35 years ago today, on June 16, 1980, The Blues Brothers, the movie starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd premiered in Chicago.
Universal Studios was very unsure how the film would do, so they did a slow release over the next few days in the rest of the country. The film ended up grossing over $115,000,000.00 before it went for home release.
During filming one of the night scenes, John Belushi disappeared and could not be located. Dan Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He went to the house and was prepared to identify himself, the movie and that they were looking for John Belushi. But before he could, the homeowner looked at him, smiled and said, "You're here for John Belushi, aren't you?" The homeowner then told them Belushi had entered their house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich and then crashed on their couch. Situations like this prompted Aykroyd to affectionately dub Belushi "America's Guest".
103 cars were wrecked during filming, a world record at that time.
Carrie Fisher became engaged to co-star Dan Aykroyd during this shoot shortly after he saved her from choking by applying the Heimlich maneuver.
During the filming of the opening scene, security guards of the prison fired shots at the helicopter filming the overhead shots, thinking that the helicopter was attempting to spy on the structure.
Before the falling-Pinto scene could be filmed, the filmmakers had to get an "Air UN-worthyness certificate" from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Pinto. This was done by conducting preliminary drop tests to ensure that it would not behave as an airfoil and drift from its target line, but would drop "like a brick" when dropped from a great height.
The Bluesmobile was actually going 118 miles per hour under the elevated train line. The film crew received permission to clear the street for two 100 MPH+ passes. Stunt pedestrians were added after the first pass to add realism.
Producers rented the Dixie Square Mall in south suburban Harvey, Illinois for the mall chase scenes. The mall had been closed for over a year. (False) rumors began in the community that the mall was being refurbished and would be reopened after filming was complete. Universal was later sued for over $87,500 for failure to make good on a deal to "return the mall to its original condition" which was never agreed upon. After years of political wrangling that saw only the the Montgomery Ward anchor store and mall power plant being demolished while the rest of the dead mall rotted unused, deals were finally struck that led to every part of the structure being torn down and cleared away in 2012.
For the 30th anniversary of the movie, The Vatican newspaper 'L'Osservatore Romano' called the film "a Catholic classic", recommending it as good viewing for Catholics.
The infamous "Bluesmobile" is a 1974 Dodge Monaco. The vehicles used in the film were used police cars purchased from the California Highway Patrol (mocked up to look like Mt. Prospect, Illinois patrol cars), and featured the "cop tires, cop suspension and cop motor - a 440 cubic-inch plant" mentioned by Elwood in the film. A total of 12 Bluesmobiles were used in the movie, including one that was built just so it could fall apart. Several replicas have been built by collectors, but one original is known to exist, and is owned by the brother-in-law of Dan Aykroyd. 1974-77 Dodge Monacos (including the upscale Royal Monaco), especially those which came with the A38 police option, are now considered as collector's items since they have been used as replica Chicago P.D. and Illnois State Police squads - including Bluesmobile tribute cars. This has led to the scarcity of this generation of Mopar C-bodies where some replica squads and Bluesmobiles use the Plymouth Gran Fury as a substitute - including the Chrysler Newport. Universal Studios Hollywood has a replica Bluesmobile on the lot - a 1974 Dodge Coronet is used since the Monaco has became a rarity.
During the making of the movie, one of the actors, Stephen Brown, got separated from the vehicle caravan and drove the Bluesmobile 100 miles west on Interstate 80, to the city of Spring Valley, Illinois. When stopping at a gas station for directions he was arrested by the local police for no registration (the plate was a prop), and no valid drivers license. With a telephone call, the set director was more concerned with the return of the vehicle than with the return of his actor.
The scene in which the Head Nazi (Henry Gibson) gives a taunting speech to the assembled counter-protesters and leads his men in a pledge of allegiance to Adolf Hitler was taken almost word-for-word from the documentary The California Reich. He introduces his Nazi group as the "American Socialist White People's Party", the acronym of which, ASWPP, is a diminutive of "ass wipe".
Some of the performers were not used to lip-syncing to their pre-recorded songs - the standard procedure for movie musicals. James Brown ended up singing his number live with a recorded backing (the rest of his choir was lip-syncing). John Lee Hooker's performance of "Boom Boom" was recorded live at Chicago's Maxwell Street Market. Aretha Franklin's performance is cut together from many, many takes, using the parts where her lip-syncing was actually in sync.
Paul Shaffer was an original member of the Blues Brothers Band and was supposed to be in the film. But because he was also working on Gilda Live, according to Shaffer's memoir, Belushi fired him for being disloyal to the band.
Before Jake and Elwood go into the Soul Food Cafe, John Lee Hooker gets into an argument with his band about his writing "Boom, Boom" (seen in the extended DVD version). Later, as Jake and Elwood leave the diner with Matt Murphy and Blue Lou, the argument can still be heard going on in the background. If you look closely as the camera tracks Blue Lou darting into the Bluesmobile, the argument has escalated into a fight.
The SCMODS (State County Municipal Offender Data System) Readout for Elwood is as follows:
Illinois License: B263-1655-2187
Currently under suspension
Warrants Outstanding: Parking 114
Moving Violations: 56
(Flashing) Arrest Driver. Impound Vehicle
When Jake and Elwood are stuck in traffic backed up by Nazi marchers, they ask a cop what is going on, and he tells them, "Those bums won their court case, so they're marching today." Elwood scoffs, "Illinois Nazis," and Jake agrees, "I hate Illinois Nazis." This is a reference to a mid-1970s incident in which the National Socialist (abbreviated in German as "Nazi") Party of America planned a public demonstration in Skokie, Illinois (the population of Skokie was not only heavily Jewish but also contained an unusually large number of Holocaust survivors). After the local governments provided various impediments to the Nazis' march, they eventually took the matter to the Supreme Court, which led to a 1977 decision (National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie) in favor of the Nazis' First Amendment right to Freedom of Assembly. The group subsequently did hold several Nazi rallies, but in Chicago instead of Skokie.
The Soul Food Cafe, where Aretha Franklin sings, was Nate's Deli on Chicago's famed Maxwell Street. It is now a parking lot.
Elwood removes his hat three times in the film: when going to sleep in his room, to break the window to get into the Palace Hotel, and towards the end of the movie when the Bluesmobile falls apart. His sunglasses are removed once in the scene where he quits his job at the glue factory factory "to become a priest." Jake removes his sunglasses once, when he is talking to Carrie Fisher, but never removes his hat. In the DVD and cable versions, Elwood doesn't wear sunglasses when he quits his job.
Murphy Dunne is the son of the then-president of the Cook County Board, George Dunne, who helped convince then-mayor Jane Byrne to allow filming at the Daley Center.
Frank Oz has a bit part as the corrections officer who returns Jake's belongings in the opening scene.
Singer/guitarist Joe Walsh can be seen during the "Jailhouse Rock" sequence at the end. He still had long hair and a long mustache at the time and is the first prisoner to jump up on a table and start dancing.
After the concert, the state troopers chase the Blues Brothers back to Chicago. The scene where several state trooper cars crash off the highway embankment was filmed at the Rt. 12 overpass in Wauconda, IL. They had trouble getting the cars to flip over when they went down the embankment, so they dug a hole into the embankment to help the cars flip over as they hit it.
When Aretha Franklin is describing Jake and Elwood to Matt "Guitar" Murphy, she says "They look like they're from the CIA or something..." The Blues Brothers wardrobe of dark suits and sunglasses originated as Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi's costumes on a few Saturday Night Live episodes in which they played Secret Service Agents guarding Chevy Chase's President Gerald Ford. In those skits, they wore black suits and sunglasses.
Whilst in the phone booth Elwood asks Jake "Who ya gonna call?" Dan Aykroyd would later write and star in Ghostbusters.
Colleen Camp's playboy poster, also featured in Apocalypse Now, is hanging on the wall of Elwood's apartment.
The receipt stamped by the tax assessor clerk (Steven Spielberg) is #6829, dated August 9, 1979, and correctly reflects that $5000 cash for St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud Orphanage was received from "Jake & Elwood Blues" with an address of 1060 West Addison, Chicago. The receipt is signed "R. J. Daley" - a reference to Mayor Richard J. Daley for which the plaza they drove through (with the Picasso sculpture) was named.
The record label president who offers the Blues Brothers a recording contract identifies himself as representing "Clarion Records, the largest recording company on the eastern seaboard." There actually was a Clarion Records - a budget label that was only in operation for a couple of years in the 1960s. However, it was owned by what had become, by the time of the movie, one of the largest American record companies: Atlantic Records, which, in real life, was not only a renowned blues/R&B/soul label (home of many of the artists mentioned or featured in the movie), but which also released the Blues Brothers' albums - including the movie soundtrack.
The original trailer for the film contains scenes which were not included in either the original release or the extended edition DVD. Among these is a scene where Curtis (Cab Calloway) asks the Brothers "How are you gonna get $5000 in 11 days without ripping off somebody?"
In the new DVD version of the film, there are several added scenes. Elwood appears in one (sans sunglasses!) to tell his boss that he needs to quit because he wishes to become a priest.
The interior for the Blues Brothers' concert was the Hollywood Palladium. Audience members were recruited through radio station promotion. The exterior was Chicago's South Shore Country Club, locate at 7059 South Shore Dr. Chicago, Ill., which was later purchased by the city and reopened as the South Shore Cultural Center.
The bridge that the Illinois Nazis drive off of during the car chase was in downtown Milwaukee. It was a ramp as part of an interchange that had not been fully developed. Later that ramp was torn down and replaced.
Every time we see the window in Elwood's apartment a train goes past.
In a scene restored to the DVD release, Elwood parks the Bluesmobile in a tiny Chicago Transit Authority storage shed underneath a bank of transformers for the CTA trains. Dan Aykroyd had written this as part of an elaborate scene showing the Bluesmobile being "charged up" by the transformers to explain how the car could perform its impossible stunts. Director John Landis discarded the complicated explanations, saying, "It's just a magic car!"
In the scene where Carrie Fisher is in the hair salon doing her nails and reading the instruction manual for the flamethrower, you can see a trio of pictures on the table. They are all of Fisher's character and Jake Blues. In every picture, Jake is wearing his sunglasses and hat.
The t-shirt Matt Murphy wears is from Uncle Tom's Tavern in Stone Mountain Georgia. The place was famous for its rowdy fights. It has been closed for many years now.
Jesuit priest Gerald Walling plays one of the prison guards, and is credited with the honorific "SJ" (for Society of Jesus).
Little Richard was asked to appear and perform in this film. He declined because he was only performing gospel, as opposed to secular music at the time this film was made.
According to Dan Aykroyd, cocaine was included in the film's budget to help the cast and crew stay awake during night shoots. According to Aykroyd, John Belushi enjoyed it the most and felt that it enhanced his performance.
Visual gag: The police radio in the Bluesmobile has an Atlantic Records logo.
According to Dan Aykroyd, many theaters in the American South refused to show the film because they felt that there were too many African-Americans in it. Aykroyd believes the film would have done even better at the box-office if not for the racism in the American South.
Elwood's license number, B263-1655-2187, unfortunately isn't for someone by the name of Elwood Blues. By dissecting the license number, you can find out information about the holder. Birthdate: July 1st 1952 (Dan Aykroyd's birthday). Gender: Male. First Initial: D. Middle Initial: E. Last Name: Starts with a B, followed by a guttural or sibilant (C, G, J, K, Q, S, X, or Z), followed by a short liquid (R), followed by a dental (D or T). The driver's license number turns out to be what Dan Aykroyd's license number would be, if he had obtained an Illinois license, simply substituting the leading 'A' with the 'B' for "Blues"; thus the number shown in the film is a "hybrid" and is an invalid Illinois number. The book "Blues Brothers: Private" by Judith Jacklin (Judith Belushi-Pisano) gives Elwood's birthday as December 6, 1953. Therefore, Elwood's driver's license number should have been B420-2105-3347.
Dan Aykroyd's script was originally titled "The Return of the Blues Brothers" and was 324 pages. It was intended to be a two-part film. John Landis spent three weeks paring the script down.
The grammar school where they stole the speaker from was Oscar F. Mayer, yes from the meat co.
In the original script, The Illinois Nazis were trying to buy the orphanage and set it up as their new headquarters.
In the original script, The Magictones were originally Mexican immigrants. Also, The Blues Brothers Band was scattered across three states. Among their new lives - Willie "Too Big" Hall is a drug dealer, Steve "The Colonel" Cropper is a pool shark-turned Hutterite and Donald "Duck" Dunn and "Blue" Lou Marini work in different parts of security.
In the original script, the band took over a house in a developing neighbourhood for rehearsal. To avoid the owners, Elwood detonates the home with cans of hairspray.
John Wayne's son Ethan Wayne was a stunt-driver on the film.
John Belushi's wife Judy Jacklin has a cameo as a waitress in the scene where Jake and Elwood meet with Murph and The Magictones.
The limousine seen outside the Chez Paul belonged to the owner of the restaurant. He almost had a heart attack when the stunt driver smashed through a letter box on his first attempt at parking.
Most of the chase scenes had to be filmed twice. The first times, pedestrians had been cleared from the area for safety reasons. However, the lack of reference made the chases look fake, as if they had been sped-up. They were then filmed again, with extras, to give a frame of reference.
The scene where Jake and Elwood are sneaking out of the concert into the tunnel was actually filmed underneath Chicago in a defunct electric narrow-gauge railway system. The railroad was used to carry coal and freight its ashes out of town. Later, one of the tunnels under a river was breached and the tunnels flooded, filling most of the basements in downtown Chicago with riverwater.
The thinnest of the back-up dancers in the "Think" number is Aretha Franklin's sister.
The young woman in the choir at The Triple Rock Church is R & B singer Chaka Khan.