Caddyshack (1980)

I ask you this: why did they keep making movies after Caddyshack? This is as perfect as film gets, quite literally a movie that you can drop into and out of at any time with your damage to the timing or spirit of the film. It has never failed to lift my mood or make me feel better about life. It is all that movies should endeavor to be.

It’s based on the memories of writer and co-star Brian Doyle-Murray as he worked as a caddy at the Indian Hill Club in Winnetka, Illinois, along with his brothers Bill and John. Director Harold Ramis had also worked as a caddy and even been hit in the genitals with a golf ball once, just like the film. Even better — that Baby Ruth candy bar in the pool came directly from Murray’s high school.

Is there a plot? Sure, Danny Noonan is supposedly the hero and its all about how he wants to escape his huge family and go to college. But really, it’s the personalities that this movie is all about, like Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), the son of one of the club’s founders who has turned slack into zen. Then there’s Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight), who is perhaps the best bad guy ever in a comedy. Or newly rich construction boss Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) who is a buffoonish man out to annoy every wealthy person in the club. And of course, there’s Carl Spackler, the groundskeeper who is at war with a gopher.

It’s also the only movie where Chase and Murray appear in a scene together. Famously brawling on the set of Saturday Night Live once, where Murray referred to Chase as “medium talent” before punching him — the best insult ever — they got along here and wrote a quick moment where Ty’s golf ball ends up in Spackler’s ramshackle hovel.

Murray dialogue in the film is completely unscripted, including his Cinderella story scene. There, he was told only to act as if he were a child announcing his own imaginary golf moment. He was only on set for six days.

The constant improv really bothered Knight, an actor who prided himself on knowing his lines. Dangerfield never did the same take twice, so their constant battling has its roots in reality. In fact, Rodney would never begin doing anything when Ramis yelled “Action!” Instead, he had to be told, “Rodney, do your bit.”

The original cut of this film was around 4 and a half hours with Bill Murray’s Cinderella speech coming in at around half an hour. No one was happy with the second cut, so the gopher was added at the last minute to give the movie some structure. It was shot on a soundstage, so that’s why the film stock in these scenes looks completely different.

Caddyshack was a failure upon release and was hated by critics. It’s gone on to show them all the error of their ways.

Sadly, writer Doug Kenney would never see this movie be embraced. At the press conference for this film, he drunkenly yelled at reporters, convinced it would be the end of his Hollywood career. A trip soon after to Hawaii with Chase lifted his spirits, but only for a brief time. He either slipped on a rock or jumped while there and was dead at 33, leaving behind work with the National Lampoon and the film Animal House along with this one. You can learn more about Kenney in the movie A Futile and Stupid Gesture.

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