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The Blues Brothers is a 1980 musical comedy film directed by John Landis and starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as "Joliet" Jake and Elwood Blues, characters developed from a musical sketch on the NBC variety series Saturday Night Live. It features musical numbers by R&B and soul singers James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker. The film is set in and around Chicago, Illinois, and also features non-musical supporting performances by John Candy, Carrie Fisher, Charles Napier, and Henry Gibson.
The story is a tale of redemption for paroled convict Jake (Belushi) and his brother Elwood (Aykroyd), who take on "a mission from God" to save from foreclosure the Catholic orphanage in which they grew up. To do so they must reunite their rhythm and blues band, The Blues Brothers, and organize a performance to earn $5,000 to pay the tax assessor. Along the way they are targeted by a destructive "mystery woman", Nazis, and a country and western band—all while being relentlessly pursued by the police.
Much of the film was shot on location in and around Chicago, Illinois between July and October 1979.
The first traffic stop was in Park Ridge, Illinois. The mall car chase was filmed in the real, albeit abandoned, Dixie Square Mall in Harvey. The bridge jump was filmed on an actual drawbridge, the 95th Street bridge over the Calumet River, on the southeast side of Chicago. The main entrance to Wrigley Field (and its sign reading "Save lives. Drive safely, prevent fires.") makes a brief appearance when the "Illinois Nazis" visit it after Elwood falsely registers the ball field's location, 1060 West Addison, as his home address on his driver's license. (Elwood's Illinois driver's license number is an almost-valid encoded number, with Dan Aykroyd's own birth date embedded). The other chase scenes included Lower Wacker Drive, Lake Street and Richard J. Daley Center.
In the final car chase scene, the production actually dropped a Ford Pinto, representing the one driven by the "Illinois Nazis," from a helicopter at an altitude of more than a mile—and had to gain a Special Airworthiness Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration to do it. The FAA was concerned that the car could prove too aerodynamic in a high-altitude drop, and pose a threat to nearby buildings. The shot leading up to the car drop, where the "Illinois Nazis" drive off a freeway ramp, was shot in Milwaukee, Wisconsin near the Hoan Bridge on Interstate 794. The Lake Freeway (North) was a planned but not completed 6-lane freeway and I-794 contained an unfinished ramp that the Nazis drove off. Several Milwaukee skyscrapers are visible in the background as the Bluesmobile flips over, notably the U.S. Bank Center.
The "Palace Hotel Ballroom," where the band performs its climactic concert, was at the time of filming a country club, but later became the South Shore Cultural Center, named after the Chicago neighborhood in which it is located. The interior concert scenes were filmed in the Hollywood Palladium.
The filming in downtown Chicago was conducted on Sundays during the summer of 1979, and much of the downtown was cordoned off from the public. Costs for filming the largest scene in the city's history, totaled $3.5 million. Permission was given after Belushi and Aykroyd offered to donate $50,000 to charity after filming. Although the Bluesmobile was allowed to be driven through the Daley Center lobby, special breakaway panes were temporarily substituted for the normal glass in the building.The speeding car caused $7,650 in damages to 35 granite pavers and a bronze air grille in the building. Interior shots of the elevator, staircase, and assessor's office were all re-created in a filmset for filming.