Beverly D'Angelo Always Thought Of The Vacation Movies As Romantic Comedies

Whether it's an epic cross-country journey to Walley World or a trip across the pond to Europe, the Griswold family has been bringing laughs to audiences since the early 1980s. But they've also provided some warm and fuzzy feelings, at least according to one cast member.

The initial "Vacation" series is made of four movies, three of which are from the National Lampoon magazine and written by John Hughes. The Hughes trilogy consists of 1983's "Vacation" followed by 1985's "European Vacation" and 1989's "Christmas Vacation." A fourth installment, 1997's "Vegas Vacation" was independent of National Lampoon. All four films follow the exploits of bumbling father Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) on a series of family vacations.

Of the original quartet, "Vegas Vacation" is regarded as the worst, despite reuniting Chase and D'Angelo. It carries a 13% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to 93% for the original "National Lampoon's Vacation." A made-for-TV sequel "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2" starring Randy Quaid was released in 2003. "Vacation" starring Ed Helms as Rusty Griswold recreating his family's trip to Walley World was released in 2015, with Chase and D'Angelo returning for small cameos.

Given the general shenanigans and hijinks involved with the Griswold family trips, romantic comedy probably doesn't come to mind when you think of the franchise. But that's not the case for Beverly D'Angelo. She sees the series of films as rom-coms and a testament to Clark and Ellen Griswold's love.

Chase and D'Angelo have amazing chemistry

The first "Vacation" movie might have been a road trip comedy, but as the films turned into a bona fide franchise, Beverly D'Angelo began to see the films more as romantic comedies that centered around Clark and Ellen's relationship. In an interview with The Current, D'Angelo credited their onscreen success to the duo's chemistry. She said:

"I always saw the 'Vacation' movies as romantic comedy. I really thought at the core of it was how much Ellen loved her husband — even though it's starring Chevy. I always said it was the chemistry between me and Chevy that created Ellen and Clark, as much as the words that we had to say."

Because Chevy Chase is such a comedic force of nature, some of the tender moments between Ellen and Clark get lost among the wild antics in the movies. Each movie explores different parts of the Griswold marriage dynamic. In the first "Vacation" it's the challenge of keeping the spark lit while raising kids and, of course, the strain of a cross country road trip in the Family Truckster.

In "Christmas Vacation" Ellen and Clark have a moment in bed where they discuss the difficulty of family visiting for the holidays and the unrealistic standards Clark sets for the Griswolds. It's a rare moment of realism, shot from above the couple's bed in a single take. Clark struggles with the sticky parts of fragrance ads in the magazine he's reading throughout the conversation, turning an intimate look into the Griswold marriage into a comedy bit. Nonetheless, the conversation is real, even if the physical comedy overshadows it. D'Angelo, as she does throughout the entire series, plays the straight man brilliantly in the scene.

Becoming Ellen Griswold was a challenge

Beverly D'Angelo has a unique perspective on Ellen Griswold, and no one is closer to the character than her. Because D'Angelo was so different from the character she played in the franchise, she found the role challenging. D'Angelo said Ellen was the type of person she would try to avoid in real life, so she turned to someone close to help her shape the role. D'Angelo said:

"That role was in honor of my own mother...My mother always said, if you can't say something nice, don't say something at all, and as far as marriage went, she said as long as it adds up to 100%, it doesn't matter who gives 99% and who gives 1%. I grew up witnessing a beautiful love affair between my mother and father, so I knew there was a love affair that was always going on between Ellen and Clark."

And we recently learned that the love affair between Clark and Ellen has continued. In a brief sequence in the 2015 sequel "Vacation," it is revealed that the couple is still very much in love, running a bed and breakfast in San Francisco. The locations might change, and the actors playing the children might be different, but the love between the Griswolds has remained the same throughout every vacation, holiday, and everything in between. Perhaps D'Angelo is right and the "Vacation" movies have been romantic comedies all along.