Remembering Harold Ramis, the non-golfing golf hero
By Geoff Shackelford
Without Harold Ramis, there is no "Caddyshack."
Thirty-four years after the classic film's release, iconic lines are repeated daily at golf courses across the globe. And while Harold Ramis did not deliver any of those lines, the improvisational genius of the film's iconic cast shines through due to the directorial brilliance of a man who did not play golf.
Take the epic Cinderella-story scene with Bill Murray swatting flowers and announcing to himself. The script merely called for Carl Spackler to be in front of the clubhouse swinging a club. Ramis huddled with Murray and asked if he'd ever talked to himself, pretending to be an announcer covering the finish of an event. Ramis had done it as a runner to push himself to finish a workout, and as soon as he mentioned the idea to Murray, the fellow Second City alum knew exactly what the director had in mind and ran with it.
Beyond his comedic touch, Ramis somehow held together a drug-infused set that was in chaos, with massive ego clashes left over from their "Saturday Night Live" days leading to tension between Murray and Chevy Chase. When the producers figured out that the two stars were not on screen together, Ramis brought them together and mapped out the late night "playing through" scene that led to classic lines about having a few things on order and Carl's new grass, with its strains of Featherbed Bent and Northern California Sensemilia.
On the other side of the equation, Ramis managed the extreme insecurity of Rodney Dangerfield, who huddled with Ramis nightly to soothe anxiety for the next day's scenes, even though by all accounts, Dangerfield was killing it, taking a scripted character with a small part and turning him into the indelible Al Czervik.
Ultimately Ramis' grand vision for a film inspired by the Marx Brothers -- a mix of a budding romance, established upper-class resistance and the antics of three nuts in the form of Czervik, Spackler and Ty Webb -- has allowed "Caddyshack" to age so well. Harold Ramis makes golfers laugh more than 30 years later just trying to hold all of the converging stars together.