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John Belushi was an actor and comedian, one of the first performers on "Saturday Night Live" and one half of the Blues Brothers.
Don Knotts - Early Life (2:56)
Comedy icon John Belushi enjoyed great success with his exuberant personality, but could not escape the vicious cycle of addiction.
Actor and comedian Don Knotts faced many difficulties as a child growing up in West Virginia to ultimately become one of America's most beloved TV stars.
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Only in a small part, he appeared in the western flop Goin' South with Jack Nicholson and Mary Steenburgen. The next year, he took on a serious role in Old Boyfriends with Talia Shire, which failed to find an audience. Belushi fans wanted him to see him return to a Blutolike character,
not in a dramatic part. And he did in a way with 1941 (1979) as Captain Will Bill Kelso in this World War II comedy. The film was loosely based on an historical incident when a Japanese submarine was off the West Coast after the attack at Pearl Harbor. Belushi played a manic National Guard pilot, who along with some other concerned citizens, including an overeager tank sergeant played by Dan Aykroyd, tries to protect a California small town under siege from the Japanese. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film was a complete flop and received numerous bad reviews. A review in The New York Times said that it was "less comic than cumbersome, as much fun as a 40-pound wristwatch."
In real life, Belushi and Aykroyd were good friends. While on Saturday Night Live, the two of them developed a blues parody act known as the Blues Brothers. The duo recorded an album, 1978's Briefcase Full of Blues, which had some success, and toured the country with a backup band. While Belushi and Aykroyd left Saturday Night Live in 1979, they continued working together as their musical alter egos. They brought Jake and Elwood Blues to the big screen in 1980. The Blues Brothers begins when "Joliet" Jake Blues (Belushi) is released from prison. His brother Elwood (Aykroyd) picks him up and the two visit the Chicago orphanage where they grew up. There they learn that they are on "a mission from God" to save the orphanage. The Blues brothers work on reuniting the members of their old band in order to raise money to fulfill their mission. The outlandish comedy had crazy car chases, neo-Nazis, and nearly everything else but the kitchen sink in it. The film also featured several musical cameos by such talented recording artists as Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, and James Brown.
Focusing on his film career, Belushi was frustrated with the response to his next two films. In Continental Divide (1981), he played a Chicago journalist who falls for a reclusive eagle expert (Blair Brown) he tracks down in the Rocky Mountains. Critic Robert Ebert described his performance as having "a surprising tenderness and charm." Despite mostly warm reviews, the film was a box office disappointment. Reunited with Aykroyd, Belushi starred in Neighbors (1981). The roles were reversed for the film as Belushi played a mostly straight, subdued man up against Aykroyd's loud and obnoxious character who has moved in next door to him. Again, audiences were disappointed to not see Belushi as a manic ball of comic energy and this affected the film's reception by the public.
For his next project, Belushi became active behind the scenes and wrote the screenplay for Noble Rot.
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Learn more about the cast of Saturday Night Live, including old-timers such as John Belushi, Billy Crystal, Jane Curtin, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy and David Spade, as well as newer stars of the series, including Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Seth Meyers, Kate McKinnon, Molly Shannon and Kristen Wiig.
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