Daniel de Visé (MSJ90)
In the first half of this exhaustively researched, highly informative book, de Visé, the author of King of the Blues and Andy & Don, provides an in-depth profile of the upbringing and career arcs of the film’s stars: the immensely talented, overgrown child John Belushi, who needed constant stimulation and elicited among his friends and colleagues the need to protect; and the quieter, highly intelligent Dan Aykroyd. The author also describes the rivalry-rich, drug-fueled evolution of 1970s comedy in the forms of Saturday Night Live, National Lampoon, and Chicago’s Second City group, all of which laid the groundwork for the movie. Gleaned from primary research and interviews with Aykroyd and director John Landis, among others, the narrative details the relationship between Belushi and Aykroyd, the sincerity with which they immersed themselves in the blues to live out their fantasies of fronting a great band, and how they overcame accusations of cultural appropriation to revive and amplify the careers of talents such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Cab Calloway. The book is also the definitive scene-by-scene account of a film—ambitious and over budget, panned by most critics of the day—that endures as a well-written and directed comedy doubling as a loving homage to a uniquely American genre and its capital city. A complete portrait of a classic film and the zeitgeist of its era.