“We’re on a mission from God” | The Blues Brothers (1980)

‘Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Universal Amphitheatre. Well, here it is, the late 1970s, going on 1985. You know, so much of the music we hear today is pre-programmed electronic disco, we never get a chance to hear master bluesmen practising their craft anymore. By the year 2006, the music known today as the blues will exist only in the classical records department of your local public library. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, while we still can, let us welcome, from Rock Island, Illinois, the blues band of ‘Joliet’ Jake and Elwood Blues, The Blues Brothers.’

Elwood Blues in the Blues Brothers, A Briefcase Full of Blues.

It was June 1980, and Universal Pictures’ owner Lew Wasserman had a big problem. The studio had a comedy about to hit cinemas: The Blues Brothers, a feature film spun from a musical sketch comedy act on TV’s Saturday Night Live. When put into production, the film seemed a commercial slam dunk. Stars Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were hugely popular on SNL, and Belushi had become a major film star on the back of the big-screen comedy Animal House.

Now that the film was ready for release, it had suffered from catastrophic cost overruns. The production had experienced repeated delays, widespread drug use, and a screenplay that had been rewritten throughout the shoot. Its stars had both left Saturday Night Live, and Belushi’s last film 1941 was a critical and commercial disaster. Both actors and director John Landis filled the musical cast with the likes of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and John Lee Hooker – singers who haven’t had a commercial hit in years – and blocked all attempts by the studio to introduce more contemporary talent. What is worse, the predominant casting of African American talent had scared off movie theatres in southern states and white suburbs across the country. Universal had planned to open the film across as many as 2,000 screens; instead it was opening to 600. By any standard of commerce or filmmaking, The Blues Brothers seemed at that point to be an unmitigated disaster. It was the sort of mistake that would end careers.

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There are three characters at the centre of this story, and it is worth taking time to introduce them.

Jump back a decade to 1970, from Los Angeles to Ottawa, and to a 17-year-old aspiring actor named Dan Aykroyd. He wanted to do comedy professionally, and he wanted to play music. Until very recently he had held aspirations to become a priest. His ambitions were, as it turned out, difficult to fulfil; he had both Tourette’s and (unknown to him at the time) Asberger’s syndrome. ‘I had physical tics,’ he would later explain, ‘nervousness and made grunting noises and it affected how outgoing I was. I had therapy which really worked, and by 14 my symptoms eased.’[1]

Despite his disability, the young Aykroyd successfully auditioned for a new variety series on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour offered a combination of music and comedy acts. While the series would only last for one season, it introduced Aykroyd to its star: comedy writer and performer Lorne Michaels, formerly of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.

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1971: Cum Granis Salis, a new live production from Chicago’s Second City improvisational comedy theatre, was reviewed in Variety. Among the article’s observations was the comment that ‘John Belushi, who made his bow in the previous show, comes off extremely well, especially when he is in a situation where he can go the deadpan or mugging route. He has a naturally comedic map and understands how to use it effectively’.[2]

The 22-year-old Belushi came from Humboldt Park, Chicago, born to Albanian immigrants: his mother a pharmacy worker and his father a restauranteur. He was one of four children – his brother James would, like John, become a comic and actor. As a teenager, however, John Belushi’s primary interest was music. He even got as far as setting up a band, the Ravens, which released a solitary 7” inch single in 1965. It was not a success, and the band broke up when Belushi enrolled in college.

In 1973 Belushi walked into a Toronto bar. He was visiting Canada after playing in a New York National Lampoon production opposite Christopher Guest and Chevy Chase. As there was a local branch of Second City in Toronto, Belushi had gone along to see what they were like. Backstage he struck up a rapport with one of the performers: Dan Aykroyd, now 20. Wanting to chat further, Aykroyd had invited Belushi for a drink at his own speak-easy bar.

The 505 Bar was essentially a room opening onto an alleyway. A jukebox played an endless variety of jazz, soul, and rhythm and blues. It only opened from 1:00am; it was the earliest Aykroyd could ensure he had finished his evening performances. The blues were new to Belushi – he was an ardent rock and heavy metal enthusiast – but Aykroyd’s own enthusiasm for the genre was infectious. A friendship sparked off that night that only got stronger with time.

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1975: 27-year-old Dick Ebersol was the head of weekend late night programming for the NBC television network. There had been a gap in the Saturday night schedules for some time, with NBC offering reruns of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show to its affiliates – half of which had simply been broadcasting old movies instead. Ebersol had developed a simple idea – to combine comedy and music – that he had aimed at a high school and college market. A colleague put him onto Lorne Michaels, back in the USA and producing stand-up comedy specials for Lily Tomlin. Michaels had aspirations for the exact sort of show Ebersol had in mind: a weekly live broadcast featuring comedy sketches from improvisational comedians along with exclusive short films and rock music performances.

It was network head Herb Schlosser who named the project Saturday Night. It was a suitably generic name that could be an easy label for any future comedy series in that time slot.

With 90 minutes a week to fill, Lorne Michaels immediately began contracting talent to feature in regular pre-recorded segments that could break up each episode and give the live performers a rest. Comedian Albert Brooks was signed up to make a series of short films. Puppeteer and producer Jim Henson, at that point best known for his work on children’s series Sesame Street, agreed to produce a fantastical series of sketches titled “The Land of Gorch”.

For the regular on-air talent, Michaels sought out comedians and improvisers on the cusp of the mainstream. His first signing was with an old friend, Canadian actor Gilda Radner. Other performers soon followed: Chevy Chase, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris, Jane Curtin, and – after a fractious audition process in which he repeatedly claimed to hate television – John Belushi. The original line-up was completed when Michaels promoted Dan Aykroyd, originally hired as part of the writer’s room, to the regular cast.

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Saturday Night Live debuted on 11 October 1975, hosted by popular comedian George Carlin and with a musical performance by Janis Ian. NBC had backed the series without much enthusiasm, with several of the network executives predicting it would be cancelled after 10 to 15 weeks. It wasn’t. If we briefly jump all of the way to 2020, on 3 October Saturday Night Live’s 46th season premiered on NBC with the show’s 890th episode. Today it is the longest-running comedy series in the history of American television, breaking its own record on a weekly basis.

During his first year on SNL Aykroyd began developing an idea for two characters that could combine his love for both comedy and blues music. He figured he could play one role, and offered the other to Belushi. Belushi had always held aspirations to become a rock star, and for his part figured it could be his best chance. Belushi was by no means a tremendous singer but he had an electric stage presence and a striking audience appeal, leading Aykroyd to describe him as ‘the alpha Illinois male’. ‘One of those people,’ he later said, ‘like Teddy Roosevelt or Mick Jagger. He was just one of those great charismatics who turned heads and dominated a room.’[3]

Aykroyd and Belushi dressed their act up in simple black suits and ties, referencing the ‘old days’ when musicians had to dress up to play in music venues. To furnish the old-fashioned look they wore hats. A final touch: a pair of sunglasses, adding a sense of anonymity and cool. It was Howard Shore – a friend of Aykroyds who was working as SNL’s musical director – who suggested they name their act “the Blues Brothers”.

They took their proposed act to Lorne Michaels. He was not interested.

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After a few months Michaels relented and allowed the Blues Brothers to warm up the audience prior to each SNL broadcast. Television viewers did not get to see them; they were only seen by the live audience brought in to watch each episode’s dress rehearsal and performance. Still, it was a gig. It got the act through the front door.

The Blues Brothers made their television debut in January 1976 as background players in a sketch about bees. While they continued to craft their act outside of NBC, Aykroyd and Belushi did not get to make a proper on-screen Blues Brothers performance until 1978. By that stage weekly viewing figures had grown from 6.4 to 9.8, while Belushi had grown popular enough to have starred in his own feature film: National Lampoon’s Animal House. (Aykroyd was also offered a role in the film, but voluntarily stuck with SNL out of respect for Lorne Michaels.) The director of Animal House, which would ultimately gross more than US$141 million worldwide, was John Landis.

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Jump back eleven years. In 1969 the Chicago-born but California-raised Landis was a 19-year-old production assistant in Yugoslavia for the war comedy Kelly’s Heroes. When the original first assistant director fell ill and was flown back to Los Angeles, Landis received an immediate promotion to that role by director Brian G. Hutton. Previously he had worked as a stunt performer on such films as The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, and Red Sun – in which his character was slaughtered by a sword-wielding Toshiro Mifune (Seven Samurai).

In 1973 he wrote and directed the low-budget comedy Schlock. While commercially unsuccessful, it did develop a cult following. In 1977 he directed the sketch comedy film The Kentucky Fried Movie, working with writers Jim Abrahams and Jerry and David Zucker – who would go on to write and direct a range of films themselves including Airplane, Top Secret, and The Naked Gun.

Landis scored a major smash hit with Animal House a year later, and it brought him into contact with star John Belushi. They hit it off immediately, and wanted to work together again.

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The first major break for the Blues Brothers came in 1978 when Steve Martin, a popular comedian, saw them perform on Saturday Night Live. He had a nine-night stand-up comedy run coming up at the Universal Amphitheater, and asked if they were interested in playing as his support act. Aykroyd and Belushi were ecstatic, with one small issue: they had no band. Playing on SNL was easy since the series had its own in-house musicians, led by bandleader Paul Schaffer. Playing independently in a stadium was another matter.

Belushi essentially gathered together available musicians by using Schaffer’s address book and hauranging candidates via late night telephone conversations. He rapidly convinced an impressive line-up of musicians including Schaffer on keyboards, guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn of Booker T and the MGs, the Howlin’ Wolf Band’s Matt Murphy, and SNL drummer Steve Jordan. Musicians Alan Rubin, Lou Marini, Tom Maloney, and Tom Scott comprised a horn section.

With a full band of their own, the Blues Brothers were a runaway success. When they were approached by Atlantic Records to record an album, Aykroyd and Belushi sat down with fellow writer Mitch Glazer (a member of SNL’s writing team) to develop a backstory for their characters. Jake and Elwood Blues: orphans, raised by a blues-playing janitor named Curtis, on the run from the police, and desperate to raise $5,000 to save their old orphanage. When their album Briefcase Full of Blues was released into stores, it earned a lot more than $5,000; it reached number one in the Billboard charts and went double platinum.

With an established band and a hit album, talk soon turned to developing the Blues Brothers into a fully-fledged comedic movie. The backstory that formed the sleeve notes of Briefcase Full of Blues provided a suitable outline for the film; all that was needed was a director and a studio willing to back the project.

Belushi was firm that the director should be John Landis who, thanks to the success of Animal House, was an easy sell to any studio executive. The search for a studio came down to Paramount and Universal Pictures. Paramount’s representative – the up-and-coming producer Don Simpson – aggressively pursued the stars via their manager Bernie Brillstein. Ultimately Aykroyd and Belushi went with Universal junior executive Sean Daniel, who offered to back the film without even seeing a screenplay. The promise of its stars, director, and characters was enough.

John Belushi was contracted to The Blues Brothers movie for US$500,000. Aykroyd received half of that, reflecting his comparative lack of exposure on-screen. Negotiations for the film’s overall budget took some time. Universal head Lew Wasserman wanted the film made for $12 million; John Landis estimated something much closer to US$20 million, considering the large-scale stunts and comedy bits he already had in mind. A compromise was reached at US$17.5 million.

One other sticking point: Wasserman wanted shooting on The Blues Brothers complete by August 1979, just six months away.

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1978 had been an exhausting year for John Belushi. SNL had kicked off its fourth season, and the week-on-week grind of live comedy had lost the appeal it had once had. Animal House, which had shot in late 1977, had turned out to be a far greater commercial hit than anyone had expected. The runaway success of the Blues Brothers in concert and on vinyl had left Belushi finishing the year having worked on a number one film, television series, and album. It was an outstanding achievement, but a tiring one as well. By the end of the year both Belushi and Aykroyd had started shooting the comedy 1941 for director Steven Spielberg, flying back and forth between New York and Los Angeles to accommodate their ongoing duties on SNL.

Belushi was already a recreational drug user, but the pressures of 1978 led to him upping his intake considerably. On top of that, he was suddenly a household name, easily recognised on the street. Everybody in America loved John Belushi, and every user wanted nothing more than to share their drugs with him. Landis recalled: ‘By the time we were shooting, John had become addicted to cocaine. Cocaine makes you drink, and drinking makes you take more cocaine. Strangers would see him and give him drugs. It was difficult to keep them away.’[4]

During the lead-up to the film, Belushi’s growing exhaustion and drug use was causing major problems for SNL and producer Lorne Michaels. The actor was struggling to remember lines, turning up to rehearsals either late or intoxicated – or both. Michaels did not understand why Belushi and Aykroyd were so obsessed with their musical act, and in return Belushi in particular felt he had outgrown the show. When an ear infection prevented Belushi from flying from Los Angeles to New York to record an episode, he sent a short comedy film in his stead. Michael refused to air it, and Belushi resigned from the series shortly afterwards.

Speculation raged for weeks over whether Dan Aykroyd would leave with Belushi, or remain on SNL. At first he assured Michaels that he would return for a fifth season, but only as an actor. It later became clear he had followed his partner out of New York for good. On 26 May 1979 Aykroyd and Belushi made their final regular appearances on SNL.

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Dan Aykroyd wrote the first draft of The Blues Brothers by himself, without assistance from Belushi or other writers and without having ever written a screenplay before. The average feature film script is formatted in a very specific way and runs to something like 120 pages. Aykroyd’s attempt was not correctly formatted; it was not even close, resembling instead a combination of prose fiction and stream-of-consciousness poetry. It was also more than 300 pages long – effectively an instruction manual for a five-hour movie.

Aykroyd delivered his screenplay in March. Before the producers and executives at Universal lost their minds – the script was unfilmable – Landis quietly took the script away and rewrote it. In stayed the basic plot, the characters, and the jokes. Out went the individual back stories of each member of the Blues Brothers band, the lengthy commentary on Catholicism, and the in-depth explanations as to why Jake and Elwood’s car – the ‘bluesmobile’ – was actually magical.

Production commenced in July 1979. It was later than what Lew Wasserman had demanded, but still promptly enough to guarantee the finished film could hit cinemas in 1980. Almost immediately the schedule started to run over. The screenplay was technically incomplete, without most stage directions. Landis was shooting large and complex set pieces over and over, scrupulously checking every shot to ensure it was exactly what he wanted it to be. The production best resembled an improvised three-ring circus.

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The Blues Brothers begins with convicted criminal Joliet “Jake” Blues paroled for good behaviour, and collected from prison by his brother Elwood. Jake is displeased, as during his three-year absence Elwood has replaced their old Cadillac with a decommissioned police car.

One of the perennial features of a John Landis film is the cameos. They are typically littered with them, both famous and obscure, and The Blues Brothers is no exception. They have an odd effect, ripping the audience out of the moment each time one appears, and sacrifice immersion in favour of a momentary flash of recognition. They are effectively a signal to the viewer: Landis is not taking the work seriously, so neither should they. In a lot of his films, Beverly Hills Cop III for example, they feel poorly judged and intrusive. In The Blues Brothers the cameos honestly add to its general sense of fun. With its musical numbers, ongoing roll call of American music legends, and shambolic plot, they feel like more of the overwhelming ‘variety show’ feel.

The cameos begin early. When Jake collects his belongings before release, the corrections officer who hands them over is Muppet performer Frank Oz. Oz befriended Aykroyd and Belushi while performing in SNL’s first season, and had since turned his puppet characters Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear into international stars via the variety series The Muppet Show.

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The film takes a surprisingly long time before it has either Blues Brother speak. Before that point they simply stand moodily in silence, dressed in trademark black suits and sunglasses.

Aykroyd and Belushi had never been fussy on what their precise costumes looked like when performing. Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman, who was also John Landis’ wife, was not so lax: she insisted the brothers were a specific style of black Ray-Bans – a style the company was no longer producing. An extended hunt through second-hand and charity shops turned up 140 pairs. While it seemed that so many pairs would easily last the film shoot, they started to run out because John Belushi constantly gave them away to fans on the street and visitors to set. Several pairs were allegedly taken by film director Paul Brickman, and used by Tom Cruise in Brickman’s 1983 comedy Risky Business.

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The brothers’ first port of call is the Catholic orphanage where they were both raised. There they meet the janitor who raised them, Curtis (Cab Calloway), and the terrifying Sister Mary Stigmata (Kathleen Freeman) who tormented them as children. The orphanage owes $5,000 in property taxes – if they cannot be raised immediately, the building will be closed.

The orphanage, Curtis the janitor, and the quest for $5,000 are all drawn from the original sleeve notes of the A Briefcase Full of Blues record. Curtis was played by Cab Calloway, a 72-year-old jazz musician and bandleader who had found Hollywood success in the 1940s before slipping into obscurity. Appearing in such films as The Singing Kid (1936), Manhattan Merry-Go-Round (1937), and Stormy Weather (1943), his band included the musician Dizzy Gillespie, and his 1931 song “Minnie the Moocher” had been the first single ever performed by an African-American that sold more than a million copies. In later years both Aykroyd and Landis have claimed credit for casting Calloway; either way he is a splendid addition to the film.

Kathleen Freeman played Sister Mary Stigmata, referred to by the brothers as “the Penguin”. A Chicago local and former MGM contract player, her first notable role was as a diction coach to Jean Hagen in Singin’ in the Rain (1952). Following her appearance in The Blues Brothers she experienced a minor career revival, taking up small roles in such films as Dragnet (1987), InnerSpace (1987), Chances Are (1989), and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990). Freeman died in 2001, shortly after receiving a Tony nomination for her supporting performance in Broadway’s musical adaptation of The Full Monty.

The interiors of the orphanage were constructed in a studio. The exteriors were shot at the old site of the Shoenhofen brewery between 18th and Normal Streets, Chicago.

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At a nearby Baptist church, the Reverend Cleophus James (James Brown) delivers a sermon. Drawn into the building, Jake experiences a religious vision and epiphany: he and Elwood will reunite their old band, perform a concert, and raise the $5,000 through ticket sales.

The Reverend James role was written with Little Richard in mind. When he was found to be unavailable – the singer had moved to Tennessee to lead an actual church – James Brown was cast in his stead. ‘James Brown was a consummate professional,’ said Aykroyd, ‘a businessman with incredible managerial skills. He was hilarious, contradictory. I remember James on the Blues Brothers set saying: “Sometimes I smoke, but no one can know about it because I’m a reverend!” He was a funny man.’[5]

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As this transformation in Jake’s heart comes accompanied by a spirited gospel performance by James Brown and his flock of worshippers, this is as appropriate a point as any to discuss The Blues Brothers and genre. At the time the film was released as a comedy, relying heavily on Aykroyd and Belushi’s reputation from SNL and, in Belushi’s case, Animal House. In reviews of the time, most American critics seemed to review it in the same vein: a weird comedy with a blues obsession. The other way to take The Blues Brothers is, of course, as a musical that happens to be funny.

In classic Hollywood there are effectively two kinds of musical. In one – the kind with which most modern viewers are aware – a core cast of characters shift from non-musical dialogue into song and back again. In the other kind, the musical numbers offer an opportunity for guest performers to showcase their talent without forming part of the overall narrative. These ‘guest performances’ are often diegetic; that is, they occur within the reality of the characters. The protagonist might go to a nightclub, for example, and watch a lounge singer perform a song. The film’s audience thus sees the entire musical performance as the characters would. Take, as a random example, Andrew L. Stone’s 1943 musical Stormy Weather. Its leads are Bill Robinson and Lena Horne, but it also squeezes in musical performances by Fats Waller, the tap-dancing Nicholas brothers, singer Ada Brown, Katherine Dunham and her dance troupe, and Cab Calloway with his band (okay, so it may not be an entirely random example).

Certainly John Landis was intent on making the film a musical first and foremost. ‘I tried to do every kind of musical performance number in The Blues Brothers,’ said Landis. ‘I mean proscenium performance, live performance, playback performance. This was a traditional musical comedy, where the actors’ dialogue leads into songs that further the plot.’[6]

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Landis again: ‘What’s important to remember about that movie is, it was John and Danny’s intention to exploit their own celebrity of the moment, and focus a spotlight on these great American artists because rhythm and blues was in eclipse.’[7]

It was a sentiment confirmed by Aykroyd himself: ‘John and I, when we did The Blues Brothers, we were in existence to serve these great artists and to, you know, reintroduce them to our audience and never felt that we were their equal, but we felt that we were really in service to their gift. You know our great band that we had? I think that’s why they joined us and they realized we had a great reverence and respect for the music.’[8]

Despite being popular comedy stars and the leads in the movie, at no point do Aykroyd or Belushi get in the way of, overshadow, or otherwise pull focus from the musical legends they have invited. It is deeply respectful, and a callback to a much older kind of Hollywood musical in which guest musicians were individually highlighted one song at a time.

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A major roadblock during the early days of the Blues Brothers shoot: the studio did not like the film’s choices of musical guest stars. While they were all major stars of rhythm and blues music, including John Lee Hooker and Ray Charles, none of them were particularly popular with American teenagers. Pressure was placed on John Landis to replace Aretha Franklin with the more contemporary band Rose Royce. Landis refused.

Meanwhile Dan Aykroyd in particular was having the time of his life meeting and performing with the contents of his record collection. He and Belushi sided with Landis, stone-walled Universal’s attempts at interference, and the film got the musical talent it required. The move was not without consequences, however: the studio’s sister record label MCA Universal refused to publish the film’s soundtrack record. It was ultimately placed with Atlantic Records, where it later became a platinum sales hit. Continuing their respectful behaviour towards the blues talent assembled, Aykroyd and Belushi took a minimum payment for the record. ‘John and I took performers’ rights only,’ said Aykroyd. ‘Every one of those songs we recorded remunerated the original artists 100 per cent due to album sales. It was an ethical decision and the songwriters today and their estates have benefited from it.’[9]

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Before their mission can begin, the bluesmobile is pulled over by state troopers who try to arrest Elwood for driving with a suspended license. Instead the brothers escape in a high-speed car chase through a suburban shopping mall.

The chase was shot on location in an actual shopping arcade: the Dixie Square Mall in the Chicago suburb of Harvey. Opened in 1966, growing vacancies rates had seen the mall permanently close in 1978. A year later the Blues Brothers production office leased the premises for eight weeks, redressing it as an active shopping mall and shooting the elaborate chase sequence inside. So convincing was the redressing process that local residents mistakenly believed the shuttered mall was re-opening.

This shoot displeased the Harvey-Dixmoor school district, which had been granted the use of the building while a nearby school was refurbished. The district later attempted to sue Universal Pictures for $87,000, citing property damage caused by The Blues Brothers that was never repaired.

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The brothers hide out in the flophouse where Elwood has been staying, narrowly avoiding an unexpected attack by a mysterious woman holding a rocket launcher. The following morning, the police arrive to arrest Elwood and Jake. Their attempt is thwarted by the unexpected detonation of a bomb by the same mysterious woman.

Accompanying the police is Burton Mercer, Jake’s parole officer. The role was played by John Candy. Like Aykroyd, Candy had been a member of the Second City comedy group in Toronto – and had subsequently joined the cast of their sketch comedy TV series SCTV alongside Catherine O’Hara and Harold Ramis. The Blues Brothers marked a key early role for the future Hollywood star, and followed appearances in 1941 (1979), Lost and Found (1979), and Double Negative (1980).

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The mysterious woman is, of course, Carrie Fisher, the world-famous star of the Star Wars films. At the time of shooting she was dating Dan Aykroyd; a relationship that had been set up and encouraged by Belushi. It was, however, short-lived; by the time The Blues Brothers was in cinemas Fisher had left Aykroyd for musician Paul Simon. ‘We had a blast shooting that here,’ Fisher later recalled during a 2011 visit to Chicago. ‘We had so much fun. It may have helped that I was, what, 20 or 21? I got to shoot all those guns. Danny Aykroyd was hanging out with the coroner, who used to give him bottles that they’d found on victims’ bodies. Actually, he was obsessed with this sort of stuff. We had a really good time.’[10]

On one night of production, Fisher accompanied actress Penny Marshall and Belushi’s wife Judy to a pool hall adjacent to the shooting location. All three dropped acid. ‘I thought all the police on the set were extras,’ Fisher said, ‘but they were the police – and that could have gone badly.’[11]

Drugs were a major feature of the Blues Brothers shoot. They were also one of the major reasons for delays and cost over-runs. Growing numbers of crew members started taking it: uppers to get through a long day’s shoot, and downers to chill out when the work was done. It became an additional form of currency: a reward for working extra time on set and location. ‘We had a budget in the movie for cocaine for night shoots,’ Aykroyd later admitted. ‘Everyone did it, including me.’[12]

No one on the set succumbed more to the lure of drugs than John Belushi. By 1979 his tastes had expanded from alcohol and cocaine to include quaaludes, LSD, mescaline, and amphetamines. His entire life was beginning to exist in a state of inebriation. He shot The Blues Brothers mostly during the day, and was out in Hollywood or Chicago having parties every night. In one incident, Landis personally went to Belushi’s trailer to find an enormous pile of cocaine on the table. He flushed it down the toilet, while an irate Belushi fought him, desperately tried to save what drugs he could, and then collapsed in a sobbing fit.

Throughout the entire production Belushi was a drag on the schedule: sleeping in, staying up late, taking drugs, getting distracted, or disappearing altogether. Aykroyd: ‘We lost John one night. But it wasn’t because he was high, it was because he was hungry and didn’t like what was available to eat on set. I couldn’t find him anywhere. Finally, I saw this path going through a parking lot and into a nearby neighbourhood so I followed it. The neighbourhood was dark except for one house. I knock on the door and say, “Excuse me, we’re shooting a movie and missing one of our actors.” The guy goes, “Oh, Belushi? He came in about an hour ago, raided my fridge and crashed on my couch.”’[13]

In another incident, the production was forced to notify Lew Wasserman that both Belushi and Aykroyd had gone missing: they had raided the wardrobe department, stolen one of the Bluesmobile cars and gone riding on the freeway dressed as Nazi SS officers.

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Jake and Elwood commence searching for the old members of the Blues Brothers Band. Most of them they find playing as Murph and the Magic Tones in a Holiday Inn. They find Mr Fabulous (Alan Rubin) working as maître d’ in the expensive restaurant Chez Paul. When he refuses to abandon his new job for their concert, they insult and disturb the patrons until he relents. While Chez Paul was a real restaurant, its interior was reproduced in the studio.

The scene revealed a previously unrevealed talent of John Belushi’s: catching shellfish with his mouth. Aykroyd said: ‘The scene with John catching the shrimps in his mouth, he missed a few. I didn’t throw them all. Landis threw some. John was like a seal! He could catch shrimp, sing, dance, he was a real negotiator, actor, manager.’[14]

The restaurant’s waiter is played by Paul Reubens, a former member of the Groundlings improvisational theatre and – at the time – a blossoming stand-up comedian. Following his performance here he unsuccessfully auditioned for Saturday Night Live before developing one of his comedy characters – a deluded man-child named Pee-Wee Herman – for the theatre. Following a sell-out five-month run in Los Angeles, the character graduated to his own television show and film (first cameoing in Tommy Chong’s Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, then graduating to his own feature in Tim Burton’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure).

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On their way to convince the final two members of their band, the brothers drive through Jackson Park – sending a protest march of neo-nazis into the park’s lagoon as they go. A vengeful protest leader orders to take down the bluesmobile’s license number so they can seek revenge.

The lead member of the “Illinois Nazis” was singer and actor Henry Gibson. The largely comedic actor was best known for his four-year run on the popular television series Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.

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Jake and Elwood find Matt “Guitar” Murphy and “Blue Lou” Marini working in a restaurant. After dining on white toast (Elwood) and four fried chickens (Jake), the brothers convince their friends to leave with them – against the wishes of Murphy’s wife (Aretha Franklin).

The Blues Brothers marked Franklin’s first-ever film appearance and acting role. She only appeared in one other film: Blues Brothers 2000. While shooting her musical number – a rendition of her popular hit “Think”, Franklin had difficulty lip-synching to the song track. She was not used to the practice, as in performance she tended to never sing a song the exact same way twice.

Aykroyd recalled: ‘Landis wrote the “four fried chickens and a coke” scene after seeing John Belushi consume four fried chickens. Elwood’s dry white toast came from when I grew up in Ottawa and moved from my parents’ place – my toaster was a coat hanger on a stovetop. That was an old trick.’[15]

Preceding this scene was a sequence in which Jake and Elwood stop on the street to admire a performance by blues legend John Lee Hooker. When the finished film overran against Universal’s expectations, this number was the first sequence cut – with only a brief section of the song included in the theatrical cut. When John Landis was offered the chance to supervise an extended director’s cut for the film’s anniversary on DVD, it was correspondingly the first scene to be reinstated.

The reunited band finds instruments for the concert at Ray’s Music Exchange in Calumet City, where the owner (Ray Charles) accepts the standard IOU note in return.

Of all of the famous musical talent cameoing in The Blues Brothers, Ray Charles was the only star still finding commercial success. When blues music had slipped out of favour with the public, Charles made the canny move of shifting into the more popular country-and-western. In April 1979 his song “Georgia on my Mind” had been officially adopted as the anthem of the state of Georgia, giving him an additional boost of publicity.

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To score the band’s first new gig, Jake lies to both band and venue by claiming to be the Good Ole Boys: a country band booked to play the nearby Bob’s Country Bunker, a local honky-tonk bar so rough that chicken wire separates the band from the bottle-hurling crowds. To placate their unruly audience, the band plays the theme to the TV western Rawhide. By the time the concert ends, the band has drunk enough alcohol to eat up their entire performance fee – and go on the run from the real Good Ole Boys, who are displeased at having their gig stolen.

The scene owed a large debt to the personal experiences of Blues Brothers Band members, who had played to a variety of volatile and dangerous audiences over the course of their careers. ‘I’ve seen guys shot,’ said Steve Cropper, ‘guys holding their guts and belly after being stabbed, people hit on the head with baseball bats – a lot of blood in the parking lot. By the time we did The Blues Brothers, Duck and I were both seasoned musicians. Dan went round interviewing the band and putting bits of useful information into the script.’[16]

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Deciding they will only raise the necessary money by playing one big show, the brothers meet with their old agent (singer and comic Steve Lawrence) and persuade him to book the Palace Hotel Ballroom for a single night. They attach a giant loudspeaker to their car and drive around Chicago promoting the concert. In doing so, they inadvertently alert their enemies – the police, the Good Ole Boys, and the Illinois Nazis – of where they are going to be. Racing to make the gig in time, the brothers’ are covered on stage by the orphanage janitor Curtis, who performs a big band rendition of “Minnie the Moocher” (actor Cab Calloway’s most famous song).

The “Minnie the Moocher” sequence is emblematic of The Blues Brothers’ celebratory approach to its musical stars. The film’s protagonists are not even there; instead the entire stage, the band, and Calloway are spontaneously transformed into a 1930s-style swing routine. It is a tribute to the song, its singer, and his entire act as the preeminent man of ‘skat’ jazz. Landis directs the scene like a pro, relying on the performance to entertain the audience without flashy visuals. It is to my mind the best musical number of the entire film, and represents one last energetic showcase for one of America’s all-time great entertainers. It also fits perfectly into the film’s structure as a 1940s Hollywood musical.

Calloway continued to perform live in concerts and jazz festivals around the world until 1993. He died a year later, at the age of 86.

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The climactic concert was shot at the Hollywood Palladium. While the performance is inter-cut with scenes of the Blues Brothers’ various enemies preparing to catch them after the show, it is in effect a transformation from comedy film to concert film for an extended period of time. Two songs are performed in full: Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” and Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”. It is a fantastic and hugely enjoyable musical climax, with the film having engaged its audience so well with Jake and Elwood that it can effectively move the narrative to a halt and simply entertain for a while.

Behind the scenes, circumstances were once again running off the road and into calamity. The concert scene required booking out the Palladium and hiring several hundred extras. Per minute, it was one of the most expensive parts of the film. In between set-ups, Belushi had stepped outside of the building and bumped into a child riding a skateboard. Belushi, being Belushi, had asked if he could have a go. A minute later a crew member found him on the ground, nursing a badly damaged knee.

An orthopedist was personally sent to the set by Wasserman to strap up Belushi’s knee, inject it with painkillers, and push the actor back on stage to complete the scene. There was no time, money, or patience for Belushi to recover.

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Backstage, Jake and Elwood are offered a US$10,000 cash advance on a recording contract. They sneak out of the building via the sewers – pausing only for one final confrontation with Jake’s ex-fiancee – and take off in their car. Wanted by the police, they race back to Chicago to pay the orphanage’s taxes. They are pursued by an ungodly number of police cars, whose pursuits soon lead to a disastrous number of crashes and pile-ups.

The Blues Brothers effectively has two climaxes: a musical one, and a car chase. It satisfies both fans of the music and the mayhem in the film. The initial inspiration for the elaborate police chase was Steven Spielberg’s 1974 film The Sugarland Express, an adaptation of a real-life event in which two fugitives were pursued across America in the longest police car chase of all time. Landis’ plan to top that film’s sequence in both scale and humour was simply to up the scale to ludicrous extremes. 60 second-hand police sedans were purchased at a bargain price of US$400 apiece, and reinforced with steel cages. A dedicated body shop was assembled to repair and repaint cars that were damaged during the shoot so that they could be used again and again.

This over-the-top climax was of such an unprecedented scale and complexity that it would require shutting down streets in central Chicago for days at a time and risk doing damage to city infrastructure should any stunt go awry. It was also going to be ruinously expensive – particularly for a film shoot running behind schedule and suffering a major budget blow-out. There was one other major hurdle: no one had shot a frame of film or television on the streets of Chicago since 1959.

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Chicago’s former mayor Richard J. Daley, who had occupied the mayor’s office from 1955 to his death in 1976, implemented a ban on Hollywood shooting in Chicago after a 1959 episode of the TV series M Squad depicted a Chicago police officer accepting a bribe. That ban lasted for Daley’s entire tenure, and had continued beyond his death. The city’s new mayor, Jane Byrne, was far more amenable. Aykroyd and Belushi personally visited her in her office with an offer to donate US$50,000 to charity in return for shutting down the Richard J. Daley Center – and smashing open its glass front doors. Byrne eagerly accepted their offer, keen to see the city be profiled so heavily on film.

Further shooting in central Chicago required the permission of the Cook County Board; permission that was originally denied. John Landis received help from Sidney Korshak, an attorney with connections in both Chicago and Los Angeles. Landis said Korshak asked him ‘‘‘What do you need?’ We told him. And he said, ‘Let me see what I can do.’ And suddenly all the doors were open.’[17] In 1978 Korshak had been accused of having links to organised crime; accusations that he denied, and which were never proved.

County Sheriff Richard Elrod was not entirely convinced allowing The Blues Brothers to shoot a high-speed car chase through central Chicago was such a good idea. Nonetheless he acquiesced, while quietly ensuring he was not personally on the record approving the request. Cook County Board President George Dunne was much more enthusiastic; his son Murphy was the Blues Brothers’ keyboardist.

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The climactic chase was the largest and most elaborate scene of its type ever made on film. The record it set for crashed and damaged cars was only beaten by its own sequel, Blues Brothers 2000, in 1998. Overwhelmingly the most expensive part of a film struck by catastrophic over-runs, it presented a fight with Universal to even shoot and a constant struggle to keep production costs down. Stunt driver Burt Levy recalled: ‘They didn’t want to pay union stunt money to all the people driving all those cars. I actually heard about it from the guy that owned Loeber Motors in Chicago. He said, “I understand they’re looking for drivers. Can you recommend anybody?” I said, well, you know the Midwest Council, a local racing club and some SCCA instructors might be just what they are looking for. They put the word out.’

The city of Chicago granted unprecedented permissions for the production, including allowing Landis to block off Lake St and drive police cars between its elevated train trestles at speeds reaching 160 kilometres per hour. After viewing the raw footage, the shots were remounted with stunt artists jumping out of the way; without them, it simply looked as if the cars had been shot at more conventional speeds and then sped-up on film.

A moment in which 10 police cars smashed into one another was achieved with an Australian-design pipe ramp that enabled the flipping of cars on cue. Now commonplace in filmed car chases, it was the first time the devices had been employed on film.

Despite the elaborate nature of the chase sequence, the stunt team escaped with only minor injuries. That ‘we got away that lightly, I would say is miraculous,’ said Aykroyd. ‘God was on our side.’[18]

Perhaps the most challenging moment of the sequence came at its climax, when a car driven by Nazis rockets off the end of an incomplete freeway ramp and falls all the way to the ground below. To exaggerate the moment for comic effect, a car was dropped by a helicopter from a height of more than 360 metres. ‘We had to contact the federal aviation authorities of the city of Chicago,’ said Landis, ‘and assure them that the car would land where we said it would. I remember we had to drop cars in a cornfield first to show we could do it safely.’[19]

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Jake and Elwood rush inside Chicago’s City Hall to pay the orphanage’s taxes. The building is immediately surrounded by police cars, state troopers, firefighters, almost 200 national guardsmen, helicopters, a SWAT team, and three Sherman tanks.

The exteriors of this final scene were shot over the Labor Day weekend, to minimize pedestrian traffic. At a total cost of US$3.5 million, it was reported at the time to be the most expensive single scene in motion picture history – and the most elaborate ever staged on the streets of an actual city.

When the Bluesmobile ground to a halt outside the building, the stunt car’s tyres were so hot that they stripped the finish off 35 granite paving stones and a bronze air grille. These were replaced at the production’s expense. Another copy of the Bluesmobile was specially constructed to fall into pieces on demand; it took several months to design and construct, and was the most expensive of the six vehicles used to represent the one car on screen.

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The brothers manage to pay the Cook County Assessor – and save the orphanage – mere seconds before they are surrounded by armed police and soldiers. The assessor was played by Steven Spielberg; a small tip of the hat by Landis towards the climax’s original inspiration.

Imprisoned for their crimes, the brothers finish the film playing “Jailhouse Rock” for their prison inmates. The scene features one final musical cameo, irrelevant to the overall blues focus of the film: Joe Walsh, guitarist for popular rock band the Eagles, is the first inmate to jump onto a table and start dancing. The musician was on-set visiting Belushi, and was persuaded to play a role in the scene.

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By the time The Blues Brothers had completed shooting, it was a full US$10 million over budget. More problems arose during the post-production process.

Landis had envisaged the film as a full-scale roadshow presentation: long musical numbers, an intermission, overture and entre-acte – the whole works. Wasserman envisaged something much shorter and easier to sell. Even once Landis tightened the film and removed the intermission, there was an even greater problem facing the film: cinema chains were failing to book the film into their theatres.

Wasserman invited Landis to a meeting with Ted Mann, owner of the prestigious Mann Theaters. According to Landis, Mann told him: ‘Mr. Landis, we’re not booking The Blues Brothers in any of our national or general theaters. We have a theater in Compton where we’ll book it. But certainly not in Westwood.’ When asked why, Mann allegedly replied: ‘Because I don’t want any blacks in Westwood.’[20]

It was a pattern seen across the USA, seemingly inspired partly by the unpopularity of The Blues Brothers’ musical talent, and partly by straight-up racism. ‘Honestly, we were quite frightened,’ Landis said, ‘and Universal was scared shitless. We were having trouble booking the movie, so the bosses said to me, “It’s no longer a roadshow movie, you have to get at least 20 minutes more out of it, and they can have one extra show a day.” I couldn’t argue against that at the time, but it ruined the pace of the movie. We didn’t just have to recut it; we had to lift stuff out of it, we had to make sequences shorter, and so on. It changed the flow, and the movie never recovered from that.’[21]

This is, as they say, where we came in. Universal had anticipated opening The Blues Brothers on 2,000 screens nationally. It was booked into just 600. No one seemed happy with the final edit. No one expected the film to be a hit. For Aykroyd, Belushi, and Landis, it seemed likely that their film careers were at an end.

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In hindsight, the success of The Blues Brothers seems a foregone conclusion. Of course it found an audience. Of course it turned a healthy profit. Of course it remains today one of Universal Pictures’ all-time greatest comedy hits.

It opened in cinemas in second place, behind the Summer juggernaut The Empire Strikes Back. By the end of 1980 it was the 10th highest grossing film at the American box office. It grossed more than US$115 million worldwide and, according to Landis, was the first Hollywood production to earn more money internationally than within the USA.

On the film’s 30th anniversary in 2010 the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano stated there was ‘no lack of evidence’ that The Blues Brothers was ‘a Catholic film’, calling it ‘a memorable film, and, judging by the facts, a Catholic one’. High praise indeed for two men on a mission from God.

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Epilogue

The Blues Brothers restored John Belushi’s career as effectively as 1941 had damaged it. Keen to expand his repertoire beyond raucous comedy, the actor had been developing a romantic drama project with Steven Spielberg. Titled Continental Divide, the film saw Belushi play a city journalist sent to the Rockies to escape corrupt police officers looking to silence him after his latest expose. It was the first feature film produced by Spielberg’s new production company Amblin Entertainment, was directed by English filmmaker Michael Apted, and featured a screenplay by screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, Raiders of the Lost Ark). When the film failed to find commercial success, Belushi took the failure hard – feeling that critics had unfairly pigeonholed him as a comic actor.

His next feature project, which reunited him with Dan Aykroyd, was the comedy film Neighbors. Based on Thomas Berger’s best-selling novels, it was considered a high profile and commercially strong project by Universal Pictures. Aiming to create a prestigious awards contender, the studio hired writer Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H), producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown (Jaws), and director John G. Avildsen (Rocky). The production did not go as intended: shortly before shooting, Aykroyd and Belushi insisted on swapping roles to play against type. Gelbart bristled at Aykroyd’s attempts to rewrite the screenplay, while Belushi tried to have Avildsen replaced by John Landis. There were also tensions between Avildsen and his producers. Hovering over the entire shoot was Belushi’s growing drug addiction: problematic for The Blues Brothers, but almost impossible with which to deal on Neighbours.

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Belushi continued to take meetings for further film projects, including Noble Rot – a period romantic comedy set among California’s wineries – and The Joy of Sex – a comedy adaptation Paramount were pressuring Belushi to film. At the same time his health deteriorated badly. He put on a significant amount of weight, and seemed listless and incoherent when talking to friends and business parties. As had been the case for time, Belushi rarely needed to purchase drugs himself – a constant stream seemed to be available from strangers wanting to party with him.

By 1982 Dan Aykroyd and Belushi’s wife Judy were actively working to get Belushi to commit to attending a rehabilitation clinic, to little avail. There appeared to be two Johns: one who straightened himself out and socialised with his friends in New York, and another that was driven around Los Angeles – morose, paranoid, and high on drugs – surrounded by an army of sycophants. Dan Aykroyd later recalled seeming him coming out of a nightclub. ‘He was getting into a limo with a bunch of strangers. They were feeding his habit. It was one of those moments when I was going somewhere, I couldn’t stop. I had my own life to handle.’[22]

It was the last time Aykroyd saw his friend alive.

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On Thursday 4 March 1982 John Belushi travelled to manager Bernie Brillstein’s office to ask for a loan of money. Brillstein initially refused, fearing the actor would use it to buy drugs, but when Belushi returned during a meeting he handed over some cash to save the actor’s face.

That night actors Robin Williams and Robert De Niro visited Belushi at his bungalow in the luxurious Chateau Marmont hotel. They both saw him taking speedballs – a combination of cocaine and heroin – with singer and drug dealer Cathy Smith.

At midday on Friday 5 March, Belushi’s trainer and occasional bodyguard Bill Wallace arrived at the bungalow to deliver a tape recorder and typewriter. He found John Belushi unresponsive in his bed. By the time paramedics had arrived, and despite Wallace’s best resuscitation efforts, Belushi had died at the scene. An autopsy determined that he had died from an accidental overdose of cocaine and heroin. Cathy Smith was later charged with first-degree murder; her lawyers later pleaded guilty on her behalf, and managed to reduce the charges to involuntary manslaughter. She ultimately served 15 months in a Californian prison.

Variety’s obituary read: ‘Outrageous, endlessly energetic, quick to take on a dare and gifted with outstanding mimetic abilities and surprising physical grace, Belushi scored in every area of show business he tried — theatre, radio, tv, music and films.’[23]

On 29 March Dan Aykroyd walked alone onto the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to hand out the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects; an appearance that he and Belushi had been intended to present together. ‘My partner would have loved to have been here tonight to present this award,’ said Aykroyd, ‘since he was a bit of a visual effect himself.’[24]

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Dan Aykroyd moved on in Belushi’s absence. A screenplay that they had been developing together, Ghostbusters, was released in 1984 with Bill Murray assuming the lead role intended for his former co-star. A political satire that Aykroyd and Belushi had been discussing with French director Louis Malle fell by the wayside.

The Blues Brothers continued to perform periodically, with John’s brother Jim Belushi playing “Zee” Blues from time to time as well as actor John Goodman as “Mighty Mack” McTeer. A short-lived animated series was attempted in 1997, with Jim Belushi co-starring with Aykroyd’s brother Peter. It was cancelled after just eight episodes. In 1998 Aykroyd and Landis collaborated on Blues Brothers 2000, a film sequel that included Goodman and Joe Morton.

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Blues Brothers 2000 is an odd sequel. It was widely pilloried by critics upon release, and many fans of the Blues Brothers continue to dislike it. While the film is certainly deeply inferior to the original – what potential follow-up could be it’s equal? – it does still contain some spirited and entertaining blues performance, as well as an impressive number of returning actors and musicians. It is best considered perhaps more of a fan film than an actual sequel: a celebration of what made the first film work, rather than a serious attempt to advance or build upon it.

The sequel is, more than 20 years since release, largely forgotten. The original Blues Brothers goes from strength to strength. It remains a mainstay of late night and special cinema screenings, is a perennial hit on home video and online, and is arguably the most famous film of Aykroyd, Belushi, and Landis’ respective careers.

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In 2020 The Blues Brothers was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry: preserved for all time as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’ to the United States of America. It is a deeply respectable fate for one of Hollywood’s most out-of-control productions. ‘It was crazy,’ Landis once admitted, ‘but you know, we were drunk with power.’[25]

It is a cult favourite. Key lines of dialogue are known by successive generations of fans. It seems likely that, on any given week, in some cinema somewhere around the world, an audience is watching The Blues Brothers. This is a film that endures. No matter what time it is, and no matter where you are, it will always be 106 miles to Chicago. You will have a full tank of gas; half a pack of cigarettes. It’s dark and you’re wearing sunglasses.

Hit it.

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[1] Veronica Linares, “Dan Aykroyd reveals struggles with Asberger and Tourette’s”, United Press International, 26 December 2013.

[2] Cynthia Littleton, “How John Belushi rose from Second City to SNL in stardom”, Variety, 22 November 2020.

[3] Ned Zeman, “Soul Men: The making of the Blues Brothers”, Vanity Fair, 18 December 2012.

[4] Simon Bland, “Dan Aykroyd and John Landis: How we made The Blues Brothers”, The Guardian, 4 August 2020.

[5] Sean Daly, “Dan Aykroyd on everything from Blues Brothers to seahorses”, Tampa Bay Times, 7 May 2014.

[6] Mike Fleming Jr, “John Landis, who directed Aretha Franklin in The Blue Brothers, reminisces”, Deadline, 23 August 2018.

[7] Mike Fleming Jr, “John Landis, who directed Aretha Franklin in The Blue Brothers, reminisces”, Deadline, 23 August 2018.

[8] Steve Inskeep, “Blues Brothers, 25 years later”, Morning Edition, NPR, 20 June 2005.

[9] Simon Bland, “My legs, stomach and solar plexus turned to jelly when Aretha Franklin started to sing”, Irish Times, 6 August 2020.

[10] Dean Richards, “Carrie Fisher on shooting Blues Brothers in Chicago, Princess Leia days”, WGN9, 28 December 2016.

[11] Dean Richards, “Carrie Fisher on shooting Blues Brothers in Chicago, Princess Leia days”, WGN9, 28 December 2016.

[12] Ned Zeman, “Soul Men: The making of the Blues Brothers”, Vanity Fair, 18 December 2012.

[13] Simon Bland, “Dan Aykroyd and John Landis: How we made The Blues Brothers”, The Guardian, 4 August 2020.

[14] Darren Weale, “The story of The Blues Brothers”, Classic Rock, 13 August 2016.

[15] Simon Bland, “Dan Aykroyd and John Landis: How we made The Blues Brothers”, The Guardian, 4 August 2020.

[16] Darren Weale, “The story of The Blues Brothers”, Classic Rock, 13 August 2016.

[17] Dave Newbart, “Mayor Byrne was happy to let Bluesmobile ram Daley Centre – part of $3.5m climactic scene in The Blues Brothers”, Chicago Sun-Times, 24 June 2020.

[18] Dave Newbart, “Incredible stunt driving in The Blues Brothers ‘was all real’”, Chicago Sun-Times, 23 June 2020.

[19] Adam Lowes, “Interview with John Landis, director of The Blues Brothers”, Hey U Guys, 5 September 2011.

[20] Ned Zeman, “Soul Men: The making of the Blues Brothers”, Vanity Fair, 18 December 2012.

[21] Simon Thompson, “John Landis On The Blues Brothers And His Joy At Trading Places Becoming A Christmas Tradition”, Forbes, 29 November 2020.

[22] Sean O’Hagan, “I’m still haunted by Belushi”, The Guardian, 28 September 2003.

[23]  Cynthia Littleton, “How John Belushi rose from Second City to SNL in stardom”, Variety, 22 November 2020.

[24] https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000004/bio

[25] Adam Lowes, “Interview with John Landis, director of The Blues Brothers”, Hey U Guys, 5 September 2011.

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