July 23, 2010— -- It's been 30 years since the release of "Caddyshack," that crude, sophomoric guilty pleasure that grew into a cult hit and did for golf what "Police Academy" did for law enforcement.
A goofball comedy set on the grounds of a posh country club, "Caddyshack" cemented the careers of "Saturday Night Live" stars Chevy Chase and Bill Murray while reviving those of comedians Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight.
Though it did little to advance the game of golf, it did change the behavior on the golf course, Connell Barrett, editor at large for Golf Magazine, told ABCNews.com.
"Everybody who plays golf quotes 'Caddyshack,'" said Barrett, who fell in love with the movie as a child while watching it on television in the 1980s. "If you don't then there's something wrong with you. Even though it poked fun of the game, it still did it in a loving fashion. It was not anti-golf, it was anti-pomposity."
That may be why 30 years later, director and "Saturday Night Live" alum Harold Ramis still apologizes for the quality of golf played in the film.
"I think Rodney took one lesson in Vegas," he told Barrett for Golf.com. "He had an awful swing, but it was appropriate to his character. But Dr. Beeper? He was supposed to be the club champion and he was awful. Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe) had a beautiful swing. Chevy was competent. The best swing in the movie? Other than Danny, it's Bill hitting the flowers with the garden tool."
Caddyshack Reaches Cult Status
Co-written by Murray's brother Brian, the film's thin subplots about a poor caddie, played by newcomer O'Keefe, trying to earn money for college and a golf tournament that pits new money (Dangerfield) against old (Knight) are secondary to the slapstick antics, gratuitous sex scenes and improvised comic sketches.
For the most part, Ramis allowed his comic veterans to do what they did best -- improvise -- to create the film's most memorable moments and quotable one-liners. Murray as Carl Spackler , an obsessed groundskeeper engaged in a one-man war with a gopher, has some of the film's best.
Standout lines include, "You're a little monkey woman;" "My enemy, my foe, is a varmint;" and "varmint cong."
"Bill was and is absolutely brilliant at that: the best verbal improviser I've ever seen," Ramis told Barrett. "I had him for six days, and he improvised about 90 percent of what he did."
Murray ad-libbed one of the movie's more memorable scenes, which on golf courses today is simply referred to as "Cinderella Story." Taking out one of his garden tools, he begins hitting flower bulbs as though he were competing at the Masters while pretending to be a television commentator: "What an incredible Cinderella story, this incredible unknown, comes out of nowhere, to lead the pack, at Augusta."
Rodney Dangerfield, as a nouveau riche oil tycoon, stands out by essentially recreated his crude standup routine -- "I'll bet you were something before electricity," he tells Ted Knight's wife -- while Chevy Chase plays off his goofy good looks to portray a free-spirited playboy who shoots a perfect game of golf by pretending to be the golf ball.
Over the years the film, which opened to negative reviews but went on to gross $40 million when it was released in 1980, has only grown in stature: Tiger Woods has called it his favorite film and even played Spackler in an American Express commercial spoofing the film; it has spawned websites of favorite lines and trivia; and in March, Warner Bros. released a 30th anniversary edition.
Moreover, "Caddyshack" spawned a whole new genre of screwball comedies. "It's the granddaddy of these dumb comedies, like 'Something About Mary,'" Connell Barrett said. "The Farrelly Brothers and Judd Apatow would probably tell you they owe something to 'Caddyshack.'"
So would the cast. Here's a look at their careers since "Caddyshack."
Bill Murray/Carl Spackler