You know what else is nice? A movie you can quote constantly, that never gets old, and with details that you seem to find with every watch.
As I said during Music Monday yesterday, Allison’s Written Words is celebrating Caddyshack’s 40th anniversary. Yesterday, I covered the music and soundtrack of the film, and today, we’re talking about this movie. This could easily be one of those research heavy posts I work on weekly, but instead, I felt that talking about my memories and appreciation of the film were more “on par” with a salute to the film. If anything, my Retro Rewatches have given me the opportunity to just kick back and enjoy the nostalgia, rather than research the heck out of it.
I mean, there are some actual facts that need to be said, but beyond that, I’m incorporating a near-total Retro Rewatch-type reaction in this.
Lean, Mean, and Not Too Far In Between: The Specifics
Caddyshack movie depicts several plots all centered around the elite Bushwood Country Club – Danny Noonan works for the club as a caddy, but wants more from life than caddying. He wants to attend college, but can’t afford to do so, so he decides to try for the newly available caddy scholarship (the original recipient allegedly choked to death in summer school), that would be given at the Caddy Day event, should he win the tournament. He caddies for the aloof free spirit of a man, Ty Webb (the son of Bushwood’s co-founder), as well as Judge Smails, the club’s snobbish co-founder. Smails’ gorgeous niece, Lacey, is staying with him that summer, and immediately catches the attention of Danny.
Meanwhile, Al Czervik, a nouveau riche potential member, arrives at the club and immediately (like, their first interaction kind of immediately) draws the ire of Smails.
It won’t be the last time it happens, and it is the fuel of a good portion of the plot. There’s also Carl Spackler, who has troubles of his own – a pesky gopher who makes dolphin noises and makes his home under the golf course.
His mission (and he chooses to accept it, trust me) is to destroy that gopher at all costs. Carl also lives in a fantasy world, in which he is a “Cinderella story”-type golfer about to win the Masters.
Danny wins the scholarship, but is caught sleeping with Lacey (by Smails, of all people), and worries that he will either be fired or forced to lose the scholarship (neither happens, Smails just wants the incident to be kept secret). Smails has a bigger problem – Al Czervik, whom he does not want as a member of Bushwood. Al challenges Smails to a team match, where a wager of $20,000 (doubled immediately) is on the line. This is against club rules, but Smails is determined to keep Al away from Bushwood, even if it involves doing something super illegal.
With a newly doubled wager ($80,000) on the line, will the snobs or the slobs win the day?
If you’ve seen the movie, you know how it all works out.
A Future Classic Gets Released
Caddyshack was released to theaters on July 25, 1980. It’s performance at the theater was unmatched by its less-than-stellar reviews at the time (even TV Guide gave it two out of four stars when the movie originally started airing on television). Toting a pretty impressive cast – Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray – critics cited the “disorganized story,” but the film has received positive re-appraisal over the years. The film grossed $39.8 million at the box office, and placed #17 for the year. The years have been much kinder to it, including quotable lines and memorable scenes.
The film was shot on a $6 million budget over eleven weeks in the fall of 1979, with Hurricane David delaying production. The story was inspired by Brian Doyle-Murray’s memories working as a caddy at Indian Hill Club in Winnetka, Illinois (both the film, and its sequel, take place in Illinois). Bill Murray and the film’s director, Harold Ramis, also worked as caddies when they were teenagers. The characters were based on real people encountered during those caddying jobs. Even the Baby Ruth Incident was a true story that happened at Brian Doyle-Murray’s high school.
Rolling Hills Golf Club (now Grande Oaks Golf Club) in Davie, Florida, was the setting for Bushwood Country Club, chosen for not having any palm trees (trying to keep that Midwest authenticity and all). The climactic explosion scene was reported by a pilot coming toward nearby Fort Lauderdale International Airport, believing that a crash had occurred. Boca Raton Hotel and Club served as the setting for the Bushwood Fourth of July dinner (“tell the chef this is low-grade dog food”), and the yacht club where the famous christening of Smails’ boat scene happens is at Rusty Pelican Restaurant in Key Biscayne, Florida.
The tension between Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight was reportedly real, as Knight was intolerant of Dangerfield basically doing his comedy act for the film. I went to a virtual Wizard World panel in June to listen to Michael O’Keefe (Danny Noonan) and Cindy Morgan (Lacey Underall) talk about the film, and both said that Dangerfield was actually a nice guy. Chevy Chase and Bill Murray had a falling out several years earlier, when Murray was on Saturday Night Live and Chase was hosting, but the scene where they interact in Spackler’s shack was their only scene together. Despite their previous issues, they were reportedly tolerant and professional toward each other. That scene was written over lunch.
Bill Murray’s “Cinderella Story” scene was dialogue created from two lines of stage direction. All of his lines were unscripted, and his scenes were shot in a quick turnaround, as Murray was only on set for six days – he was still on Saturday Night Live at the time – and was called back from New York as needed. His role was never intended to be a large one, but you’d never know it.
The lovable gopher, which apparently was the only sign of a pest problem Bushwood had – we had chipmunks and greenheads to deal with where I worked – was part of a special effects package that included the storm and lightning effects, flying golf balls, and disappearing greens’ flags. The gopher was a puppet with hydraulic animation to make him dance and his ears move. The tunnels were built for his scenes. The story about the gopher is that he was Bill Murray’s creation, and that he even sued the producers during post-production due to this.
His gopher was better anyway.
I first saw Caddyshack when I was about 13 years old. My parents had a recording of the movie from HBO from (I believe) 1989. The second film is on the same recording – the video is at my mom and dad’s house, but I converted the opening logos to digital. My parents have a DVD of the first film (a Christmas present from me when I was in college), and I have digital copies of both films. My first experience with the film series was actually Caddyshack II, which I saw about a year earlier than the first one. The only reason I didn’t see the first one until a little later was because of its rating. I’d seen several (carefully monitored) R-rated movies prior to that time, including Animal House with my dad when I was ten years old (guess he dropped the ball on that one?).
Until I saw the original, I accepted Caddyshack II as funny (and in some parts, it is), but after I saw Caddyshack, I liked the original better. I didn’t get some of it at 13 years old, but the more I’ve watched it, the older I’ve gotten, and the more Saturday Night Live reruns of the time I’ve seen, I understood the humor. These days, I still love the humor, and appreciate the elements of what brings the film together. Is it a loose script with a non-linear story? Yes. Does it all connect at the end? Absolutely! Has it aged well? Not in the sense of the clothing, but the humor is still as good as it obviously was then.
The casting is brilliant – I grew up watching Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Rodney Dangerfield movies. I didn’t know who Ted Knight was as a kid, but I’ve made up for that as an adult by watching all of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and almost all of Too Close for Comfort (I got bored with the last season and stopped watching). As a kid, some of his lines and gestures were some of the best, and some of the ones I’ve found myself quoting the most over the years. I used to refer to my Golf Director boss as Judge Smails (not in his presence), and would recite both the “christening of the sloop” and the gas chamber line for my co-worker. Always made her laugh.
“It’s easy to grinnnn, when you ship comes innnn, and you’ve got the stock market beat. But the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat.”
And yes, you gotta place full emphasis on “grin” and “in.”
“I’ve sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn’t want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.”
How did I never get busted quoting this movie on the job? I should give myself credit for being sneaky in my snarkiness. I’m actually a loud person when I get going trying to be funny.
My mom tells the story about how she went to see it in the theater in 1980 with my dad, my dad’s cousin Lynn and her husband Billy, and my Uncle Pat (mom’s brother) and Aunt Maria. She said that my uncle’s laugh (he has a very distinct, very goofy laugh that my brother inherited) made the group laugh, and they missed alot of the jokes. This is one of my uncle’s favorites (he also loves golf), and this one is a family favorite. My mom, dad, husband, and myself just watched it recently at my parents’ house, and I watched the movie in April (along with the second film). I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it, but it has never lost its humor. The lines that were the most quotable are still very much the kind you want to repeat, and as a 37-year-old, that’s actually ok.
As for those quotable lines, when I was sixteen years old, Chevy Chase hosted Saturday Night Live, and there was a sketch/commercial parody for a fake book called The Quotable Caddyshack, which gave people in the sketch/commercial parody an opportunity to insert Caddyshack quotes into their everyday lives. I cannot find that sketch anywhere, but man, was it funny. I don’t even think I’ve seen it since it aired, and that was over 20 years ago.
I am a Kenny Loggins fan. I have never made that any secret. I’ve always liked his music, even as a teenager watching this movie. His songs have had a radio presence as long as I’ve been alive (and before that). Before Caddyshack, I knew his music from Footloose, which I watched as a ten-year-old. “I’m Alright” is a staple of his concert set list (as it should be), but as I said in yesterday’s Music Monday, Loggins’ songs were part of the movie. He contributed four songs to the soundtrack, including the title song, “Lead the Way” (scene where Danny makes loves to Lacey), and “Mr. Night” (Caddy Day pool scene), as well as “Make the Move,” which has the same sound as “I’m Alright.”
“Some People Just Don’t Belong”
From 2006 until the fall of 2009, I worked for a local semi-private country club. I likened alot of what I saw to Caddyshack. The snooty members, my boss/golf director, and even the chipmunks (we didn’t have gophers) reminded me of alot of the plot elements of the film. Caddyshack was bible amount our co-workers – we quoted it frequently, and one time, when our golf director (whom we all disliked) was on vacation, we watched the movie in the pro shop. It was my last summer there (I didn’t know that at the time), and by that point, I didn’t care anymore. Plus, he was on vacation, and the movie was on the Golf Channel. We were technically watching golf.
I had some great guests who quoted the movie, always unprompted. A first time guest arrived one time, and started quoting Rodney Dangerfield arriving at Bushwood the first time. I had a guest at my register, and I could barely make eye contact with them, we were trying not to laugh.
Tournament days brought out the ugliest of golf clothes – I saw more plaid pants and garish shirts in my golf course life, and the snobbiest of people. My co-worker and I always had alot of fun making snide remarks while watching the goings-on outside the pro shop window. We had a guy there for a tournament with a multi-pastel-colored shirt on, and we called him “Sherbet.”
When I worked the early morning shift, I would come in as the sun was coming up, and the sprinklers were going. I’m not going to lie, arriving at the course in the morning often prompted the opening chords of “I’m Alright” (you know, the part that happens under the Orion logo, and continues as the movie begins).
My 6:50 am arrivals always felt like this. It was the calmest part of my day, the one where I was one of a handful of people working, before the Golf Director arrived and found some new way to aggravate me. It was my life for four golf seasons, spending summer afternoons checking golfers in, ringing up merchandise, and watching tournaments and endless loops of The Weather Channel and Sportscenter (the only two things we were allowed to watch). The people I worked with were the best part of my job, but I knew I wanted something different.
I left my job in the winter of 2010 (I was a seasonal employee, and left in the middle of a furlough) and went to work at my current job, which I’ve been at for almost 10 1/2 years…minus a few months since pandemic furlough began. Oh, and that four and a half days I went to work at a different job.
The Golf Course/Country Club/Snobatorium was my first full-time job post-college, and the one that got me the experience I needed to get into a job that would further me professionally. It wasn’t all terrible, but like Danny, it wasn’t where I wanted to be the rest of my life.
As for golf, the only kind I like is the miniature kind.
Did you think I was going to let you go without videos?
This is the logo from Caddyshack, complete with the opening chords of “I’m Alright.” This was recorded from HBO sometime in the late 1980s.
And there is a documentary on the film on YouTube. I actually haven’t watched it yet, but I’m looking forward to it, based on the other documentaries I’ve seen for this movie.
Upload via Nathan McIntosh
And Now, You!
Obviously, you’ve seen the movie (and its sequel). What are your memories of the film? What stories have you heard over the years, what lines have you quoted? Have you ever worked at a Country Club or golf course before? As you know, I love stories, and want to hear yours. After all, I told you mine.
Have a great day, and no, we’re not all gonna get laid!