Chevy Chase’s acting career has been a stroke of comedic genius for more than 35 years. But golf? Not so much.Welcome to American Way’s first-ever golf issue. Please meet your host, Chevy Chase — a man who does not golf.
Yes, you read that right. Chase, who helped make Caddyshack maybe the most successful (or at least the most hilarious) golf movie of all time, is pretty much a hack player.
“I think everybody just assumes I play. I’ve played maybe 10 to 20 times in my life,” the 67-year-old actor says from his home in Westchester County, N.Y. It’s not that he’s got anything against the sport, though. “I enjoy it enough. Once in a while I play it with Billy Murray (who played Carl Spackler in Caddyshack), and he’ll be gone after the first hole. I’m not saying he’s impolite; I’m saying he’s a golfer, and I’m not. He makes forward progression.”
And forward progression is something Chase knows a bit about, if not in the game of golf, then at least in that game called show business.
Since Caddyshack and Chase’s Ty Webb character debuted in 1980, the actor has made a name for himself as Clark Griswold in the Vacation movies; he put the shepherd profession in the spotlight in Fletch; and most recently, he’s transitioned to television, on NBC’s Community. And let’s not forget that Chase was part of the inaugural cast of Saturday Night Live. Nonetheless, when many people see Chase, they see the guy in Caddyshack, although that’s not the case for him.
“Caddyshack appears to be a centerpiece in other people’s minds. For me, I’ve got three kids and a wife … that’s a centerpiece in my mind,” he says. “Right now, I’m working on television, but I’ve made a lot of movies since Caddyshack.”
Indeed he has, but “Chevy Chase, big-screen sensation” isn’t something that necessarily comes to mind, absent the aforementioned iconic roles. And that might just be the curse of the funny man.
“Unlike many of the other SNL players who went on to big-screen success, Chase doesn’t seem to have a major dramatic performance in him — unless he’s still planning to surprise us all,” says Elizabeth Weitzman, film critic for the New York Daily News. “Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Will Ferrell — they all wanted audiences to know they had serious acting chops, in addition to their comic gifts.”
That’s not to say Chase is completely one-dimensional as an actor. Weitzman points out that “he actually made a viable romantic lead; he and Goldie Hawn had terrific chemistry in Foul Play, and both seem to be having a blast in Seems Like Old Times. But the success of Caddyshack in 1980 and Vacation in 1983 made it hard for him to turn down more broadly comic scripts.”
His “broadly comic scripts” number in the range of 50 or so, according to his IMDb.com profile, and as Chase recounts, his appearance in a movie that featured a gopher dancing to Kenny Loggins’ “I’m Alright” has even led to presidential meetings. “Even President Clinton thought because of Caddyshack, it was worth inviting me up to Camp David to spend the weekend after Easter,” Chase remembers.