A hole in fun: Remembering ‘Caddyshack’
On June 22, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem will host a special event by welcoming Entertainment Weekly film critic Chris Nashawaty, whose book “Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story” was published in April by Flatiron Books.
The event begins at 5 p.m. with cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres being served, during which VIP ticket-holders can meet Nashawaty and have their books signed. Bookmarks will have copies of the book for sale. The Caddyshack conversation with Nashawaty follows from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Attendees will also have the opportunity to register for reduced foursome fees for the 2018 SECCA Slam for Art, billed as “the world’s most artistic golf tournament,” scheduled for October.
Released in the summer of 1980, Caddyshack boasted a top-tier comedic ensemble including Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield, marked the directorial debut of Harold Ramis (screenwriter of National Lampoon’s Animal House and Meatballs), and the swan song of the talented but troubled writer/producer Douglas Kenney (also an Animal House alumnus), who died under mysterious circumstances barely a month after the film’s release.
Set in the fictitious Bushwood Country Club – and filmed at what was once the Rolling Hills Golf Club in Davie, Florida (which yours truly used to drive past regularly when I lived in Lauderhill). Caddyshack is an irreverent, outrageous send-up that pits the “slobs against the snobs.”
The story, such as it is, observes the calamity created when self-made builder Al Czervik (Dangerfield) wreaks havoc on the links of Bushwood, much to the consternation of life-long member Judge Smails (Knight) and the delight of club member Ty Webb (Chase). Meanwhile, slovenly groundskeeper Carl (Murray) becomes increasingly obsessed with destroying a gopher that keeps popping up.
Despite receiving mixed reviews, Caddyshack grossed almost $40 million, making it a rare hit for distributor Orion Pictures, then became a home-video smash and cable-T.V. standard. Nashawaty, who ranks the film among his personal favorites, wrote an extensive article in Sports Illustrated to commemorate the film’s 30th anniversary in 2010, then decided to expand it into a 304-page book.
Since its publication, the book has received rave reviews across the board. The Washington Post opined: “More fun to read than the movie was to watch … (a) scene-stealing book,” a sentiment echoed by the Dallas Morning News: “The book about the movie is better than the movie.” Chris Smith, author of “The Daily Show” (the Book) said: “Funny? Of course. But Chris Nashawaty’s book is also a vivid, surprisingly poignant history of a generation that revolutionized American comedy. Well, and of drugs. Lots of drugs.”
It’s well-known that Caddyshack was a wild set, if not always a happy or convivial one. For one thing, Knight’s infuriated reactions to Dangerfield’s hi-jinks are genuine, as he couldn’t stand the comedian’s penchant for improvising his dialogue rather than sticking to the script (or delivering Knight’s cues). For another, drug and alcohol use was rampant during the production. When I lived in Lauderhill, the Rolling Hills Golf Club did not promote the fact Caddyshack was filmed there. Rumor had it that members absolutely refused to let any subsequent films shoot film there.
Yet from this chaos came a comedy that many believe is a classic. I don’t quite concur, although I enjoy the film, and have been known to quote scenes at will – particularly Knight’s sarcastic and impatient “Well … we’re waiting …!”
So enduring was Caddyshack’s popularity that a belated sequel was released in 1988. In this case, the consensus was unanimous: It stunk.
Despite a cast that included Robert Stack, Randy Quaid, Jackie Mason, Dyan Cannon, Dan Aykroyd, Jonathan Silverman, Paul Bartel, Marsha Warfield and a returning Chevy Chase, Caddyshack II was a feeble attempt to establish a franchise. Chase publicly regretted his participation, and in a 1999 interview with The A.V. Club, screenwriter Ramis stated: “I tried to take my name off that one, but they said if I took my name off, it would come out in the trades and I would hurt the film.” (A ringing endorsement if ever there was one.)
Nevertheless, the sequel didn’t go unrewarded, winning Golden Raspberry awards for Worst Supporting Actor (Aykroyd) and Worst Song (“Jack Frash”) while earning nominations for Worst Picture and Worst Actor (Mason).
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2018, Mark Burger.