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18 Fun Facts About The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers just won't quit. It's been more than 35 years since John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd brought their Saturday Night Live characters Jake and Elwood Blues to the big screen with The Blues Brothers, a loud, money-making, car-smashing love letter to both Chicago and rhythm and blues. It made more than $115 million in theaters worldwide in 1980, even though director John Landis and its crew couldn’t identify whether the movie was a comedy, a musical, a classic, or an expensive disaster. With today's announcement that an animated primetime series is in the works, we're taking a look back at some fascinating facts about the original movie.

1. DAN AYKROYD WROTE THE FIRST DRAFT AND IT WAS 324 PAGES LONG.

In his first attempt at writing a screenplay, Aykroyd penned a script that was nearly three times the length of the average screenplay (given that one page usually equals one minute of screen time). It didn’t help matters that he had never read a screenplay before either. John Landis put together a shorter, filmable version in just three weeks.

2. JOHN BELUSHI WAS PAID TWICE AS MUCH AS AYKROYD.

Belushi earned $500,000 for his work in the movie; Aykroyd received $250,000.

3. CHICAGO CREATED ITS OWN FILM OFFICE FOR THE MOVIE.

Most of The Blues Brothers was shot throughout Chicago, which wasn't a major film production hotspot at the time. While it pumped about $12 million into the local economy, all of the car stunts scared residents enough that many of them called the local newspapers to report what they were seeing.

4. THE SHOPPING MALL CAR CHASE WAS SHOT IN A REAL SHOPPING MALL.

The scene was filmed at the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, which had been shuttered in 1979—before filming commenced. Though the mall never reopened, it was only (finally) torn down in 2013.

5. 13 DIFFERENT BLUESMOBILES WERE USED.

All of the car chases and stunts were real and not created with CGI. Forty stunt drivers were flown in every weekend to do the work. Sixty old police cars were purchased for $400 apiece. The filmmakers got permission to drive down Lake Street at speeds of over 100 miles per hour. After one take, Landis realized it just looked like he was speeding up the film, so he got stunt pedestrians to walk down the sidewalks to show just how fast the cars were really going. A ditch was dug so the cars in the big pile-up scene would flip when they hit it. One stunt driver drove off a 150-foot-long ramp. Amazing, only a few minor injuries were ever reported.

6. ONE OF THE STUNT DRIVERS WAS JOHN WAYNE’S SON.

The Duke's youngest son, Ethan Wayne, began acting in 1970. But he supplemented his work in front of the camera with a handful of stunting stints.

7. DAN AYKROYD AND CARRIE FISHER BECAME ENGAGED DURING FILMING.

The two were a couple, set up by Belushi, who became engaged after Aykroyd successfully administered the Heimlich maneuver on her. "I almost choked on some kind of vegetable that I shouldn't have been eating: Brussels sprouts," Fisher told CNN. "He saved my life, and then he asked me to marry him. And I thought ... wow, what if that happens again? I should probably marry him." (The wedding never happened.)

8. FISHER WASN’T THE ONLY STAR WARS CONNECTION.

Frank Oz, known mostly for his work as a puppeteer, plays the corrections officer who returns Jake’s belongings in the very beginning of the movie. He was of course the man behind Yoda, who made his debut in The Empire Strikes Back, which debuted one month earlier, and was still number one at the box office when The Blues Brothers premiered (and had to settle for second place).

9. PART OF THE BUDGET WAS FOR COCAINE.

Aykroyd admitted as much. At the nadir, a frustrated Landis flushed a large amount of Belushi's cocaine down the toilet. "It’s like Tony Montana,” Landis told Vanity Fair. “It’s like a joke. I scoop it all up and flush it down the toilet. Probably a lot of money’s worth. So I’m on my way out of the trailer, and John comes in and says, ‘What’d you do?’ Then he pushes me, mostly to get to the table. It’s pathetic. He’s trying to get to the table to save the cocaine.” After a brief scuffle, Landis says “John hugged me and started sobbing and apologized. He and I are sitting there, both crying, and I’m going, ‘John, this is insane.’"

10. THE STUDIO WANTED THE BAND WHO SANG "CAR WASH" INSTEAD OF ARETHA FRANKLIN.

Universal Pictures wanted new acts like Rose Royce, the band behind hits like "Car Wash" and "I Wanna Get Next to You." But Aykroyd and company said no. Universal later generated a PR effort to get Franklin an Oscar nomination for her performance. The movie helped revitalize her career.

11. CHARLES NAPIER BLAMES THE SINGERS FOR THE MOVIE FALLING WAY BEHIND SCHEDULE.

The actor who portrayed Tucker McElroy claimed to not remember his time on set thanks to his friendship with Belushi. All he seemed to recall is that the singers never showed up on time for their 8 a.m. calls.

12. PAUL REUBENS HAS A SMALL BUT VISIBLE ROLE.

The actor best known as Pee-wee Herman played a waiter at Chez Paul, before the band is fully back together.

13. PAUL SHAFFER WAS KICKED OUT OF THE BAND BEFORE THE MOVIE.

Despite putting the group of musical all-stars together, the future David Letterman bandleader’s choice to help co-produce a Gilda Radner album over helping the Blues Brothers project upset Belushi.

14. BELUSHI CRASHED AT A STRANGER’S HOUSE ONE NIGHT.

Aykroyd followed a grassy path to a house with a light on one late night during production, looking for his co-star. He discovered that a man had allowed Belushi into his home to take advantage of a full fridge and sleep on his couch.

15. BELUSHI HURT HIMSELF ON A KID’S SKATEBOARD BEFORE FILMING THE BIG FINISH.

The filmmakers had to convince the “top orthopedist in town” to attend to Belushi over Thanksgiving weekend so that he'd be able to perform the cartwheels and dance steps required for the big finale.

16. SOME MOVIE THEATER OWNERS DIDN’T WANT TO SHOW THE MOVIE.

The movie was only booked into about 600 theaters, as opposed to the 1400 theaters that would be typical for a movie with The Blues Brothers' budget. This was because owners screened a too long, two-and-a-half-hour cut of the film, and some told Landis that they didn’t want to show a “black movie” in their theaters.

17. IT GOT SOME BAD REVIEWS.

Newsweek said it was “desperately unfunny.” The Los Angeles Times called it a “$30 million wreck.”

18. IT WAS REALLY POPULAR IN AUSTRALIA AND OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD.

Similar to The Rocky Horror Picture Show in New York, The Blues Brothers was shown regularly in Melbourne’s Valhalla Cinema on Friday nights throughout the 1980s and '90s, where as many as 400 costumed fans would watch as 30 actors re-created the scenes as the movie played, with everybody singing along to the musical performances. Due partially to the domestic movie chain boycotts, but saying something about its international appeal, Landis said the film was the first to ever gross more money overseas than in the U.S.

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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