The Set of 400: #41 – My Favorite Free Bowl of Soup

Today! Because I got that going for me, which is nice –

Caddyshack (1980)

Directed by Harold Ramis (x2)

Starring Chevy Chase (x4), Rodney Dangerfield, Michael O’Keefe, Bill Murray (x9), Ted Knight, Cindy Morgan, Sarah Holcomb (x2), Scott Colomby, Brian Doyle-Murray (x5), Ann Ryerson, Albert Salmi, Elaine Aiken, Henry Wilcoxon, John F. Barmon Jr.

I’m guessing the main reason I didn’t see Caddyshack for long time was that I’d seen Caddyshack II first. And while to a ten year old II’s nonsense retread antics aren’t all that bad – oh, that funny gopher! Dan Aykroyd! Jackie Mason! Kenny Loggins’ “Noboby’s Fool”! – it obviously isn’t a movie that would inspire you to seek out others in the series (plus it thankfully murdered any concept of this becoming a franchise). So while I certainly caught heavily edited glimpses of the original, it was probably high school before I finally watched the whole bawdy golf masterpiece in all its glory.

I’ll admit, Caddyshack is a bizarre conglomeration of stuff that only barely holds together as a movie. The original concept just centered on the caddies, easily the weakest and most forgettable part of the final film, and probably recognizing this they enhanced the roles and importance of all the high caliber comedians brought in (you’d assume) to bolster this plot. Thus you end up with the disparate stylings of Rodney Dangerfield – never better than as boorish new club member Al Czervik, Ted Knight’s permanently outraged Judge Smails, Chevy Chase’s best non-Griswold creation of slick golf whiz Ty Webb, and the king himself, Bill Murray in the basically unscripted groundskeeper/gopher antagonist role of Carl, whose every line has probably found its way onto a t-shirt by now.

Lord knows I’ve got my share

But even with all these alterations to the very basic caddying tale that binds the plot together, the movie ends up terrifically entertaining. Sure, it might be a bunch of set pieces and scenes strung loosely around Michael O’Keefe’s Danny and his efforts toward going to college (winning the caddy scholarship, ingratiating himself to Smails and Ty, competing in the final team match), but virtually all the scenes are hilarious, which helps you overlook the general flimsiness of the storyline. Seriously, what the hell was this movie going to be originally? Just Danny and Maggie and D’Annuzio? I’ve never seen an early script, but it must’ve been what, Meatballs? But also without Bill Murray? So, Meatballs Part II? Or like Porky’s?

But perhaps the stories of the original plan being warped are exaggerations. Figure, the credited writers on this are still Ramis (who also directed), Second City great Doyle-Murray, and National Lampoon legend Doug Kenney, who was also largely responsible for Animal House. It’s unlikely they were aiming to turn out a hokey teen comedy. It does feel like the tone of the film is more likely set by what the actors bring to it than some particular intention, but Ramis proved to be such a solid director in the years to come that even assuming that might be unfair. Sure, Bill Murray was only there for a few days and didn’t have scripted dialogue, but his performance still needed to be incorporated into the mix without disruption. They even concocted his and Chevy’s terrific single scene on the fly, once they realized these two biggest stars on the call sheet had no screen time together. Plus, these two famously did not get along from their early SNL days, so it was a risky move to even attempt it, yet none of that tension turns up on screen.

Okay, there’s also a deleted scene with both Ty and Carl, but I’m not sure if that was formed before or after the one in the film

And as I’ve mentioned many times, being a big Saturday Night Live fan then and now, I tended to seek out movies from that original cast when I was young – even your Wholly Moses! with Larraine Newman and The Woman in Red with Gilda – so again, it’s hard to say why it took me so long to get into Caddyshack. Even if you believe me blaming the disastrous sequel, I saw that movie so many times on cable growing up that you’d think it would at least spark some interest, right? Maybe I wrote it off as being a golf movie? Maybe Rodney Dangerfield didn’t really appeal to a ten year old at that point? Maybe The Mary Tyler Moore Show seemed so long ago that I couldn’t imagine cozying up to a Ted Knight film? Beats me, but I’m always a little amazed in retrospect that Caddyshack wasn’t a staple of my childhood. It’s a sturdily R-rated movie, so maybe that’s for the best, too.

Ramis joins the Two-Timers directing, following his work on #185 Multiplicity, while Brian Doyle-Murray (#227 Scrooged, #119 Christmas Vacation, #357 JFK, Multiplicity) and Chevy (Christmas Vacation, #389 Memoirs of an Invisible Man, #192 Last Action Hero) join the Fives and Fours of acting, but it’s Bill making the greatest strides today, as he becomes only the third Nine-Timer thus far, after Sam Jackson and Frank Oz, with his roles in Scrooged, #73 Quick Change, #328 The Man Who Knew Too Little, #319 The Darjeeling Limited, #124 Moonrise Kingdom, #267 The Life Aquatic, #287 Stripes, and #269 Kingpin. Only 40 movies to go! Who will end up on top?

Spoiler alert – there is still a fair amount of Murray left, but not necessarily this

Coming tomorrow! If it was anybody else, I’d say what’s going to happen to you would be a lesson to you. Only you’re going to need more than one lesson –

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