‘The Blues Brothers’ Starring John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd Premieres on This Day in 1980

by John Jamison

Along with “Wayne’ s World,” “The Blues Brothers” is up there for the most iconic of all the “Saturday Night Live” adapted movies. On June 20, 1980, the John Belushi and Dan Akroyd-led film premiered in theaters.

Following the exploits of Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues, “The Blues Brothers” saw two musical brothers set out to save the orphanage in which they were raised. Along with gratuitous car chases, the movie featured musical contributions from the likes of Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and John Lee Hooker.

The movie came at a time when John Belushi’s stock was at an all-time high. “Animal House” had been a huge success just a few years earlier. And “Saturday Night Live” was in its prime. The Blues Brothers first appeared as the musical creation of Dan Akroyd and John Belushi on the hit sketch comedy show. The duo quickly became a fan favorite. The stage was set for a massively successful comedy. And Universal Studios was willing to do whatever it took to get the movie made.

And what it took was a little more than they bargained for. Dan Akroyd had never written a feature-length script before. He had been celebrated for his writing on “Saturday Night Live,” but writing a sketch is very different from writing full-length films. Nonetheless, they gave Akroyd the opportunity to write the movie. They were his and John’s characters, after all.

‘The Blues Brothers’ Was an Instant Classic

Deadlines came and went, but eventually, Akroyd had a completed script. And apparently, it got completely reworked by the film’s director, John Landis. Universal had essentially given the project a blank check. And for a brief period, they seriously regretted that decision. The production ran into all kinds of issues, from an unruly cast to expensive set pieces.

But thankfully, everything worked out in the end.

For all of the time, money, and stress that Universal Studios sunk into the “Saturday Night Live” adaptation flick, “The Blues Brothers” paid it back twice over. Literally.

All of the problems that the production ran into led to a movie that cost nearly $30 million to make. That was unheard of for comedy films at the time. But when everything was said and done, “The Blues Brothers” hauled in nearly $60 million during its theatrical release.

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses,” Dan Akroyd’s character Elwood said.

Along with that iconic line, “The Blues Brothers” left a lasting imprint on not only comedy filmmaking, but society as a whole. Just last year, the Library of Congress added the movie to the National Film Registry, essentially making it a historical artifact.