The funny thing about comedies is how hard it is to be funny in a film.
There isn’t really a designed method to it. There really aren’t rules. In the early days of sound films, the Marx Brothers would basically take a show on the road, find out what got laughs and what didn’t, fine tune it to a fever pitch, and bam – you have a film comedy.
Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder reportedly cut “Young Frankenstein” to half of its original length and eliminated 75% of the jokes that they filmed. What remained was brilliant comedy.
Caddyshack became one of the world’s most beloved comedies by accident.
Remember the cast? Bill Murray. Chevy Chase. Rodney Dangerfield. Ted Knight.
They were supposed to be cameos. The script didn’t focus much on them at all. The story was supposed to be about the caddies. Seems that once these four got in front of the camera, it was imprecision time and short scenes became longer and funnier.
Turns out when it was time to cut hours and hours of film down, it was the caddies who got cut and the cameos became leads.
There is a plot…somewhere. Knight feuds with Dangerfield. Murray hunts a gopher. Chase is….well, Chase. Mostly, Caddyshack is a series of gags that work to the level of being iconic. From Murray’s “Cinderella boy” Masters tournament to Chase’s nananananana putting to the Jaws-themed Baby Ruth bar in a pool, (none of which have anything at all to do with the plot), Caddyshack is one of those generation-defining comedies.
But it really is, as I hinted in the beginning, a Marx Brothers film at its core. Dangerfield is the Groucho with all the insults. Chase and Chico are good counterpunch comics. Bill Murray was scripted to be Harpo, according to director Harold Ramis, with no dialogue at all. That changed once Murray started talking. Ted Knight is no Zeppo, but that’s where my comparison falters. The final story of the film is structured like “Horse Feathers” or “Duck Soup”, complete with an over-the-top finale.
Caddyshack did well at the box office, but was no blockbuster. It got average reviews. It didn’t generate successful sequels or win many awards. But it is remembered, and quoted, like few other comedies in history.
Watch the scene with Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, who hated each other on the set of Saturday Night Live, improv an unscripted scene shot only because Harold Ramis noticed they didn’t have a scene together. Shtick galore.