The Other Hoof Fell in Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Nixed ‘Christmas Vacation’ Post-Credits Scene
The dramatic principle of Chekhov’s gun dictates that every plot element introduced in a story must have some kind of pay-off, but Griswold’s theory of gravity better explains why Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ encore at the end of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation should have made the final cut — what flaming reindeer go up must come down.
It’s an iconic closing scene: the Santa’s sleigh decoration from Clark Griswold’s catastrophically extravagant lawn decorations suddenly shoots into the atmosphere like a rocket after a detective’s wantonly tossed match ignites the sewage fumes from Cousin Eddie’s impromptu septic tank in the storm drain. The extended families (and the SWAT team sent to rescue their hostage) then place their hands over their hearts and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” while the flaming chariot passes in front of the moon like a patriotic. Clark and Ellen kiss. Roll credits.
However, as Screen Rant recently pointed out, that wasn’t supposed to be the end of Clark’s plastic Santa Claus and his nine reindeer, nor were Clark’s yuppie neighbors Todd and Margo supposed to close the film all snug in their beds with visions of stereos dancing in their heads. In the original script, after the credits rolled, the flaming sleigh decorations go crashing through Louis-Dreyfus and Nicholas Guest’s ceiling and into their bedroom as they’re about to drift off to sleep. At least they’d know why the carpet was wet.
According to a screenplay acquired by Script Slug, following an evening that was so rudely interrupted by power outages, ice missiles and dog maulings, Todd and Margo finally went to bed as the former remarked, “Nothing else can happen. It’s quiet, it’s peaceful, all is calm… If we don’t go to sleep, Santa Claus won’t come," too which the latter replied with what would have been the closing line of the classic film, “You’re so cute.” Cue the flaming sleigh crashing through the ceiling, fade out.
To some viewers, the scenes with Todd and Margo in all their fashionably late 1990s glory were some of the most memorable moments in the beloved holiday film, and they only get better as their sleek, silly yuppie outfits get even more garish with each passing year. One last instance of unintentional torment at the hands of their flagrantly familial neighbors would have been the best way to close out their Christmas Eve.
Then again, giving Louis-Dreyfus the last word in the movie might have made her feel obligated to engage in the endless annual reunion tours and convention gigs like the rest of the Christmas Vacation cast. Much like the movie's editors, I'm happy to leave Margo out of the post-film festivities.