Scene It Before: The Griswold House from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Much has changed at the backlot residence where Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) strung his twinkle-light masterpiece in the 1989 comedy.

To me, Christmas movies are like fine wines – they get better with age. That especially holds true for one of my all-time favorites, the 1989 comedy National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I’ve watched the film about 100 times (and twice this year alone!), yet it never seems to get old.  I know the line “Dad, did you bring a saw?” is coming, but, still, I laugh when it does.

Griswold House Filming Location National Lampoon Christmas Vacation
The location in February 2012

Photograph Courtesy of Lindsay Blake

While set in a snowy suburb of Chicago, Christmas Vacation was lensed primarily in sunny Los Angeles (along with a few exteriors shot in Colorado).  The set of the Griswold family’s traditional clapboard house is located on the backlot of the Warner Bros. Ranch facility in Burbank (RV not included).  The Ranch is closed to the public, but thanks to the connection of a good friend, I have been fortunate enough to visit it on numerous occasions.  Believe me, I pinch myself each time.

Due to the fact that the residence is used for filming on a regular basis (it has appeared in American Beauty, ER, Moonlight, Pleasantville, Small Soldiers, and a series of 2012 Christmas Vacation-themed Old Navy commercials, to name a few), its façade has been changed repeatedly throughout the years and is now almost unrecognizable from the time that Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) hung lights there in 1989. Though the general shape of the dwelling remains, the Griswold’s green shutters, peaked portico, arched dormers, and bay windows are gone. I would have loved to see the place in its original state, but it has been a thrill to stand in the spot where the family stood while admiring Clark’s light display and where the Griswold patriarch uttered this famous line: “If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.”