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Told in flashback from their successful nightclub perch, Harvey Miller (Jerry Lewis) and Joe Anthony (Dean Martin) recall how they first met as golfers on the professional competition circuit in director Norman Taurog's The Caddy (1953).
Harvey and Joe are both unable to fulfill their father's expectations for their futures. Harvey's father is a professional golfer, but he has a fear of crowds and Joe is the son of a fisherman who suffers from sea sickness. The two meet when Joe comes home to visit his family in San Francisco and finds his sister Lisa (Barbara Bates) engaged to Harvey.
Harvey's performance anxiety keeps him from competing on the professional golf circuit, but he teaches Joe everything he knows about the game. With Harvey playing caddy, the duo have their first tournament at the Santa Barbara Open where they encounter snobbery from Joe's fellow players and Joe meets a beautiful socialite Kathy Taylor (Donna Reed). When Joe is cajoled to sing a musical number at a local nightclub, Harvey joins him onstage and the pair exhibit their comic chemistry. Later, at the high-stakes PGA tour, a theatrical producer convinces the pair that their proper place is not on the golf course, but on the nightclub stage.
Sprinkled amidst the golf plot are plenty of musical numbers including Joe crooning "That's Amore" written by Harry Warren and Jack Brooks, which became a signature song for Martin. Born Salvatore Guaragna, Warren was a comrade of Dean's hired by Lewis to write songs for Dean. But Warren didn't like working for Lewis and once told an interviewer, according to writer Shawn Levy in his book The King of Comedy, "I watch his telethon just to see if he's as crass as he used to be. He was a pain in the ass."
Despite Dean's reputed hatred for the song, "That's Amore" was his breakthrough hit and remained on the Hit Parade for almost five months and received an Academy Award nomination. Dean was reportedly irritated when Lewis, who had always been known as the comic relief in their film roles, also horned in on the musical numbers in The Caddy, performing the spoofy number "The Gay Continental" where Harvey masquerades as a rich swell to finagle a free breakfast.
The Caddy's working title was So Where's the Money?. It was the first entirely independent release of Martin and Lewis' production company York Pictures backed by the shady money of playboy millionaire and mob associate Ray Ryan. To make their first York hit At War with the Army (1950) the duo had to pay Screen Associates to get out of their contract. The duo made three more pictures together under the auspices of York: The Delicate Delinquent (1957), Living It Up (1954), and Pardners (1956).
The location shooting for the golf course scenes in The Caddy took place at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. The idea for the film was inspired by a sketch the duo had done on television's "The Colgate Comedy Hour" in 1951. Lewis had suggested a plot line centered on golf because Martin loved the game.
Lewis was an enormously popular film entertainer whose comic persona has been described by Peter Bogdanovich as representing "the frightened or funny nine-year-old in everybody." After a successful run as a nightclub and then radio team, Lewis and Martin made their first picture together in 1949, My Friend Irma. The pair eventually made 16 pictures together, with their films consistently among the year's top grossers.
"Right from the start, he knew exactly what to do to be funny; and when he saw what could be done with a partner like the conventionally handsome, dry, wry, older, suave and satiric ladies' man that Dean Martin was, together they struck a vein of gold," says Bogdanovich of Lewis's appeal.
Janet Leigh, who worked with the pair on their follow up to The Caddy, Living It Up, remembered their onset repertoire as friendly and jokey, though they rarely seemed to socialize off the set. That separation was said to be a conscious decision of Lewis's. He had been told by vaudeville comedians Chick Johnson and Ole Olsen that it was best to keep wives apart to keep jealousy at bay.
But the pair eventually had a falling out in 1956 after making their last picture together Hollywood or Bust in which director Frank Tashlin says the two partners refused to talk to each other. According to Bogdanovich, Lewis said their friendship began to sour in 1954 and was ruined by "outside factions" jealous of their close relationship, though others blamed Lewis's egomania and need to be the center of attention in their films.
In a televised reconciliation at the 1976 Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon at Las Vegas's Sands Hotel, Frank Sinatra brought Martin on stage with him and Martin and Lewis embraced.
The opening scenes of The Caddy were shot at the Times Square Paramount Theater, and included actual footage of their stage routine.
Though Lewis often acted as writer on his films, The Caddy was credited to other screenwriters. It nevertheless exhibited telltale marks of Lewis's comedy. Lewis had a habit of casting his sports heroes in his films and included golfers Ben Hogan, Julius Boros, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead in the film. For their first independent production together, Lewis also retained the crew that had served them so well in their Paramount productions: cinematographer Daniel Fapp, costume designer Edith Head, art director Hal Pereira, editor Warren Low and optical effects man Farciot Edouart who contributed to The Caddy's self-referential in-joke conclusion. While performing at the Paramount, Harvey and Joe run into the real Lewis and Martin who are also appearing that night.
Of Lewis's ultimately telling hand in The Caddy production, The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote "Mr. Martin, for his pretty singing and his romancing, rates the usual nod. But Mr. Lewis is slowly taking over. Just give him a couple of more years."
Director: Norman Taurog
Producer: Paul Jones
Screenplay: Edmund Hartmann, Danny Arnold, Ken Englund, Danny Arnold
Cinematography: Daniel L. Fapp
Production Design: Hal Pereira, Franz Bachelin
Music: Joseph J. Lilley
Cast: Dean Martin (Joe Anthony), Jerry Lewis (Harvey Miller), Donna Reed (Kathy Taylor), Barbara Bates (Lisa Anthony), Joseph Calleia (Papa Anthony), Fred Clark (Mr. Baxter), Clinton Sundberg (Charles), Howard I. Smith (Golf Official).
by Felicia Feaster