John Belushi – MovieActors.com
About John Belushi (1949 – 1982)
John Adam Belushi was an American comedian, actor, and musician. He is best known for his "intense energy and raucous attitude" which he displayed as one of the original cast members of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, in his role in the 1978 film Animal House and in his recordings and performances as one of The Blues Brothers.
During his career he had a close personal and artistic partnership with fellow SNL actor and writer Dan Aykroyd whom he met while they were both working at Chicago's Second City comedy club.
Belushi died on the morning of March 5, 1982 at the age of 33 in Hollywood, California, specifically at the Chateau Marmont, after being injected with a mixture of cocaine and heroin, known as a "speedball", which led to combined drug intoxication. He was posthumously honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on April 1, 2004.
Belushi's mother, Agnes Demetri (Samaras), was the daughter of Albanian immigrants, and his father, Adam Anastos Belushi, was an Albanian immigrant from Qytezë. Born in Humboldt Park, a neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois, John was raised in Wheaton, a suburb west of Chicago, along with his three siblings: younger brothers Billy and Jim, and sister Marian. Belushi was raised in the Albanian Orthodox Church and attended Wheaton Central High School, where he met his future wife, Judith Jacklin.
After starting his own comedy troupe in Chicago, The West Compass Trio (named after the improvisational cabaret revue Compass Players active from 1955-1958 in Chicago), with Tino Insana and Steve Beshekas, in 1971 Belushi was asked to join the cast of The Second City. At Second City, he met and began working with Harold Ramis. He was subsequently cast with Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest in National Lampoon Lemmings, a parody of Woodstock, which played Off-Broadway in 1972.
In 1973, Belushi and Judith Jacklin moved together to New York where Belushi worked for National Lampoon magazine's The National Lampoon Radio Hour, a half-hour syndicated comedy program where he was a writer, director and actor. During a trip to Toronto to check the local Second City cast in 1974, he met Dan Aykroyd. Jacklin became an associate producer for the show, and she and Belushi were married on December 31, 1976.
Belushi became an original cast member of the new television show Saturday Night Live (SNL) in 1975. His characters at SNL included belligerent Samurai Futaba. With Aykroyd, Belushi created the characters Jake and Elwood Blues, also known as The Blues Brothers.
During his tenure at SNL, Belushi was heavily using drugs and alcohol which affected his performance and caused SNL to fire him (and promptly re-hire him) a number of times.
In 1978, he made the films Old Boyfriends (directed by Joan Tewkesbury), Goin' South (directed by Jack Nicholson) and Animal House (directed by John Landis). Upon its initial release, Animal House received generally mixed reviews from critics, but Time and Roger Ebert proclaimed it one of the year's best. Filmed for $2.8 million, it is one of the most profitable movies of all time, garnering an estimated gross of more than $141 million in the form of theatrical rentals and home video, not including merchandising. Animal House was also largely responsible for defining and launching the gross-out genre of films, which became one of Hollywood's staples.
Following the success of The Blues Brothers on the show, Belushi and Aykroyd, with the help of pianist-arranger Paul Shaffer, started assembling a collection of studio talents to form a proper band. These included SNL band members, saxophonist "Blue" Lou Marini and trombonist-saxophonist Tom Malone, who had previously played in Blood, Sweat & Tears. At Shaffer's suggestion, guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn, the powerhouse combo from Booker T and the M.G.'s and subsequently almost every hit out of Memphis's Stax Records during the 1960s, were signed as well. In 1978 The Blues Brothers released their debut album, Briefcase Full of Blues with Atlantic Records. The album reached #1 on the Billboard 200 and went double platinum. Two singles were released, "Rubber Biscuit", which reached number 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 and "Soul Man," which reached number 14.
In 1979 Belushi left Saturday Night Live, with Aykroyd, to pursue a film career. In Rolling Stone Magazine's February, 2015 appraisal of all 141 SNL cast members to date, Belushi received the top ranking. "Belushi was the 'live' in Saturday Night Live," they wrote, "the one who made the show happen on the edge ... Nobody embodied the highs and lows of SNL like Belushi."
Aykroyd and Belushi made three movies together, 1941 (directed by Steven Spielberg), Neighbors (directed by John Avildsen), and most notably The Blues Brothers (directed by John Landis). Released in the United States on June 20, 1980, The Blues Brothers received generally positive reviews. It earned just under $5 million in its opening weekend and went on to gross $115.2 million in theaters worldwide before its release on home video. The Blues Brothers band toured to promote the film, which led to a third album (and second live album), Made in America, recorded at the Universal Amphitheater in 1980. The track "Who's Making Love" peaked at No 39.
The only film Belushi made without Aykroyd following his departure from SNL was the romantic comedy Continental Divide (directed by Michael Apted). Released in September 1981, it starred Belushi as Chicago home town hero writer Ernie Souchack, who gets put on assignment researching a scientist (played by Blair Brown) studying birds of prey in the remote Rocky Mountains.
In 1980, Belushi had become a fan and advocate of the punk rock band Fear after seeing them perform in several after-hours New York City bars, and brought them to Cherokee Studios to record songs for the soundtrack of Neighbors. Blues Brother band member and sax player Tom Scott, along with producing partner and Cherokee owner Bruce Robb, initially helped with the session but later pulled out due to conflicts with Belushi.
At the time of his death, Belushi was pursuing several movie projects, including Moons Over Miami with Louis Malle, National Lampoon's The Joy of Sex and Noble Rot, a script that had been adapted and rewritten by himself and former Saturday Night Live writer Don Novello in the weeks leading up to his death. He was also scheduled to work with Aykroyd on Ghostbusters and Spies Like Us.
Belushi also made a "Guest Star Appearance" on an episode of the television series Police Squad! (1982), which showed him underwater wearing cement shoes. He died shortly before the episode aired, so the scene was cut and replaced by a segment with William Conrad.
On March 5, 1982, after showing up at his hotel for a scheduled workout, his trainer, Bill Wallace found Belushi dead in his room, Bungalow 3 at the Chateau Marmont Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. He was 33 years old. The cause of death was combined drug intoxication involving cocaine and heroin, a drug combination also known as a speedball. In the early morning hours on the day of his death, he was visited separately by friends Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, each of whom left the premises, leaving Belushi in the company of assorted others, including Catherine Evelyn Smith. His death was investigated by forensic pathologist Michael Baden, among others, and, while the findings were disputed, it was officially ruled a drug-related accident.
Two months later, Smith admitted in an interview with the National Enquirer that she had been with Belushi the night of his death and had given him the fatal speedball shot. After the appearance of the article "I Killed Belushi" in the Enquirer edition of June 29, 1982, the case was reopened. Smith was extradited from Toronto, Ontario, arrested and charged with first-degree murder. A plea bargain reduced the charge to involuntary manslaughter, and she served fifteen months in prison.
Belushi's wife arranged for a traditional Orthodox Christian funeral which was conducted by an Albanian Orthodox priest. He has been interred twice at Abel's Hill Cemetery in Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. A tombstone marking the original burial location has a skull and crossbones, that reads, "I may be gone but Rock and Roll lives on." An unmarked tombstone in an undisclosed location marks the final burial location. He is also remembered on the Belushi family stone marking his mother's grave at Elmwood Cemetery in River Grove, Illinois. This stone reads, "He gave us laughter."
Belushi's life is detailed in the 1984 biography Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi by Bob Woodward and 1990's Samurai Widow by his wife Judith. Wired was later adapted into a feature film in which Belushi was played by Michael Chiklis.
Belushi has been portrayed by actors Eric Siegel in Gilda Radner: It's Always Something, Tyler Labine in Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy (which also features his friendship with Robin Williams), and Michael Chiklis in Wired. Future SNL star Chris Farley, whose work was influenced by Belushi, died at age 33 in 1997 due to a drug overdose, similar to combined drug intoxication, contributing to comparisons between Belushi and Farley.
His widow later remarried and is now Judith Belushi Pisano. She and co-biographer Tanner Colby produced Belushi: A Biography, a collection of first-person interviews and photographs of John Belushi's life that was published in 2005.
In 2004, Belushi was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2006, Biography Channel aired the "John Belushi" episode of Final 24, a documentary following Belushi in the last twenty-four hours leading to his death. In 2010, Biography aired a full biography documentation of Belushi's life.
According to Jane Curtin, who appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011, John Belushi was a "misogynist" who would deliberately sabotage the work of women writers and comics while working on SNL. "So you'd go to a table read, and if a woman writer had written a piece for John, he would not read it in his full voice. He felt as though it was his duty to sabotage pieces written by women."
At the conclusion of the very first live SNL episode (Robert Urich/Mink DeVille on March 20, 1982) following Belushi's death, Brian Doyle-Murray gave a tribute to him.
Belushi was scheduled to present the first annual Best Visual Effects Oscar at the 1982 Academy Awards with Dan Aykroyd. Aykroyd presented the award alone, and stated from the podium: "My partner would have loved to have been here tonight to present this award, since he was a bit of a Visual Effect himself."
In 2015, Belushi was ranked by Rolling Stone as the greatest SNL cast member of all time.
John Belushi's movie credits include...
|1978||Goin' South||Deputy Hector|
|1978||National Lampoon's Animal House||John "Bluto" Blutarsky|
|1979||Old Boyfriends||Eric Katz|
|1979||1941||Captain "Wild" Bill Kelso|
|1980||The Blues Brothers||"Joliet" Jake Blues|
|1981||Continental Divide||Ernie Souchak|
John Belushi's television credits include...
|Saturday Night Live||Original cast member|
|Saturday Night Live||Guest appearances|
|1976||The Beach Boys: It's OK|
|1978||The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash||Ron Decline|
Memorable Quotes by John Belushi
“Some comedians love their characters. I don't fall in love with mine. In fact, I get tired of them very fast. You have to be willing to throw it all away.”
“Back in Chicago, all we cared about was rock 'n' roll and staying out of the army.”
“I give so much pleasure to so many people. Why can I not get some pleasure for myself?”
“On stage is the only place where I really know what I'm doing.”
“Work is no longer challenging.”
“It's all false pressure; you put the heat on yourself, you get it from the networks and record companies and movie studios. You put more pressure on yourself to make everything that much harder.”
Things You May Not Know About John Belushi
John Belushi is interred at Abel's Hill Cemetery in Chilmark (on Martha's Vineyard), Massachusetts. His grave is unmarked.
Used to borrow a $20 bill from new acquaintances, judging them from their reactions at his request.
Belushi starred alone in a black and white Saturday Night Live (1975) sketch titled "Don't Look Back in Anger", in which he played himself as an old man visiting the graves of the other original SNL cast members, himself being the last survivor. In an odd twist of fate, Belushi was the first of the cast to die..
A petition drive was started to have a commemorative stamp printed by the U.S. Postal Service for the actor.
He made a "Guest Star Appearance" on an episode of the TV series Police Squad! (1982) which showed him underwater wearing cement shoes. He died shortly before the episode aired, so the scene was cut and replaced by a segment with William Conrad.
Belushi died in bungalow #3 of the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles. The last two stars to see him alive were Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, both of whom had visited Belushi, on separate occasions, shortly before his death.