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Film

How Stanley Kubrick aided the creation of 'Christmas Vacation'

@Russellisation

The great Stanley Kubrick made a name for himself as a master of cinema during his 48-year long career that boasted multiple classics of varying genres. From the heights of horror in The Shining starring Jack Nicholson to the horrors of war in Paths of Glory with Kirk Douglas, the films of Stanley Kubrick were not restricted by the limits of genre filmmaking, often breaking the boundaries to redefine the confines of the art form itself. 

Despite the director often making dense existential explorations into mortality or the fragility of the human psyche, Kubrick was also known for his lighter side, in the comedy of Dr. Strangelove or even the Christmassy nature of his final film, Eyes Wide Shut. Granted, Eyes Wide Shut may not be the most traditional holiday film, displaying a story suffused with sexual desire and underground conspiracy, though it does provide a compelling comment on the nature of consumerism in contemporary society. If you want a Kubrickian Christmas, this is certainly the closest you’ll ever get to one. 

Influencing countless other filmmakers throughout his illustrious career at the very top of the industry, Kubrick would encourage the likes of Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson to start making films due to the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and many more. One filmmaker he had a direct hand in helping into the industry is Jeremiah Chechik, director of Diabolique, The Avengers (not that one) and, most famously, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. 

Chechik’s directorial debut, Christmas Vacation was written by the icon of 1980s teenage drama, John Hughes, with the film considered a classic on the celebrated list of the greatest ever holiday movies. Beginning his career as a fashion photographer for Vogue, Jeremiah Chechik quickly found his way into commercial directing, whilst also helming music videos for Hall & Oates’ ‘Downtown Life’ and Van Halen’s ‘When It’s Love’. 

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Speaking to Den of Geek in 2011, Jeremiah Chechik outlined his commercial career in the industry, stating: “I had made these commercials that became quite iconic here in the US. They were very dark and sexy and sort of a little bit ahead of their time in terms of style”. As he gained fame, he began to get noticed by some of the finest artists in the industry, surprisingly revealing, “What happened was they gained the notice of [Stanley] Kubrick, who had mentioned them as his favourite American filmmaking, ironically, in a New York Times article”. 

Shortly after Stanley Kubrick’s personal endorsement, Chechik began to receive a bombardment of phone calls from Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg who offered the director to visit Amblin Entertainment. Such sparked a long relationship between the director and company who began sending him scripts for his consideration, as Chechik recalls, “And the script that really piqued my interest was Christmas Vacation…And the reason is I had never done any comedy—ever”.

So whilst Stanley Kubrick may not have had a direct hand in the production of the Christmas classic, his extraordinary influence in the industry fatefully helped the creation of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation into existence. 

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