National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a perennial holiday favorite, and it regularly features on people’s lists of the best Christmas movies of all time. But the film, which was actually the third big screen outing to star the Griswolds, came out way back in 1989. This naturally begs the question: what are the cast doing today?
Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold)
Chevy Chase had several hits to his name – including Fletch and Caddyshack – before he played Clark Griswold for the third time in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The character is probably his most popular, though, and Chase even played Griswold in the 2015 sequel Vacation.
Chase’s star has fallen somewhat since the ’80s, however, as he become known as a problematic collaborator. Indeed, his most high profile gig of recent times – in Community – ended after Chase repeatedly bad-mouthed the show and its creator.
Beverly D’Angelo (Ellen Griswold)
Beverly D’Angelo is still most famous for her role as Ellen Griswold, but the beautiful actress was doing other high profile work at the time. In fact, she was both Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated for characters she played prior to Christmas Vacation.
Lately, D’Angelo hasn’t found anything quite as big as the National Lampoon movies. She was in 1998’s American History X, however, and she had a recurring role in Entourage before reuniting with Chase in Vacation.
Randy Quaid (Cousin Eddie)
Oscar-nominated actor Randy Quaid had a very memorable role as Cousin Eddie in the National Lampoon films. After all, you don’t forget lines like, “Merry Christmas! S***ter was full,” in a hurry.
These days, however, Quaid himself has seemingly deteriorated into Cousin Eddie-levels of strangeness. Indeed, you’ve most likely last seen him getting into trouble with the law and ranting on YouTube about conspiracy theories.
Miriam Flynn (Cousin Catherine)
Miriam Flynn played Cousin Catherine, the wife of Cousin Eddie, in several National Lampoon movies. She’s also noted for being the voice of Grandma Longneck in The Land Before Time.
Flynn has appeared on some pretty big TV shows of late. Indeed, she’s featured in Suburgatory, Scandal and Bones, and she still does voice work too.
Johnny Galecki (Rusty Griswold)
Playing Russell “Rusty” Griswold in Christmas Vacation was actually only Johnny Galecki’s fifth acting job. The film’s director, Jeremiah Chechik, told Rolling Stone in 2014 that it was Galecki’s “wack of a sense of humor” that secured him the role.
Afterward, of course, little Rusty grew up to be one of the highest paid actors on television. In fact, it’s believed that Galecki commands $1 million per episode of hit show The Big Bang Theory.
Juliette Lewis (Audrey Griswold)
All of the adults Juliette Lewis starred alongside in Christmas Vacation loved her in the role of Audrey. Chevy Chase told Rolling Stone in 2014, “Juliette’s performance was brilliant, frankly… She was wonderful.”
Lewis was a pretty big deal in the ’90s, and she even received an Academy Award nomination for her part in 1991’s Cape Fear. She focused on a music career in the early 21st century, though, and she was last seen on TV in 2015’s Wayward Pines.
Ellen Hamilton Latzen (Ruby Sue)
Little Ruby Sue, Eddie’s daughter, was played by a child actress called Ellen Hamilton Latzen. You might also remember her from Fatal Attraction, in which she played Michael Douglas’ offspring.
Latzen seemingly avoided the painful fate of so many child actors and has grown up into a well-adjusted adult. She now works on a podcast about the child acting industry called WatchedPodcast.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Margo)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus didn’t have a big role in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation; she played Margo the irritating neighbor. But in 1989, when Christmas Vacation came out, she began work on a comedy arguably even bigger…
Yes, Seinfeld has catapulted all of its cast members into television history. And, even after Seinfeld, Louis-Dreyfus has continued to be successful, most notably picking up an Emmy for HBO comedy Veep.
Nicholas Guest (Todd)
Nicholas Guest played Todd in Christmas Vacation, and it is undoubtedly his biggest live-action gig to date. Interestingly, Guest’s father was a Baron, and Guest’s full title is “The Honorable Nicholas Guest.”
These days, Guest is best known for voice work. In fact, you’ve probably heard his dulcet tones in a lot of very famous movies, including Disney’s Frozen, Tangled and Big Hero 6.
Doris Roberts (Frances Smith)
Doris Roberts has had a long and successful career; she’s been acting since 1951, after all. In fact, in the ’80s she was arguably better recognized for being in Remington Steele than Christmas Vacation.
In the 21st century, though, Roberts is undoubtedly known as Marie Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond. It was this role, of course, that saw her earn no less than four Emmy awards.
Diane Ladd (Nora Griswold)
Diane Ladd was actually one of the biggest names to star in Christmas Vacation, even though her role as Nora Griswold was a minor one. Certainly, she was already in possession of a BAFTA, and she had appeared in Chinatown.
In fact, her resume includes more than 120 on-screen appearances, the last of which was in 2015’s Joy. You might have heard of her daughter too; she’s Jurassic Park’s Laura Dern.
Brian Doyle-Murray (Frank Shirley)
Brian Doyle-Murray worked with Chevy Chase in Caddyshack, and he played Frank Shirley in Christmas Vacation. Incidentally, Doyle-Murray’s little brother Bill Murray was also in Caddyshack.
Doyle-Murray’s part in Christmas Vacation was just one performance in a career that includes 142 acting credits and 14 writing credits. Currently, Emmy-nominated Doyle-Murray is appearing in The Middle.
Nicolette Scorsese (Mary)
Nicolette Scorsese may not have had a lead part in Christmas Vacation, but you can bet that anybody who has seen the movie will remember the character of Mary, the lingerie counter girl. And, in case you were wondering, Scorsese is not related to the famous movie director.
Scorsese only has 14 acting credits to her name, and she hasn’t featured in anything since 2000. She’s not on Instagram or Twitter, either, so no one really knows what she’s up to.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation may be an epic holiday classic, but let’s face it: Christmas is also the perfect excuse to sit down and watch all of your favorite movies – regardless of whether they’re festive or not. And what iconic film is bound to feature on everyone’s top-ten list? Grease, of course! But before you press play for what may be the hundredth time, you should know what the cast have been up to since its release in 1978.
10. Frankie Avalon (the Teen Angel)
To play the role of the Teen Angel, the Grease producers needed someone who was instantly recognizable as a symbol of teen culture. Elvis Presley was considered for the part, but it actually went to actor, singer and one-time teen idol Frankie Avalon. And it would come to define his entire career.
“Grease is the most successful thing I’ve ever been part of,” he told Playbill in 2003. “If I go to a restaurant or if I’m at an airport and people recognize me, it amazes me that most of them know me from Grease.” And the 76-year-old ex-Teen Angel is still working today and still selling out shows.
9. John Travolta (Danny Zuko)
Did you know that the Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, was considered for the role of Danny? Winkler turned it down, however, and so actor and singer John Travolta – fresh off 1977 hit Saturday Night Fever – took on the role instead. And the result was an iconic performance that made Travolta into one of the biggest stars of the ’70s.
But even fans of Travolta would probably admit that – his early hits aside – he hasn’t been that great at picking movies since. Indeed, some of his films, like 2000’s Battlefield Earth, would have been career-destroyers for anybody else. But Travolta’s career is currently on an upturn. His work in The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story, for example, saw him nominated for several awards.
8. Stockard Channing (Betty Rizzo)
Stockard Channing’s performance as Grease’s tough but vulnerable Rizzo won her a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Supporting Actress in 1979. And though she was actually 33 years old during filming – and had to have freckles painted on her face to make her look younger – she was perfectly convincing as a teenager.
And Channing has been acting consistently, more or less, ever since Grease. In fact, she’s picked up plenty more awards in her time, including two Emmys in 2002 for her work on The West Wing and The Matthew Shepard Story. She also appeared on The Good Wife from 2012 to 2016 and has plenty more roles in the pipeline, too.
7. Didi Conn (Frenchy)
Didi Conn played the adorable Frenchy – although initially, she thought that Rizzo was the bigger role. She got her hair dyed pink especially for her audition, after taking inspiration from a real beautician called Frenchy. And a few years later, she was one of a handful of cast members to return for Grease 2.
Unfortunately, Grease 2 was a huge flop, and it never led to the big franchise the producers had hoped for. Luckily, however, Conn’s career escaped intact, and she went on to appear in plenty of films and TV shows. Plus in 2016 she made a cameo as a waitress in the highly anticipated Grease Live.
6. Barry Pearl (Doody)
Barry Pearl actually started out playing Sonny in the original Grease musical, but for the movie he took on the role of Doody. And although it was a big boost to his career, in 1998 he told People that, “I don’t think any of the T-Birds have gotten the celebrity we would have liked.”
And yet throughout the 21st century, Pearl continued to get a steady stream of stage and TV work. Moreover, in 2016 he appeared alongside Didi Conn to represent the old Grease cast in Grease Live, a job he was thrilled to get. That same year, he also wed his girlfriend of 15 years.
5. Michael Tucci (Sonny)
Michael Tucci gave up a career in law to pursue his acting dreams, and that led him to the role of the T-Bird Sonny in Grease. And in turn, Grease, catapulted him onto other work and made him a popular TV actor. In the late ’80s, for example, he starred in shows such as Diagnosis Murder and The Paper Chase.
Tucci eventually took a break from acting, however, and indeed he hasn’t been on screen much in the past two decades. He did make an appearance, though, in the 2013 Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy buddy film The Heat, and so perhaps Grease fans will be seeing more of him soon.
4. Jamie Donnelly (Jan)
There was only one obstacle to Jamie Donelly getting the role of teenager Jan – the fact that she had already started to go gray. And so the actress dyed her locks and had to keep dying them on set because her hair grew so fast. In the end, in fact, Donnelly had to actually shade over her roots every single day with a black crayon. But it all paid off: Jan was one of the most endearing Pink Ladies.
Donnelly stopped acting for a bit after Grease, working as an acting coach instead and only returning to the scene in 1998. But she immediately got some hits under her belt in the decade that followed, including the TV show Monk, the movie Cyrus and the acclaimed Johnny Depp movie Black Mass.
3. Dinah Manoff (Marty)
Dinah Manoff, daughter of actress Lee Grant and screenwriter Arnold Manoff, never understood why she was cast as Marty in Grease. Because she couldn’t actually sing or dance! “I don’t know why they cast me!” she told the Seattle Times in 2010. “I was sure they wouldn’t.” But luckily, they did.
However, Manoff soon learned the ins and outs of the industry, and by 1980 she had picked up a Tony Award for her Broadway debut in I Ought to Be in Pictures. She then appeared in multiple films and TV shows, including Child’s Play and the Golden Girls spin-off Empty Nest. And although her last acting credit was in 2009, she’s still a notable name.
2. Lorenzo Lamas (Tom)
President Gerald Ford’s actor son Steven Ford was up for the role of Tom, Sandy’s boyfriend. But when he stepped out, Lorenzo Lamas stepped in. And he was incredibly excited about his big break. “I was going to have some scenes with Olivia – the goddess!” he told People in 1998.
Lamas now credits Grease with kick-starting his whole career, and he’s very grateful for it. Indeed, since 1978 he’s been racking up the acting credits, appearing in soap operas Falcon Crest and The Bold and the Beautiful, in addition to several straight-to-DVD films. More recently, he popped up in Sharknado 3.
1. Olivia Newton-John (Sandy Olsson)
Olivia Newton-John had already had several music hits by the time Grease was released, but it was her portrayal of Sandy Olsson that made her a real star. Ironically, however, Newton-John never actually wanted the part of Sandy at first. She claimed she was too old for it, but obviously, fans are very pleased indeed that she changed her mind.