Still Alright: 35 Years of 'Caddyshack'

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the classic comedy, we're hitting the gopher-infested greens with 18 "Caddyshack" fun facts.
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Bill Murray Photo

Bill Murray as greenskeeper Carl Spackler and his nemesis, the destructive "Mr. Gopher," were a classic comedy duo in "Caddyshack." (Photo: Archive Photos/Getty Images)

It was, as kamikaze greenskeeper Carl Spackler says, a “Cinderella story”: A first-time director and a quartet of first-rate comedians, improvising one crazy situation after another, descended on a Florida golf course and scored a hole in one with moviegoers when it was released on July 25, 1980. Let’s go a round with Caddyshack and fill in 18 holes in your knowledge of a much-loved comedy classic with some fun facts. 

Caddyshack Poster Photo

The original "Caddyshack" movie poster from 1980. (Photo: Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

1) Bill Murray was on set for all of six days to play Carl, who was originally a silent character. The movie was a family affair for Murray: co-writer, co-star and older brother Brian Doyle-Murray, who plays Lou Loomis, based the script on their memories of caddying at Indian Hill Club in Winnetka, IL.

2) Joining their stroll down memory lane was co-writer and director Harold Ramis, who also caddied at Indian Hill. Some of the supporting characters, like the elderly duffers, and incidents including the infamous Baby Ruth in the pool scene (scored like Jaws) were based on their recollections. Ramis, who co-wrote the hits National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and the Murray-starring Meatballs (1979), made his directorial debut with Caddyshack—he would also co-star with Murray in Stripes (1981) and the two Ghostbusters movies in 1984 and 1989, and direct the actor in Groundhog Day (1993), all of which he also co-wrote. Ramis called his debut movie “a $6 million scholarship to film school.”

3) Less acknowledged for the film’s success was producer and co-writer Douglas Kenney, who co-founded National Lampoon magazine, a major influence on film and TV comedy, in 1970. Depressed over the way the movie was edited, and its critical reception (its stock would rise with reviewers over time), and wrestling with cocaine addiction, Kenney died from a fall off of a cliff in Hawaii just a month after its release, on August 27, 1980. He was 33. (You can see him briefly in the movie and as Stork in Animal House, which he co-wrote.)

4) The movie, which takes place in the Midwest at the fictitious Bushwood Country Club, was shot in fall 1979 at the Rolling Hills Golf Club in Davie, FL, which had no tell-tale palm trees. 

5) On set, Murray and co-star Chevy Chase, who had bogeyed their relationship on Saturday Night Live (where they allegedly feuded), patched things up long enough to shoot their only scene together. “Well, I got a lot of stuff on order. You know…credit trouble…”

6) “Whoa, did somebody step on a duck?” The movie’s wildest card is standup comic Rodney Dangerfield, in his first substantial movie role. Singer Don Cherry, who like the comedian was a Vegas headliner, taught him how to play golf. Dangerfield went on to star in Easy Money (1983) and another comedy smash, co-written by Ramis, Back to School (1986). 

7) “The world needs ditch diggers, too!” Not so happy with the unscripted mayhem was co-star Ted Knight, in his last film role. Knight, who won two Emmys playing the bumbling Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was thrown off by the constant ad-libbing. So were Michael O’Keefe (an Oscar nominee for 1979’s drama The Great Santini) and Scott Colomby (later in another hit comedy, 1982’s Porky’s, and its two sequels), who saw their less funny parts, as rival college-age caddies, reduced as the comics got more and more to do. 

8) “Oh, rat fart!” Also in the cast is veteran Henry Wilcoxon, who had been on the screen scene since 1931 and had starring roles in Cecil B. DeMille’s epics Cleopatra (1934) and The Crusades (1935). When a bolt of lightning strikes the Bishop, who is playing a round with Spackler, the music heard is from DeMille’s last film, The Ten Commandments (1956), which also featured Wilcoxon. 

9) The farce be with you. Scenes with Murray’s nemesis, the destructive “Mr. Gopher,” were added during post-production to help tie together its loose structure. When a live animal didn’t make the cut, special effects whiz John Dykstra, an Oscar winner for Star Wars (1977), helped supply an animatronic adversary. 

10). Mr. Gopher’s chittering sounds were borrowed from the 60s TV show that starred another, aquatic, mammal, Flipper the dolphin.

11) Speaking of SFX, the climactic explosions, much bigger than planned, startled pilots flying overhead, who reported that a plane had crashed in the vicinity. 

12) Ramis wanted Pink Floyd to score the movie. When that unlikely prospect fell through, Kenny Loggins approached him with his boppy song “I’m Alright.” It was indeed, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard singles chart and launching his career as the 80s’ “King of the Movie Soundtracks,” including the chart-topping title tune for Footloose (1984) and, for 1986’s Top Gun, “Danger Zone,” which reached No. 2.

13) Chase and Mr. Gopher returned for the flop sequel, 1988’s Caddyshack II. Ramis, who described the movie as “terrible,” tried to take his name off the first draft script he reluctantly submitted. It did yield Loggins his last top ten hit to date, “Nobody’s Fool,” making him the first male solo artist to reach the top ten with four songs from four different movies.

14) But the original lives on, with the American Film Institute ranking it one of the best sports films in 2008. Visitors to the Murray Bros. Caddyshack Restaurant at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, FL, have been dining on “Carl’s Grilled Cuban” and other dishes since 2001. “Eat, Drink, And Be Murray!” the bistro advertises.

15) Tiger Woods, a big Caddyshack fan, played Carl Spackler in a 2010 American Express commercial that recreates scenes from the movie. 

16) Spackler’s Dalai Lama monologue: “The flowing robes, the grace, bald…striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one—big hitter, the Lama—long, into a 10,000’ crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? ‘Gunga galunga…gunga, gunga-lagunga…’ And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

17) In 2014, ABC News, referencing Caddyshack, asked the Dalai Lama if he played golf. Amused, he said no, but as a child he did play a mean game of ping-pong, once defeating Chinese premier Zhou Enlai.

18) First fan Barack Obama, eulogizing Ramis, who died on February 24, 2014, at age 69, said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Harold’s wife, Erica, his children and grandchildren, and all those who loved him, who quote his work with abandon, and who hope that he received total consciousness.”