15 Things You Might Not Know About Caddyshack

You may already know your favorite moments from Caddyshack, which turns 35 years old today, by heart. But after reading this list, you’ll be a lock for membership at Bushwood Country Club.

1. Caddyshack got made because of Animal House.

Caddyshack director and co-writer Harold Ramis was also a co-writer of the 1978 National Lampoon comedy classic Animal House, along with eventual Caddyshack co-writer and producer Douglas Kenney. Held to only a $3 million budget, their film of frat-house shenanigans went on to gross $141 million at the box office.

You would think that box office success would afford the filmmakers carte-blanche privileges for any follow-up project, but that wasn't the case. Ramis pitched two ideas to Orion Pictures (the now-defunct production company that would go on to make Caddyshack): One was a dark satirical comedy about the American Nazi Party in Skokie, Illinois, and the other was what Ramis dubbed a “revisionist Marxist western.” Both ideas were swiftly rejected, but another idea—a comedy about caddies at a country club, pitched by Kenney and co-writer Brian Doyle-Murray as “Animal House on a golf course”—was given an immediate green light.

2. The screenwriting process was (almost) entirely autobiographical.

To write their screenplay, Ramis, Kenney, and Doyle-Murray locked themselves in a room and tried to recall everything they knew about or experienced at golf courses and country clubs growing up—most of which came from Doyle-Murray, who caddied at Indian Hill Country Club in the suburbs of Chicago as a kid.

Doyle-Murray's sizeable Irish Catholic family even served as the inspiration for scenes and characters in the film. His brother Bill played head greensman Carl Spackler. Memories of living with their eight other siblings (including three sisters) inspired the opening scenes with main character Danny Noonan’s overcrowded house of siblings. Danny, who sets out to win the caddy tournament scholarship, was based on Doyle-Murray’s older brother Ed, who won a similar prize when he was young. The lumberyard that employs Danny is borrowed from the real life of Doyle-Murray’s father, who was an executive at J.J. Barney Lumber Company. The infamous "Baby Ruth in the pool" scene was culled from the Murray kids' real-life high school exploits.

Ramis drew from real-life experience while writing as well. He admittedly had only played golf twice in his life before directing the film, and recalled that he nailed someone in the nether regions with one of his first practice shots taken to prepare for the film. Naturally, he made use of this tale by contributing the scene where Judge Smails (played by Ted Knight) gets hit in the crotch with an errant golf ball.

3. The studio wouldn’t make the movie unless they got a star.

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The finished Caddyshack script was a whopping 250 pages in length, more than double the average screenplay. Studio bosses immediately demanded that it be cut down, and added a second stipulation: No star, no movie. First-time director Ramis offered them three, though the first two were untested as far as the studio was concerned.

The filmmakers originally envisioned actor Don Rickles as the slobbish condo magnate Al Czervik, but they settled on comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who'd garnered success in comedy circles and on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Caddyshack would be his first big feature film. Bill Murray was fresh off of three years at Saturday Night Live and had appeared in Meatballs (co-written by Ramis) and Where the Buffalo Roam. The studio finally went ahead when Ramis and company secured Chevy Chase to portray the film's pompous-but-well-meaning playboy Ty Webb (whom they had written the part for anyway, unbeknownst to the studio).

Chase was the biggest catch of the three, having received a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination for the 1979 box-office hit Foul Play. Ramis had Mickey Rourke in mind for the leading role of Danny Noonan, but felt that he couldn't convincingly portray the "goofy kid-next-door." Filmmakers ultimately settled on actor Michael O’Keefe.

4. Ramis didn’t know what he was doing from day one.

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By 1980, Harold Ramis was already a comedy heavyweight, having garnered success live (with the Second City comedy troupe), on the radio (the National Lampoon Radio Hour), and on television (SCTV). He'd also co-written Meatballs and Animal House, but Caddyshack marked his first attempt at directing. Conflicting accounts from cast and crew say that Ramis looked through the camera lens instead of the viewfinder on the first day, and also mistakenly called out “Cut!” instead of “Action!” on early takes. The veracity of these jokes is uncertain, but it is true that the studio was so skeptical of Ramis's abilities that they asked associate producer Don MacDonald to submit a list of directors who could be quickly brought in as on-the-fly replacements, if needed. Luckily, Ramis figured things out, later directing such comedy classics as National Lampoon’s Vacation and Groundhog Day

5. The filmmakers got out of L.A. to avoid problems, but found new ones.

Orion Pictures wanted the production to be filmed in Los Angeles, but Ramis knew things would be better out from under the thumb of studio execs. He convinced the studio to look elsewhere, since the Illinois setting of the fictional Bushwood Country Club wouldn't include Southern California's palm trees. But the chosen site was Rolling Hills Country Club (now Grande Oaks) in Davie, Florida—which had palm trees! Rolling Hills was one of the few golf courses away from L.A. that would allow the production of a movie on its grounds.

Production was held up both completely (by Hurricane David) and sporadically (by the noise from flights leaving and entering nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport). The cast and crew took advantage of the hurricane delay by holding a huge indoor party at their hotel next to the country club.

6. Rodney Dangerfield’s audition was unorthodox, and on set, he felt that he got no respect.

Prior to Caddyshack, Dangerfield was known primarily as a comic from his appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show, and The Tonight Show (he appeared a total of 36 times). Caddyshack marked Dangerfield's first big-time appearance on the silver screen. For his audition, the comic allegedly arrived at executive producer Jon Peters's office in a black stretch limosine, wearing a long black trench coat with a cheap leisure suit underneath. When it was time for him to audition, he walked into the room, removed his pants, and said, “Let’s eat!” He won the role of nouveau-riche bigmouth Al Czervik, but became nervous whenever he turned on his personality in front of the camera. When actor Scott Colomby (slick caddy antagonist Tony D’Annunzio) asked Dangerfield about his struggles, Rodney allegedly said that he was bombing because nobody was laughing at his jokes. Colomby reassured the rookie actor that if they laughed they’d ruin the take.

7. Bill Murray showed up for six days and made comedy history.

As a youngster, Bill Murray was a groundskeeper, a caddy, and even ran a hot dog stand at the Indian Hill Country Club, the location that inspired the Illinois setting of the film. At first, Murray's appearance as oafish groundskeeper Carl Spackler was planned as a quick cameo, but his characterization was so funny that Ramis requested he stick with the production a bit longer. Murray filmed for a total of six days, and all of his lines—including his Dalai Lama speech—were improvised on-the-spot. In fact, the only script direction for what became his "Cinderella speech" read: “Carl cuts off the tops of flowers with a grass whip.” Murray took it from there and ad-libbed lines that would, in 2005, be named to the AFI's list of greatest movie quotes of all time.     

8. Ramis also cast an actor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and poked fun at his career in a clever way.

Actor Henry Wilcoxon plays the unassuming but hilarious role of Bishop Pickering—and it was the last film he made before he passed away in 1984. The actor had been involved in some of Hollywood's biggest epics: His stage and screen career reached back all the way to a role in 1931’s The Perfect Lady, and included roles in 1941's That Hamilton Woman and 1942's Mrs. Miniver, which won an Oscar for Best Picture.

Historically, Wilcoxon is best known for his collaborations with legendary director Cecil B. DeMille. Wilcoxon played Marc Antony in DeMille’s Cleopatra in 1934, Richard the Lion-Hearted in 1935’s The Crusades, and was in The Greatest Show on Earth—another Best Picture winner—in 1952. In his Caddyshack scene, Wilcoxon is struck by lightning after shouting "Rat farts!" when he missed a putt to end what would have been the best golf game of his life. Ramis knowingly added in a music cue from DeMille’s film The Ten Commandments. Wilcoxon appears in that film as well, playing Pentaur.

9. The film’s Zen golf techniques came from co-writer-producer Douglas Kenney.

The idea for Ty Webb quoting 17th-century Japanese poet Bashō and using Zen philosophy to better his golf score came from Kenney’s personal experimentation with Buddhist meditation and enlightenment. According to Doyle-Murray, Kenney “had an idea for a putter with electromagnetic sensors that would signal you to putt when you'd reach alpha state." Later, when the filmmakers wanted Ty Webb to make some sort of Zen sound, and Kenney wasn’t around to advise them, Ramis just gave Chevy Chase one direction: “Make a spiritual sounding sound.” Chase improvised Webb’s hilarious “Na-na-na-na-na” putting sound on the spot.

Caddyshack wasn't the only time the writer infused his projects with Zen; he tried to make a few movies about the topic. One rejected pitch was a comedy about Zen Buddhists in the Himalayas fighting the Red Chinese. He also tried to produce a film adaptation of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance before his accidental death in 1980, just a month after Caddyshack hit theaters.

10. Caddyshack evolved into something other than “Animal House on a golf course,” and employed a classic comedy trio for inspiration.

Ramis filmed scripted scenes of Danny and the caddies running wild at the country club, believing that his scenes with Tony D’Annunzio and Maggie O'Hooligan would form the main core of the story. But viewing the dailies after a few days of shooting, Ramis realized that the scenes featuring the golfers were too essential to let go. This forced Ramis and his co-screenwriters to reconfigure the narrative focus of the coming-of-age story about Danny into a broader comedic view of the country club itself, based around the hilarious vignettes involving Murray, Dangerfield, and Chase. Ramis would now conduct Caddyshack as if it were a Marx Brothers film. According to Ramis, he thought of Dangerfield as Groucho, Murray as Harpo, and Chase as Chico.

11. The introduction scene between Murray and Chase was based on the contents of a studio note.

The original script for Caddyshack did not include a scene where Carl Spackler and Ty Webb meet, so the studio sent Ramis a note requesting that he take advantage of the talent and come up with a funny scene for Murray and Chase. Some on the set were skeptical of the outcome, thanks to some bad blood between the two after Murray replaced Chase on SNL.

Ramis, Murray, and Chase met to discuss things when production broke for lunch, and they worked together to come up with an outline of a scene where Ty stumbles into Carl’s shed, and the two talk about Carl's rather unique strain of grass, which can be used both on golf courses and to smoke like marijuana. Like much of the comedic bits from the film, the scene was ultimately improvised by the SNL alums and was shot without incident. Murray would later talk about a fight that broke out between the two when Chase returned to co-host SNL while Murray was still on the cast, saying "It was kind of a non-event. It was just the significance of it. It was an Oedipal thing, a rupture.”

12. The Gopher wasn’t originally a big part of the movie.

When shooting concluded in September 1979, Ramis and editor William Carruth had a lot of footage to work with. With so much plot and so many jokes, their first rough cut of the film ran 4.5 hours long. They had already decided to abandon Danny as the main focal point in favor of the comedic heavyweights in Murray, Dangerfield, Chase, and Knight. Still, the filmmakers felt that they needed something to package the film and make the story more coherent. Executive producer Jon Peters suggested, on a whim, that they increase the role of the gopher, turning it into the narrative through-line that tied the film's bits together. The only problem? They didn’t really have a gopher.

During filming, Murray acted his scenes “hunting” the gopher by himself, and the only scene they shot with him trying to catch it involved a hand puppet made out of mink fur. (This cheap puppet can also be seen in the scene where Dangerfield yells “Hey, that kangaroo stole my ball!”)

Ramis looked into bringing in a live, trained gopher to act out the scenes, but Peters weasled some extra money out of the studio and tasked special effects supervisor John Dykstra (an Oscar-winning FX master who had worked on on Star Wars) to create a believable gopher puppet. This explains why Murray and the dancing rodent never appear together onscreen—the scenes in the gopher holes were shot by Dykstra after principal photography had concluded, and were cleverly stitched in to make the scenes appear seamless. The sound effects used for the gopher were the same sounds used for the dolphin in the 1960s TV series Flipper.

13. The owners of the country club were not happy about the explosions on the golf course.

The climactic scene of Murray’s gopher-killing plastic explosives knocking in Danny’s putt to win the unfriendly wager between Al Czervik (Dangerfield) and Judge Smails (Knight) were real pyrotechnics set aflame at Rolling Hills. To pull off the effect, an artificial green was rigged with several incendiary packs and put into place between two fairways.

This was news to the owners of the country club, who had made it clear to filmmakers that the outrageous climax couldn't be shot anywhere near their golf course. To get them to “comply,” producer Jon Peters invited them out for a swanky lunch away from the country club to “thank them for letting the film use the location.” Ramis then had the special effects crew blow up the fake green while they were away. The fireball from the explosion was so large that a pilot landing a plane at nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport radioed in to air traffic control that he thought he might have witnessed a crash.  

14. Harold Ramis made some unusual choices for the songs in the film.

As the 1980s began, it seemed like every movie was accompanied by a custom theme song or a catchy pop single, and Caddyshack was no different. But Harold Ramis’ first choice for the artist behind that song was a little unorthodox for the type of silly comedy he was making. The director first approached Pink Floyd—who had just released their sprawling concept double-album The Wall—to come up with a song to play over the film's opening and closing credits. The band politely declined, and soft rock icon Kenny Loggins stepped in to provide the song “I’m Alright” for the film. Loggins would go on to find additional soundtrack fame with 1986’s “Danger Zone” from the film Top Gun.

15. You can experience Caddyshack yourself at the Murray Bros. Caddyshack Restaurant.

On June 7, 2001, all six Murray brothers (Ed, Brian, Bill, Andy, John, and Joel) opened a Caddyshack-themed restaurant at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida. Designed to “look and feel like a country club gone awry,” the restaurant's menu includes a Double Bogey Cheeseburger, Pulled Pork Sandwedge, and the CaddyShake. Wall displays provide pictures and quotes from the film, and hidden gophers litter the décor. It's said that Bill Murray even stops in from time to time to sing a little karaoke.

Additional Source: Caddyshack DVD commentary

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25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites
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Here’s an ambiguous sentence for you: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, "Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression," or does it mean, "Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default"? We’ve stumbled into the looking-glass world of contronyms—words that are their own antonyms.

1. Sanction (via French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire ‘ratify,’) can mean "give official permission or approval for (an action)" or conversely, "impose a penalty on."

2. Oversight is the noun form of two verbs with contrary meanings, “oversee” and “overlook.” Oversee, from Old English ofersēon ("look at from above") means "supervise" (medieval Latin for the same thing: super-, "over" plus videre, "to see.") Overlook usually means the opposite: "to fail to see or observe; to pass over without noticing; to disregard, ignore."

3. Left can mean either remaining or departed. If the gentlemen have withdrawn to the drawing room for after-dinner cigars, who’s left? (The gentlemen have left and the ladies are left.)

4. Dust, along with the next two words, is a noun turned into a verb meaning either to add or to remove the thing in question. Only the context will tell you which it is. When you dust are you applying dust or removing it? It depends whether you’re dusting the crops or the furniture.

5. Seed can also go either way. If you seed the lawn you add seeds, but if you seed a tomato you remove them.

6. Stone is another verb to use with caution. You can stone some peaches, but please don’t stone your neighbor (even if he says he likes to get stoned).

7. Trim as a verb predates the noun, but it can also mean either adding or taking away. Arising from an Old English word meaning "to make firm or strong; to settle, arrange," trim came to mean "to prepare, make ready." Depending on who or what was being readied, it could mean either of two contradictory things: "to decorate something with ribbons, laces, or the like to give it a finished appearance" or "to cut off the outgrowths or irregularities of." And the context doesn’t always make it clear. If you’re trimming the tree are you using tinsel or a chain saw?

8. Cleave can be cleaved into two homographs, words with different origins that end up spelled the same. Cleave, meaning "to cling to or adhere," comes from an Old English word that took the forms cleofian, clifian, or clīfan. Cleave, with the contrary meaning "to split or sever (something)"—as you might do with a cleaver—comes from a different Old English word, clēofan. The past participle has taken various forms: cloven, which survives in the phrase “cloven hoof,” “cleft,” as in a “cleft palate” or “cleaved.”

9. Resign works as a contronym in writing. This time we have homographs, but not homophones. Resign, meaning "to quit," is spelled the same as resign, meaning "to sign up again," but it’s pronounced differently.

10. Fast can mean "moving rapidly," as in running fast, or "fixed, unmoving," as in holding fast. If colors are fast they will not run. The meaning "firm, steadfast" came first; the adverb took on the sense "strongly, vigorously," which evolved into "quickly," a meaning that spread to the adjective.

11. Off means "deactivated," as in to turn off, but also "activated," as in the alarm went off.

12. Weather can mean "to withstand or come safely through" (as in the company weathered the recession) or it can mean "to be worn away" (the rock was weathered).

13. Screen can mean to show (a movie) or to hide (an unsightly view).

14. Help means "assist," unless you can’t help doing something, when it means "prevent."

15. Clip can mean "to bind together" or "to separate." You clip sheets of paper to together or separate part of a page by clipping something out. Clip is a pair of homographs, words with different origins spelled the same. Old English clyppan, which means "to clasp with the arms, embrace, hug," led to our current meaning, "to hold together with a clasp." The other clip, "to cut or snip (a part) away," is from Old Norse klippa, which may come from the sound of a shears.

16. Continue usually means to persist in doing something, but as a legal term it means stop a proceeding temporarily.

17. Fight with can be interpreted three ways. “He fought with his mother-in-law” could mean "They argued," "They served together in the war," or "He used the old battle-ax as a weapon." (Thanks to linguistics professor Robert Hertz for this idea.)

18. Flog, meaning "to punish by caning or whipping," shows up in school slang of the 17th century, but now it can have the contrary meaning, "to promote persistently," as in “flogging a new book.” Perhaps that meaning arose from the sense "to urge (a horse, etc.) forward by whipping," which grew out of the earliest meaning.

19. Go means "to proceed," but also "give out or fail," i.e., “This car could really go until it started to go.”

20. Hold up can mean "to support" or "to hinder": “What a friend! When I’m struggling to get on my feet, he’s always there to hold me up.”

21. Out can mean "visible" or "invisible." For example, “It’s a good thing the full moon was out when the lights went out.”

22. Out of means "outside" or "inside": “I hardly get out of the house because I work out of my home.”

23. B**ch can derisively refer to a woman who is considered overly aggressive or domineering, or it can refer to someone passive or submissive.

24. Peer is a person of equal status (as in a jury of one’s peers), but some peers are more equal than others, like the members of the peerage, the British or Irish nobility.

25. Toss out could be either "to suggest" or "to discard": “I decided to toss out the idea.”

The contronym (also spelled “contranym”) goes by many names, including auto-antonym, antagonym, enantiodrome, self-antonym, antilogy and Janus word (from the Roman god of beginnings and endings, often depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions). Can’t get enough of them? The folks at Daily Writing Tips have rounded up even more.

This piece originally ran in 2015.

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12 Facts About James Joyce
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June 16, 1904 is the day that James Joyce, the Irish author of Modernist masterpieces like Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and who was described as “a curious mixture of sinister genius and uncertain talent,” set his seminal work, Ulysses. It also thought to be the day that he had his first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle.

He was as mythical as the myths he used as the foundations for his own work. So in honor of that June day in 1904—known to fans worldwide as “Bloomsday,” after one of the book’s protagonists, Leopold Bloom—here are 12 facts about James Joyce.

1. HE WAS ONLY 9 WHEN HIS FIRST PIECE OF WRITING WAS PUBLISHED.

In 1891, shortly after he had to leave Clongowes Wood College when his father lost his job, 9-year-old Joyce wrote a poem called “Et Tu Healy?” It was published by his father John and distributed to friends; the elder Joyce thought so highly of it, he allegedly sent copies to the Pope.

No known complete copies of the poem exist, but the precocious student’s verse allegedly denounced a politician named Tim Healy for abandoning 19th century Irish nationalist politician Charles Stewart Parnell after a sex scandal. Fragments of the ending of the poem, later remembered by James’s brother Stanislaus, showed Parnell looking down on Irish politicians:

His quaint-perched aerie on the crags of Time
Where the rude din of this century
Can trouble him no more

While the poem was seemingly quaint, young Joyce equating Healy as Brutus and Parnell as Caesar marked the first time he’d use old archetypes in a modern context, much in the same way Ulysses is a unique retelling of The Odyssey.

As an adult, Joyce would publish his first book, a collection of poems called Chamber Music, in 1907. It was followed by Dubliners, a collection of short stories, in 1914, and the semi-autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (in which Clongowes Wood College is prominently featured) in 1916.

2. HE CAUSED A CONTROVERSY AT HIS COLLEGE’S PAPER.

While attending University College Dublin, Joyce attempted to publish a negative review—titled “The Day of the Rabblement”—of a new local playhouse called the Irish Literary Theatre in the school’s paper, St. Stephen’s. Joyce’s condemnation of the theater’s “parochialism” was allegedly so scathing that the paper’s editors, after seeking consultation from one of the school’s priests, refused to print it.

Incensed about possible censorship, Joyce appealed to the school’s president, who sided with the editors—which prompted Joyce to put up his own money to publish 85 copies to be distributed across campus.

The pamphlet, published alongside a friend’s essay to beef up the page-count, came with the preface: “These two essays were commissioned by the editor of St. Stephen’s for that paper, but were subsequently refused insertion by the censor.” It wouldn’t be the last time Joyce would fight censorship.

3. NORA BARNACLE GHOSTED HIM FOR THEIR PLANNED FIRST DATE.

By the time Nora Barnacle and Joyce finally married in 1931, they had lived together for 27 years, traveled the continent and had two children. The couple first met in Dublin in 1904 when Joyce struck up a conversation with her near the hotel where Nora worked as a chambermaid. She initially mistook him for a Swedish sailor because of his blue eyes and the yachting cap he wore that day, and he charmed her so much that they set a date for June 14—but she didn’t show.

He then wrote her a letter, saying, “I looked for a long time at a head of reddish-brown hair and decided it was not yours. I went home quite dejected. I would like to make an appointment but it might not suit you. I hope you will be kind enough to make one with me—if you have not forgotten me!” This led to their first date, which supposedly took place on June 16, 1904.

She would continue to be his muse throughout their life together in both his published work (the character Molly Bloom in Ulysses is based on her) and their fruitful personal correspondence. Their notably dirty love letters to each other—featuring him saying their love-making reminded him of “a hog riding a sow” and signing off one by saying “Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty littlef**kbird!"—have highlighted the NSFW nature of their relationship. In fact, one of Joyce’s signed erotic letters to Nora fetched a record £240,800 ($446,422) at a London auction in 2004.

4. HE HAD REALLY BAD EYES.

While Joyce’s persistent money problems caused him to lead a life of what could be categorized as creative discomfort, he had to deal with a near lifetime of medical discomfort as well. Joyce suffered from anterior uveitis, which led to a series of around 12 eye surgeries over his lifetime. (Due to the relatively unsophisticated state of ophthalmology at the time, and his decision not to listen to contemporary medical advice, scholars speculate that his iritis, glaucoma, and cataracts could have been caused by sarcoidosis, syphilis, tuberculosis, or any number of congenital problems.) His vision issues caused Joyce to wear an eye patch for years and forced him to do his writing on large white sheets of paper using only red crayon. The persistent eye struggles even inspired him to name his daughter Lucia, after St. Lucia, patron saint of the blind.

5. HE TAUGHT ENGLISH AT A BERLITZ LANGUAGE SCHOOL.

In 1904, Joyce—eager to get out of Ireland—responded to an ad for a teaching position in Europe. Evelyn Gilford, a job agent based in the British town of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, notified Joyce that a job was reserved for him and, for two guineas, he would be told exactly where the position was. Joyce sent the money, and by the end of 1904, he and his future wife, Nora, had left Dublin for the job at a Berlitz language school in Zurich, Switzerland—but when they got there, the pair learned there was no open position. But they did hear a position was open at a Berlitz school in Trieste, Italy. The pair packed up and moved on to Italy only to find out they’d been swindled again.

Joyce eventually found a Berlitz teaching job in Pola in Austria-Hungary (now Pula, Croatia). English was one of 17 languages Joyce could speak; others included Arabic, Sanskrit, Greek, and Italian (which eventually became his preferred language, and one that he exclusively spoke at home with his family). He also loved playwright Henrik Ibsen so much that he learned Norwegian so that he could read Ibsen's works in their original form—and send the writer a fan letter in his native tongue.

6. HE INVESTED IN A MOVIE THEATER.

There are about 400 movie theaters in Ireland today, but they trace their history back to 1909, when Joyce helped open the Volta Cinematograph, which is considered “the first full-time, continuous, dedicated cinema” in Ireland.

More a money-making scheme than a product of a love of cinema, Joyce first got the idea when he was having trouble getting Dubliners published and noticed the abundance of cinemas while living in Trieste. When his sister, Eva, told him Ireland didn’t have any movie theaters, Joyce joined up with four Italian investors (he’d get 10 percent of the profits) to open up the Volta on Dublin’s Mary Street.

The venture fizzled as quickly as Joyce’s involvement. After not attracting audiences due to mostly showing only Italian and European movies unpopular with everyday Dubliners, Joyce cut his losses and pulled out of the venture after only seven months.

The cinema itself didn’t close until 1919, during the time Joyce was hard at work on Ulysses. (It reopened with a different name in 1921 and didn’t fully close until 1948.)

7. HE TURNED TO A COMPLETELY INEXPERIENCED PUBLISHER TO RELEASE HIS MOST WELL-KNOWN BOOK.

The publishing history of Ulysses is itself its own odyssey. Joyce began writing the work in 1914, and by 1918 he had begun serializing the novel in the American magazine Little Review with the help of poet Ezra Pound.

But by 1921, Little Review was in financial trouble. The published version of Episode 13 of Ulysses, “Nausicaa,” resulted in a costly obscenity lawsuit against its publishers, Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, and the book was banned in the United States. Joyce appealed to different publishers for help—including Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press—but none agreed to take on a project with such legal implications (and in Virginia Woolf’s case, length), no matter how supposedly groundbreaking it was.

Joyce, then based in Paris, made friends with Sylvia Beach, whose bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, was a gathering hub for the post-war expatriate creative community. In her autobiography, Beach wrote:

All hope of publication in the English-speaking countries, at least for a long time to come, was gone. And here in my little bookshop sat James Joyce, sighing deeply.

It occurred to me that something might be done, and I asked : “Would you let Shakespeare and Company have the honour of bringing out your Ulysses?”

He accepted my offer immediately and joyfully. I thought it rash of him to entrust his great Ulysses to such a funny little publisher. But he seemed delighted, and so was I. ... Undeterred by lack of capital, experience, and all the other requisites of a publisher, I went right ahead with Ulysses.

Beach planned a first edition of 1000 copies (with 100 signed by the author), while the book would continue to be banned in a number of countries throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Eventually it was allowed to be published in the United States in 1933 after the case United States v. One Book Called Ulysses deemed the book not obscene and allowed it in the United States.

8. ERNEST HEMINGWAY WAS HIS DRINKING BUDDY—AND SOMETIMES HIS BODYGUARD.

Ernest Hemingway—who was major champion of Ulysses—met Joyce at Shakespeare and Company, and was later a frequent companion among the bars of Paris with writers like Wyndham Lewis and Valery Larbaud.

Hemingway recalled the Irish writer would start to get into drunken fights and leave Hemingway to deal with the consequences. "Once, in one of those casual conversations you have when you're drinking," Hemingway said, "Joyce said to me he was afraid his writing was too suburban and that maybe he should get around a bit and see the world. He was afraid of some things, lightning and things, but a wonderful man. He was under great discipline—his wife, his work and his bad eyes. His wife was there and she said, yes, his work was too suburban--'Jim could do with a spot of that lion hunting.' We would go out to drink and Joyce would fall into a fight. He couldn't even see the man so he'd say, 'Deal with him, Hemingway! Deal with him!'"

9. HE MET ANOTHER MODERNIST TITAN—AND HAD A TERRIBLE TIME.

Marcel Proust’s gargantuan, seven-volume masterpiece, À la recherche du temps perdu, is perhaps the other most important Modernist work of the early 20th century besides Ulysses. In May 1922, the authors met at a party for composer Igor Stravinsky and ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev in Paris. The Dubliners author arrived late, was drunk, and wasn’t wearing formal clothes because he was too poor to afford them. Proust arrived even later than Joyce, and though there are varying accounts of what was actually said between the two, every known version points to a very anticlimactic meeting of the minds.

According to author William Carlos Williams, Joyce said, “I’ve headaches every day. My eyes are terrible,” to which the ailing Proust replied, “My poor stomach. What am I going to do? It’s killing me. In fact, I must leave at once.”

Publisher Margaret Anderson claimed that Proust admitted, “I regret that I don’t know Mr. Joyce’s work,” while Joyce replied, “I have never read Mr. Proust.”

Art reviewer Arthur Power said both writers simply talked about liking truffles. Joyce later told painter Frank Budgen, “Our talk consisted solely of the word ‘No.’”

10. HE CREATED A 100-LETTER WORD TO DESCRIBE HIS FEAR OF THUNDER AND LIGHTNING.

Joyce had a childhood fear of thunder and lightning, which sprang from his Catholic governess’s pious warnings that such meteorological occurrences were actually God manifesting his anger at him. The fear haunted the writer all his life, though Joyce recognized the beginnings of his phobia. When asked by a friend why he was so afraid of rough weather, Joyce responded, “You were not brought up in Catholic Ireland.”

The fear also manifested itself in Joyce’s writing. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the autobiographical protagonist Stephen Dedalus says he fears “dogs, horses, firearms, the sea, thunderstorms, [and] machinery.”

But the most fascinating manifestation of his astraphobia is in his stream of consciousness swan song, Finnegans Wake, where he created the 100-letter word Bababadalgharaghtaka-mminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk to represent a symbolic biblical thunderclap. The mouthful is actually made up of different words for “thunder” in French (tonnerre), Italian (tuono), Greek (bronte), and Japanese (kaminari).

11. HE’S THOUGHT OF AS A LITERARY GENIUS, BUT NOT EVERYONE WAS A FAN.

Fellow Modernist Virginia Woolf didn't much care for Joyce or his work. She compared his writing to "a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples," and said that "one hopes he’ll grow out of it; but as Joyce is 40 this scarcely seems likely."

She wasn't the only one. In a letter, D.H. Lawrence—who wrote such classics as Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Loversaid of Joyce: “My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness.”

“Do I get much pleasure from this work? No," author H.G. Wells wrote in his review of Finnegans Wake. “ ... Who the hell is this Joyce who demands so many waking hours of the few thousand I have still to live for a proper appreciation of his quirks and fancies and flashes of rendering?”

Even his partner Nora had a difficult time with his work, saying after the publication of Ulysses, “Why don’t you write sensible books that people can understand?”

12. HIS SUPPOSED FINAL WORDS WERE AS ABSTRACT AS HIS WRITING.

Joyce was admitted to a Zurich hospital in January 1941 for a perforated duodenal ulcer, but slipped into a coma after surgery and died on January 13. His last words were befitting his notoriously difficult works—they're said to have been, "Does nobody understand?"

Additional Source: James Joyce

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