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The Jerk (1979)

An idiotic man struggles to make it through life on his own in St. Louis.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Navin / Cat Juggler (as Pig Eye Jackson also)
Helena Carroll ...
Elvira (as Ren Wood)
Sonny Terry ...
Blues Singer
Brownie McGhee ...
Blues Singer (as Brownie McGee)


Navin is an idiot. He grew up in Mississippi as adopted son of a black family but on his 18th birthday he feels he wants to discover the rest of the world and sets out to St. Louis. There everyone exploits his naivety, but then a simple invention brings him a fortune. Written by Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


He was a poor black sharecropper's son who never dreamed he was adopted. See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

14 December 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Easy Money  »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,935,025, 16 December 1979, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (Super 8-version in 2 parts)

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Steve Martin's favorite scene involves M. Emmet Walsh, shooting the cans at the gas station. See more »


When Navin is talking to the credit card thieves, you see some small bills ($1 bills) on the bottom of the pile closest to the driver and larger bills closest to Navin, but when the angle switches to over Navin's you see the bills closest to Navin are now large bills ($20s, $10s). See more »


[first lines]
Navin R. Johnson: Huh? I am *not* a bum. I'm a jerk. I once had wealth, power, and the love of a beautiful woman. Now I only have two things: my friends, and... uh... my thermos. Huh? My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin' on the porch with my family, singin' and dancin' down in Mississippi...
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Crazy Credits

Pig Eye Jackson - Cat Juggler (Steve Martin) See more »


Referenced in The Killing of America (1981) See more »


Pick A Bale Of Cotton
Sung by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee (as Brownie McGee)
Words and Music by Leadbelly (as Huddie Ledbetter)
Collected and Adapted by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax
See more »

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User Reviews

A truly silly movie,top to bottom
8 December 2005 | by See all my reviews

Steve Martin's first starring role movie could be argued to have been an extension of his wildly popular stand-up routines of the 1970s. Perhaps so,but this movie to me seems to be also an exercise in making a truly silly movie,one that isn't really concerned with plausibility or irony.

MArtin is NAvin Johnson,a dim bulb of a dude with a good heart whose story begins with him being raised as the son of black share-croppers in the deep south. It never really occurs to him as a youth that he is different from his adopted kinfolk all the way into adulthood before he discovers that he doesn't have rhythm on his(18th)birthday. Deciding that he needs to leave home to find his identity,he embarks on a misadventure that takes him from working odd jobs to becoming a super-rich inventor/entrepreneur. Along the way,he finds love in an equally dull but extremely cute beautician(Bernadette Peters).

MArtin's full-on commitment to character and Carl Reiner's cooperative direction make this film a delightfully odd and fitfully funny. MArtin fans of all stripes will feel the need to own this one!

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