The Caddyshack, that’s where it is at
I imagine there are not many out there who need me to tell them how great Caddyshack is, but I’m going to just in case you are one of the few.
Chevy Chase and Bill Murray are promoted as the main attractions but their roles are really supporting ones. Chevy plays Ty Webb, who somehow fell into a lot of money and floats through life making wisecracks while playing golf really well. And Bill is the unhinged groundskeeper, Carl Spackler who is given the assignment of removing a pesky gopher from the golf course. Their scenes are memorable and funny, but also thrown in for colour. In fact, I don’t think Carl effects any of the other characters until the very end.
The film wants to center around Danny Noonan (Micheal O’Keefe), who works as a caddie at the Bushwood Country Club. Danny is trying to earn enough money to go to college and get a scholarship the club gives to a caddie every year. This means he will need to suck up to the right person, the country club’s co-founder and director of the scholarship program, Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight). You can see how the plan was to have Danny’s story the one the kids would get behind. But at some point, Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight stole the show.
If you Google ‘Ted Knight’ and ‘Caddyshack’ many sources claim how he was a bit of an outsider who didn’t get along fully with the rest of the cast. Part of it may have been his background in TV sitcoms where sticking to the script is the norm while the rest of the cast relied heavily on improve. But, it most likely had to do with Ted being the only one who didn’t smoke pot.
For whatever reason, the tension made from some great on-screen chemistry which worked best with Dangerfield. Rodney plays Al Czervik, an obnoxious rich real estate developer who begins appearing at the club as a regular. Czervik is buying the land around the golf course to build condominiums and is looking to expand onto the Smails beloved club’s land. Add Czervik’s continuous insults, wagers (which are against club rules), and general oafish behaviour to that, and you have the making of a fun rivalry with the uptight Smails.
For me, their scenes together lead to the film’s most memorable moments. Sure, Murray’s “Cinderella Man” speech gets a lot of attention, and people remember the animatronic gopher dancing away to Kenny Loggin’s, but for me, Caddyshack will always be Dangerfield at his finest:
At one point Czervik tells Smails’ wife she must have been something… before electricity!
That is not to say the rest of the cast isn’t great too. Chase has some classic scenes as Ty, who becomes with Danny’s confidant. The “bionic man” putting scene is one of my favs. I think this might have been the first time I watched it in HD and noticed how he is putting in his bare feet.
Czervik and Smails eventually play a team golf match with a large sum of money bet between the two. At some point, both Danny and Ty end up on opposite teams, and Danny needs to decide if he is going set aside some pride for a “sure thing” or take more risks.
It’s the slobs vs. the snobs formula that director and writer Harold Ramis began with Animal House a few years earlier and used to dominate film comedies for the next 15 years or so before the Farrelly Brothers and Adam Sandler took over. And I think out of all of those early pre-Ghostbusters Ramis comedies, Caddyshack is my favourite.
It’s too bad Knight and Dangerfield didn’t get along enough to want to work together again, but if their feud accomplished anything, it did drive up the price on ugly hats:
Looks good on you though!