The Unfulfilled Promise of Chevy Chase

This is one in a series of posts we are producing in connection with our new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, available from Bear Manor Media in February 2013.

Today is the birthday of tv and movie comedian Cornelius Crane “Chevy” Chase (b. 1943). To the slapstick comedy fan, Chase’s cinematic career (like nearly everybody’s else’s in the past half century or more) has been one of unfulfilled promise. From a highly auspicious beginning taking weekly pratfalls on Saturday Night Live, he made a single first rate comedy film with Goldie Hawn Foul Play, in 1978. It seems to me this is the only one of all of his films that makes full use of his gifts and is a terrific movie over all. (With Caddyshack, 1980, a sort of second runner-up, although he is part of a large ensemble. And — go back and watch it — it’s a really stupid movie). Since then, he’s made dozens of films that are either just moronic or crummy (though that didn’t stop many of them from being hits), or at best mediocre. The best of the lot, Fletch, 1985, is pleasant, amusing and inoffensive, but that’s the best that can be said about it.

So today let’s just remember that tantalizing, golden moment of possibility when he was at the top of his game. The trailer to Foul Play showcases him in that light, and you get to watch him fall down a couple of times:

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