The classic snobs-vs-slobs golf course comedy that launched a boatload of quotable lines and introduced moviegoers to a bug-eyed comedy genius celebrates the 40th anniversary of its release today. Helmed by first-time director Harold Ramis and written by Ramis, Brian Doyle-Murray, and comedy genius Doug Kenney, CADDYSHACK has rightfully taken its place as arguably the funniest sports movie ever made. That's largely due to the work of the movie's four stars: two comedians on the cusp of film superstardom as well as two guys who hated each other in Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, the buttoned-up straight man Ted Knight who is thought to be the only person on set who didn't partake in drug use, and a guy who found huge success later in life after his epic and gutbusting string of appearances on "The Tonight Show" led to a movie career, Rodney Dangerfield.
As Chris Nashawaty expertly chronicles in his excellent book "Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story", industry-rattling American comedies in the late '70s and '80s were largely fueled by three comic institutions, National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, and Second City in Chicago. The highly-competitive writers and performers often pushed the envelope with their material and more often made their audiences laugh their faces off. Prior to CADDYSHACK, Kenney co-founded National Lampoon and co-wrote the big bang blockbuster ANIMAL HOUSE. Ramis made his bones at Second City and co-wrote ANIMAL HOUSE and wrote MEATBALLS. Doyle-Murray wrote for The National Lampoon Radio Hour and SNL.
After a weed-and-coke-fueled production that perhaps looked more like a mish-mash of vignettes instead of a future classic, the creative team realized that they didn't have one scene that featured both of two of the biggest comedic performers on the planet, Chase and Murray. So the two rivals improv'd the scene where Ty Webb plays through Carl Spackler's living quarters and the two have a hilariously bizarre exchange. The scene didn't move the plot forward and wasn't essential to the story but is beloved because it featured two brilliant performers trying to one-up each other and make the other guy laugh, not to mention the oft-repeated lines it provided.
The book also describes the funny first time that movie rookie Dangerfield heard "Action!" on a movie set. He didn't do anything. After a couple tries, Ramis asked him if something was wrong. "You mean my bit?", Rodney asked. "Yeah, do your bit", the director replied. So rather than call action, Ramis would just tell Rodney to do his thing and the woofed-up comedian would stroll in and just slay the entire set with his bit for each of his scenes.
After it came out, Murray and Chase each had numerous monster hits in the years that followed. Knight had a sitcom hit with "Too Close For Comfort" before sadly passing away from cancer just six years after CADDYSHACK came out. Dangerfield would go on to do his bit successfully in EASY MONEY, BACK TO SCHOOL, and some hysterical Miller Lite commercials. He also did excellent creepy dramatic work in NATURAL BORN KILLERS.
I was lucky enough to see CADDYSHACK during its initial run with my old man and Paulie Walnuts (I can count on one hand the number of duds that pops took us to). Then I watched it dozens of more times on pay cable and VHS to memorize the now-iconic dialogue. Thanks to the Internet and weed, I hadn't finished a book in years. But I flew through Nashawaty's great read because it's an fun book and I was dying to soak up more details about one of my all-time favorite flicks.
Matter of fact, I'm about to tee it up yet again right now.
"Shoulda yelled 'two'."