that will cover her time working on the iconic comedy franchise. “I’ve had to go back and relive what I remember.”
Barron noted that, while the cast did shoot the original unlikable ending, no version of the film has ever been released that shows the scene in which the Griswolds invade Wally manor. There is, however, a single VHS copy that exists showing the original cut — and it’s owned by none other than Chase himself. “I should ask Chevy to show me that, because I’m seeing him in a couple of weeks,” Barron said of the secret tape. “I think they should have released it on this (4K edition), too, because I’m sure fans would love to see it.”
The decision ultimately fell to the film’s director Harold Ramis on what to do after the first cut ended on a sour note for audiences. “Harold said that the first ending didn’t work, because no one went to Wally World,” Barron recalled. “It wasn’t fun — it was a downer. The whole time we’re trying to get there, and we never got to see it. Now we do!”
Obviously, no one has figured out a way to make Chase likable in real life.