The summer of 1980 blessed us with a gopher and golfers and laughter. Can you believe “Caddyshack” is turning 40?
“Nobody can,” said actress Cindy Morgan, who played Lacey Underall in the film. “But how lucky is it to be part of something that holds up over time?”
Maybe it’s time to watch “Caddyshack” all over again since everyone enduring 2020 could use a laugh.
Morgan revisited her “Caddyshack” experiences by playing a version of word association during an interview with the Tulsa World.
Format: Hey, Cindy. We’ll mention a person from the film. You tell any story you want to tell about that person.
Appetizer to keep you reading: One of the stories involved a couple of cast members and a nude beach.
Before we get to that point:
“You know what was great?” Morgan said. “Four of the funniest men on the planet were locked up on a golf course with a bunch of new actors and we had complete license to (have fun).”
Continuing, Morgan said, “They took away our keys to the golf carts. Do you think that stopped us? No. Do you know how easy it is to hotwire one of those old golf carts? It’s really easy. I found out later you are really not supposed to drive golf carts around the green and have golf cart races because that tears up the grass.”
Morgan compared being in the movie, and being surrounded by all that talent, to playing sports.
“Did you ever play a sport with somebody who is much, much better than you? You either bring your A-game and raise your level of competence or you go home. People say ‘did you have fun on Caddyshack?’ I said I was in way over my head, but I was so proud to have done it.”
Let’s talk about those folks.
Rodney Dangerfield (Al Czervik)
Morgan: “You know ‘Caddyshack’ wasn’t a by-the-rules, by-the-book kind of a movie. They just did whatever the spirit moved them to do at that moment in time. We broke for lunch one day, just whenever. The tables would be up. Food would be there. We would sit down. And we would just eat because you had to go to work. It was hot. It was outside. You had to just eat. So I sat down and Rodney was sitting there. It was just the two of us. And Rodney grabbed his collar, just like you have seen him do a million times on television, and starts tugging on it and sweating and goes ‘Am I OK? Am I OK? It’s my first movie.’ I swear to God. I said, ‘Rodney, you are stealing (the movie).’ And he did.”
Dangerfield suspected he was bombing. Why? A stand-up comedian, he was used to hearing laughs when he performed. A movie set was a different environment.
“He was waiting for his laugh because that was how he judged his timing,” Morgan said.
Dangerfield had to adjust to the new normal.
“And, to tell you the truth, the crew was kind of bored with us because we were being silly,” Morgan said. “We weren’t following the script and they were probably out partying as much as we were.”
Ted Knight (Judge Smails)
Morgan: “Ted was legitimately angry with Rodney because Ted had no intentions of playing the straight man to Rodney. Ted was a comedian. He was the comic relief (in other projects, including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”). But as it turns out he was playing straight man to Rodney and he was actually legitimately angry by the end of the film.”
At first, Knight was the sweetest guy in the world, according to Morgan.
“He knew I was Polish and he was like my Polish uncle and we went out to breakfast. He would say. ‘OK, Cindy, let me tell you how this is going to go.’ He was a loving, sweet, kind, individual.”
Knight heated up at the end of shooting. The last thing shot was a scene were Knight’s boat gets damaged by Dangerfield’s boat. Morgan said Knight got furious with her because she was late to arrive, but it wasn’t her fault. Accosted by Knight, she defended herself.
“We had all evolved into versions of our characters by that time,” she said. “But he was a sweetie and the truth is he really, really came there to do a really good job. He was a real actor. He used the script and things like that. And if you weren’t prepared to go off script, you were in trouble.”
Bill Murray (Carl Spackler)
In setting up the Murray story, Morgan told one about herself.
She made her film debut in “Caddyshack.” The first scene shot was her high dive at the swimming pool. Obstacles: She couldn’t dive. Legally blind, she couldn’t see well enough to navigate the ladder or the diving board. She could barely swim. And her background was un-Lacey-like.
“I went to 12 years of Catholic school,” she said. “I was fixed up with cousins for both of my proms.”
Before walking out to do the scene in a swimsuit, she banged her head against the door of the ladies’ room and repeated “I can’t do this.”
Eventually, Morgan talked herself into heading to the pool.
“I saw these guys sucking in their stomachs,” she said. “So I thought, well, they’re buying it, so OK.”
Morgan climbed the high dive ladder, walked to the end of the board and took a spring on it before a “real” diver took the plunge in her place.
Morgan thought she was being a trouper. Instead, she got scolded later that night for not doing the dive herself.
“During this chewing out, some new actor came down at the other end of the table,” she said. “There were like 20 or 25 of us there. I wasn’t paying attention because I was getting yelled at. I went back to my room and I felt pretty bad.”
A knock on the door came about 15 minutes later. It was the new actor.
“Do you want to get out of here?” the new actor said. Morgan said “yes.”
“I woke up the next morning on a nude beach in Jupiter, Florida,” Morgan said.
The new actor there with her was Murray.
“He was supposedly only there (to do the movie) for six days,” Morgan said. “I can tell you where he was for a day and a half of them. And, in those days, there were no cell phones. The lead actress and Bill Murray had disappeared.”
Morgan said she didn’t know she was at a nude beach the next morning until someone asked her what time it was and there was a naked fellow in front of her. Should we assume she and Murray were clothed or should we not assume anything?
“I honestly don’t remember,” she said.
Michael O’Keefe (Danny Noonan)
Morgan: “We had just got to the set. We sat down in the clubhouse ... and we were discussing the nude scene. And he was telling me how he had just gotten an Academy Award nomination for ‘The Great Santini,’ which is awesome. And then I discussed my background and he told me how he saw the scene and I told him how I saw the scene and we looked at each other like we are two different animals, completely from different parts of the universe. We both walked away going, OK. But professionals know how to work off whatever happens in front of you. My broadcast (radio and TV) background was kind of lucky because everything was improv.”
Morgan said O’Keefe wanted to rehearse the love scene. She thought that was a very bad idea. Regardless, a scene was shot and, pre-pandemic, she said she saw O’Keefe all the time because they appear at golf tournaments and autograph events together.
Chevy Chase (Ty Webb)
Morgan: “Chevy and I had kind of a love-hate thing, I would say. When I go back and I look at the film, if you look for a scene or a screen capture, on the porch scene where I said ‘skinny skiing and going to bullfights on acid,’ I can see that I was struggling and my timing was terrible and you could see Chevy feeding me the line and helping me — really helping, because I was awful. Chevy was helping me a great deal, but love and hate are closer than you think.”
Tempers flared before the oil massage scene. The actors were tired and weary and sleep-deprived. Chase said a couple of things. Morgan said a couple of things. Chase walked. Director Harold Ramis told Morgan to apologize. She refused.
“Poor Harold,” Morgan said. “Camp counselor over here with two misbehaving actors.”
Simmering, they buried the hatchet long enough to knock out the scene and it worked out beautifully, according to Morgan.
“We did have chemistry, thank goodness, because at one point Harold said ‘I want you to go over to Chevy. He’s sitting over there by the piano. Go over there and say ‘Sing me a love song.’ I said ‘Why?’ He said ‘just do it.’ There was nothing in the script, nothing rehearsed, nothing discussed ahead of time.”
Morgan did what Ramis asked.
“If you watch that scene again, see if you can tell where I finally realized the camera is rolling,” she said. “I didn’t know we were shooting the scene. I had no idea. He’s (snorting) salt and throwing tequila and singing the song and, out of the corner of my right eye, I see the damn camera light on. You are filming this! That’s how I found out we were filming the scene.”
Scott Colomby (Tony D’Annunzio)
Morgan: “This was 1979. So let me preface it by saying that women had just earned the right to choose. I came from an all-girl Catholic school and I was very young when I did this film and was very new at everything, so there were a lot of people hitting on a lot of people and it was my turn. I went through adolescence in about six weeks. We ended up dating for a couple of years, and it just didn’t work out.”
Sarah Holcomb (Maggie O’Hooligan)
Morgan: “Did you know she was promised the role of Lacey Underall? She was (cast member and co-writer) Brian Doyle-Murray’s girlfriend.”
Morgan fielded a series of calls after trying out for Lacey. You’ve got the job. You don’t have the job. You’ve got the job. And that means Holcomb didn’t get the job.
“As sort of a consolation, she was given a trip to Ireland to pick up an Irish accent, which I’m still not quite clear on,” Morgan said. “But, yeah, Sarah was supposed to be Lacey. We weren’t overly close during the filming. I’m guessing that had something to do with it.”
Holcomb, who instead played Danny Noonan’s girlfriend, had appeared previously as the mayor’s daughter in “Animal House.”
Brian Doyle-Murray (Lou Loomis)
Morgan: “Brian is hilarious. I remember the last time I saw him. It was at St. Augustine at the Caddyshack restaurant there. Something was happening and I said, ‘Oh, Brian, they are looking for interviews. Did you want to do press for it?’ He said ‘I would rather have my teeth drilled.’ In his brother John Murray’s words, he has become kind of the curmudgeon he plays on film. That’s Brian.”
Cindy Morgan (Lacey Underall)
The newcomer’s second scene was the nude scene. All heck broke loose.
Morgan said executive producer Jon Peters arranged to send a photographer from Playboy to the set without her permission. She balked. She had agreed to do the scene after a meeting that spelled out the importance of capturing the young male demographic. But she never agreed to be photographed by Playboy.
Morgan phoned her agent for help. His advice: “Honey, you are not a doe-eyed girl from the midwest. Handle it.” She fired the agent.
Angry about the refusal, Peters called Morgan between takes. She said Peters told her she was screwed in the business. He vowed to take away her paid ads and her billing. He said she would never work again.
“And I didn’t until Disney came calling for ‘Tron,’” Morgan said, referring to a 1982 movie.
Morgan stuck to her guns and watched out of the corner of her eye as her hairdresser body-blocked the photographer from entering the room.
“It was rough, but can I tell you something?” Morgan said. “You can be scared, but if somebody threatens you and pushes you right into a corner, even cute little rabbits and deer will fight back. They will defend themselves. After that, I wasn’t afraid. And they could have rewritten the title of that scene from Lacey makes love with Danny to Lacey makes love to Danny. That was the day Lacey Underall was born because they pushed me into a corner and took away all my fear by threatening me and screaming at me. And I knew they had no business doing that.”
You can learn more about Morgan on her official site, cindymorgan.com.
Harold Ramis (director, co-writer)
Morgan: “Harold Ramis was the sweetest guy in the whole world. And Harold Ramis really was Lacey Underall. Harold would come up to me and say ‘I want you to do this.’ I would say ‘Why?’ For example, go sit down at the piano and say ‘sing me a love song.’ OK. He would say ‘When Chevy looks at you, I want you to bite your thumb.’ Why? ‘Just do it.’ Well, after I saw the movie, I got it. But Harold really was Lacey Underall and he was brilliant and he had the vision for the film.”
Doug Kenney (producer, co-writer)
Morgan said she loved Doug Kenney, who, at age 33, died a month after “Caddyshack” was released. She said his death was a great loss for everyone and she recalled hearing a rumor that Kenney punched Peters in post-production. “I don’t know if it’s true, but one can only hope.”
Morgan said she was not invited to the “Caddyshack” premiere.
“When (Doug) found out that I was not invited, he sent two first-class tickets to go to the premiere in New York. I walked in and there at the popcorn counter was Jon Peters. And I walked up. I couldn’t help myself. There’s a little bit of Lacey in me. I’ve got to admit it. I said, ‘Jon, what the hell are you doing here?’ Popcorn everywhere. It was crazy. It wasn’t what he was hoping for or expecting.”