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Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story


Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story

Golf legend Gary Player has observed that golfing success requires determination to win and patience to wait for the break. Patience is essential in reading Chris Nashawaty’s CADDYSHACK: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story. The cult movie classic, whose characters and lines have become part of the golfing lexicon, does not receive its first substantive mention by Nashawaty until page 109 of his vivid history. This is not meant to be a criticism. Caddyshack did not simply appear from a movie script and Hollywood studio. It was the product of an era that produced a revolution in American comedy. The book explores that revolution in fascinating, hilarious and sometimes tragic detail.

Every golfer who references Caddyshack during a round of golf with friends, or with strangers for that matter, will find this to be a spectacular book. In addition to being a source for quips and one-liners, this detailed account of an iconic movie tells readers where comedy comes from and how classic films are made intentionally, and also by pure chance mixed with a smidgen of luck.

Many historians attribute golf’s beginning in America to the U.S. Open of 1913, which was won by Francis Ouimet, an American amateur golfer who upset Harry Vardon. The Open was played that year in Brookline, Massachusetts. Ironically, it was another event in Massachusetts that eventually led to the development and creation of Caddyshack. In 1966, college students from Harvard would achieve national prominence from a Harvard Lampoon spoof of Playboy. This was a financial gold mine for the Lampoon and allowed the comedic minds to embark upon careers that changed comedy around the world.

"This is an extraordinary account of an iconic golf movie. Be sure to take it along on your next golf trip. You will be sharing the anecdotes with your foursome while waiting on the tee to hit your drives."

The chain of events followed a circuitous route. It began with writers who left the Lampoon and started working at “Saturday Night Live,” where they encountered a variety of comedy actors. Following a successful stint there, they expanded into movies, one of which was Animal House, which employed several “SNL” veterans and returned profits of more than $140 million for its studio. Hollywood moguls and producers are like military generals. When they find a strategy that works, they attempt to build upon it by duplicating the elements of success as quickly as possible. The Animal House creative team was recruited by Orion Pictures to develop a comedy.

Writers Harold Ramis and Doug Kenney met with Mike Medavoy at Orion and pitched their first idea, a comedy about the Nazis marching in Skokie. It was not warmly received. Two weeks later, they pitched the idea that Bill Murray’s brother, Brian Doyle Murray, conceived of. It would be a comedy based on the Murray brothers’ memories working at a suburban Chicago country club. The proposed film had the same core elements as Animal House, and they even had a name for it: Caddyshack.

Scripts were produced, and Ramis, despite having no previous experience as a director, was given the task of directing. Detailing the filming adventure, Nashawaty’s anecdotes are enthralling and over-the-top funny. Having never directed, Ramis initially demanded repeated shot after shot, seeking perfection no matter how insignificant the scene. Rodney Dangerfield, in his first major role, was upset because no matter how hard he tried, he could never get any of the film crew to laugh at his lines. It took a while for him to learn that the crew was trained to keep a straight face. Bill Murray arrived late, ad-libbed to distraction and made filming difficult for trained actors such as Ted Knight. And underlying the entire filming was the use and abuse of drugs that ran the full gamut from alcohol to cocaine.

The movie was finally completed, and while the reviews were quite mixed, it grossed $40 million and ranked in the top 20 of movies released in 1980. It became and remains a cult classic. Tiger Woods even played Carl Spackler in an American Express commercial. Watch golf on television, and it is almost a certainty that one or more of the announcers will include a Caddyshack quote or reference during the broadcast.

This is an extraordinary account of an iconic golf movie. Be sure to take it along on your next golf trip. You will be sharing the anecdotes with your foursome while waiting on the tee to hit your drives.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on April 27, 2018

Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story
by Chris Nashawaty