"Caddyshack" started out as a straightforward coming-of-age comedy about a young guy working as a caddie on the links of a posh golf club; by the time it reached the screen, it had become a summit meeting between three comic heavyweights of the time. There was Chevy Chase, the former star of "Saturday Night Live;" Bill Murray, the then-current star of the show; and Rodney Dangerfield, the stand-up legend whose club in New York helped launch the career of many comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Carrey. There was also a gopher that looked remarkably like a hand puppet, but the coming-of-age stuff was largely relegated to filler by the antics of its three stars.
After the huge success of "National Lampoon's Animal House," Harold Ramis and Douglas Kennedy decided to take the riotous underdog formula to the links. They'd both had experience at golf clubs as teenagers and, together with Murray's less famous brother Brian, they hashed out a semi-autobiographical screenplay based largely on the latter's caddying days. Despite the traces of veracity that remained in the final film, "Caddyshack" failed to live up to the box office sensation of its predecessor.
Nevertheless, it went on to become a cult classic. As with many cult movies, the behind-the-scenes story is even more raucous than the film itself, a drug-fuelled piece of Hollywood lore from the days when cocaine was king. Michael O'Keefe, who played the film's nominal young hero, remembers a party every night of the 11-week shoot in Florida (via Yahoo).
Somewhere in between, the cast and crew got around to making a movie. At some point, Ramis realized they didn't have a scene with Chase and Murray. It was an awkward proposition because the pair had come to blows the year before on "SNL," but Chase knew just the way to relieve the tension.
So What Happens In Caddyshack Again?
Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe) works as a caddie at the snooty Bushwood Country Club, trying to save up enough cash over the summer to go to college. He usually caddies for Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), a wealthy player so laid back he doesn't even bother keeping score, but starts currying favor with the club's mean-spirited co-founder Judge Smails (Ted Knight) when he learns there is a scholarship up for grabs. He soon finds that keeping in the judge's good books is tricky when faced with the temptation of the old man's promiscuous niece, Lacy Underall (Cindy Morgan).
Meanwhile, the club's idiotic greenskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) is tasked with rooting out a pesky gopher making its home on the course, and crass housing developer Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) gatecrashes the club and upsets the old guard with his loud clothes and obnoxious behavior, not least Judge Smails.
After the bad feeling between Czervik and Smails results in a scuffle, Al proposes they settle matters with a high-stakes round of team golf. Smails enlists his regular golfing partner Dr. Beeper, while Ty Webb joins Czervik.
Out on the course, Webb suffers a bad case of the jitters with something at stake, and Czervik is playing a stinker. He feigns injury in the hope of calling the match a draw, but the umpire decides he will forfeit unless he can find a replacement. In steps Danny, despite the Judge's threats to revoke the scholarship. Danny doesn't care because he'd rather see Smails beaten. Can he hold his nerve despite Czervik repeatedly raising the stakes? Will Carl finally destroy his nemesis, the Gopher? And how could those two things possibly combine in the finale?
Bill Murray And Chevy Chase Came To Blows On SNL
In 1978, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray got involved in a backstage brawl on "Saturday Night Live" after insults flew in John Belushi's dressing room. Chase had left the New York-based show two years earlier to marry the woman he loved in California, only to return in the high-profile guest host slot. His arrogant behavior ruffled the crew's feathers, prompting Bill Murray to step in. Laraine Newman, one of the original "SNL" cast, remembered (via Best Life):
"It was that sad kind of tension that you would get in a family, and everybody goes to their corners because they don't want to have to deal with the tension… It was uncomfortable. You could understand, you know, there were these two bull mooses going at each other, so the testosterone was surging, and stuff happens."
It all sounds pretty childish: Murray told Chase that everyone hated him, to which the returning star retorted by making an insensitive wisecrack about Murray's pock-marked face. Murray's counter-blow was to make insinuations about Chase's sex life, which was when a brief ruckus broke out before Belushi split them up. Chase later blamed Belushi's s**t stirring for fuelling the incident (via Best Life):
"[Belushi] had been quite jealous of my rise to fame. I found out later, John said things to Bill about me that simply hadn't occurred. So he had already worked Bill up a little bit… And I was probably a little full of myself after a year of fame or whatever."
Both actors later downplayed the incident and became friends, but there was still tension between them when they signed on for Harold Ramis's golf comedy the following year.
Chevy Chase Finds A Way To Break The Ice
When it came to burying the hatchet with Bill Murray on the "Caddyshack" set, it was Chevy Chase who made the first move. Nick de Semlyn recounts in his book "Wild and Crazy Guys: How the Comedy Mavericks of the '80s Changed Hollywood Forever:"
"Chase put down his drink and marched toward Murray, a furious glare on his face. Murray tensed up. But just as he reached him, Chase dropped to his knees and began to unzip Murray's pants, miming preparation for a b*** j**. Murray cracked a smile at Chase's sophomoric bit, then both of them started to laugh."
It was a risky gambit that could have come straight out of a scene in the movie, but it paid off. The duo combined to great effect in one of the film's best skits, their distinctive comic styles playing so well off each other. Ty Webb gets in a little practice before the big match but a miscued shot crashes through the window of Carl Spackler's shack. Ty asks to play through, and the greenskeeper readily agrees. He's chilling with a bottle of wine and a big join and he's keen to extend his hospitality to Ty, who only wants to get out of there. Bill Murray remembered (via Cheat Sheet):
"Ty Webb's not far from who Chevy is. So he was pretty comfortable in his space. And I was comfortable as Carl. So he could be free to laugh at me. And if Ty laughed, Carl thought it meant, 'Hey, he's my friend!' It's a really fun, self-aware example of whatever the heck Harold [Ramis] maintains the movie is about — status."
Sadly, "Caddyshack" was the only time these two comedy greats starred in a film together, but at least thanks to Chevy Chase's risqué peace offering the scene they shared is a classic.
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The post Chevy Chase Unzipping Bill Murray's Pants On the Set of Caddyshack Broke Their Tension appeared first on /Film.