During filming one of the night scenes, John Belushi disappeared and could not be located. Dan Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He went to the house and was prepared to identify himself, the movie and that they were looking for John Belushi. But before he could, the homeowner looked at him, smiled and said, "You're here for John Belushi, aren't you?" The homeowner then told them Belushi had entered their house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich and then crashed on their couch. Situations like this prompted Aykroyd to affectionately dub Belushi "America's Guest".
103 cars were wrecked during filming, a world record at that time. This feat was exceeded two years later, when 150 cars (and a plane) were crashed for H.B. Halicki's The Junkman (1982). That record in turn held for two decades, until over 300 cars were wrecked during the filming of The Matrix Revolutions (2003).
Before the falling-Pinto scene could be filmed, the filmmakers had to get an "Air UN-worthyness certificate" from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Pinto. This was done by conducting preliminary drop tests to ensure that it would not behave as an airfoil and drift from its target line, but would drop "like a brick" when dropped from a great height.
Producers rented the Dixie Square Mall in south suburban Harvey, Illinois for the mall chase scenes. The mall had been closed for over a year. (False) rumors began in the community that the mall was being refurbished and would be reopened after filming was complete. Universal was later sued for over $87,500 for failure to make good on a deal to "return the mall to its original condition" which was never agreed upon. After years of political wrangling that saw only the the Montgomery Ward anchor store and mall power plant being demolished while the rest of the dead mall rotted unused, deals were finally struck that led to every part of the structure being torn down and cleared away in 2012.
Before Jake and Elwood go into the Soul Food Cafe, John Lee Hooker gets into an argument with his band about his writing "Boom, Boom" (seen in the extended DVD version). Later, as Jake and Elwood leave the diner with Matt Murphy and Blue Lou, the argument can still be heard going on in the background. If you look closely as the camera tracks Blue Lou darting into the Bluesmobile, the argument has escalated into a fight.
The infamous "Bluesmobile" is a 1974 Dodge Monaco. The vehicles used in the film were used police cars purchased from the California Highway Patrol (mocked up to look like Mt. Prospect, Illinois patrol cars), and featured the "cop tires, cop suspension and cop motor - a 440 cubic-inch plant" mentioned by Elwood in the film. A total of 12 Bluesmobiles were used in the movie, including one that was built just so it could fall apart. Several replicas have been built by collectors, but one original is known to exist, and is owned by the brother-in-law of Dan Aykroyd. 1974-77 Dodge Monacos (including the upscale Royal Monaco), especially those which came with the A38 police option, are now considered as collector's items since they have been used as replica Chicago P.D. and Illnois State Police squads - including Bluesmobile tribute cars. This has led to the scarcity of this generation of Mopar C-bodies where some replica squads and Bluesmobiles use the Plymouth Gran Fury as a substitute - including the Chrysler Newport. Universal Studios Hollywood has a replica Bluesmobile on the lot - a 1974 Dodge Coronet is used since the Monaco has became a rarity.
The Bluesmobile was actually going 118 miles per hour under the elevated train line. The film crew received permission to clear the street for two 100 MPH+ passes. Stunt pedestrians were added after the first pass to add realism.
Some of the performers were not used to lip-syncing to their pre-recorded songs - the standard procedure for movie musicals. James Brown ended up singing his number live with a recorded backing (the rest of his choir was lip-syncing). John Lee Hooker's performance of "Boom Boom" was recorded live at Chicago's Maxwell Street Market. Aretha Franklin's performance is cut together from many, many takes, using the parts where her lip-syncing was actually in sync.
The scene in which the Head Nazi (Henry Gibson) gives a taunting speech to the assembled counter-protesters and leads his men in a pledge of allegiance to Adolf Hitler was taken almost word-for-word from the documentary The California Reich (1975). He introduces his Nazi group as the "American Socialist White People's Party", the acronym of which, ASWPP, is a diminutive of "ass wipe".
During the making of the movie, one of the actors, Stephen Brown, got separated from the vehicle caravan and drove the Bluesmobile 100 miles west on Interstate 80, to the city of Spring Valley, Illinois. When stopping at a gas station for directions he was arrested by the local police for no registration (the plate was a prop), and no valid drivers license. With a telephone call, the set director was more concerned with the return of the vehicle than with the return of his actor.
The exteriors and many interiors at Daley Center were shot on location, including the shot of the Bluesmobile plowing through the courthouse lobby. In a 1998 interview for Universal, John Landis credited mob help for getting permission from the Cook County Board of Commissioners for this (alluding to the Board being mob-controlled at that time).
Paul Shaffer was an original member of the Blues Brothers Band and was supposed to be in the film. But because he was also working on Gilda Live (1980), according to Shaffer's memoir, Belushi fired him for being disloyal to the band.
The line, "They broke my watch!" occurs three times in the film, each time spoken or voiced over by a policeman on the losing end of a car chase with the Blues Brothers. The first line is in the shopping mall, the second is in the rollover ditch, and the third is in the pile-up under the elevated train line. The broken-watch theme starts when Jake's broken watch is returned to him when he is released from prison at the beginning of the film.
When Cab Calloway originally recorded "Minnie The Moocher" in the 1930's the chorus lyric is simply 'Ho-dee-hody' rather than the lengthened 'Hody-hody-hody ho'. In an interview Calloway explained the change as one time when he was singing the song he suddenly once forgot the words, so he immediately shouted 'Hody-Hody-Hody-ho!' and carried on the song that way. It achieved a larger appreciation that way than the original, so he sang it that way since.
When recording the soundtrack for the movie, Cab Calloway was needed to record his hit "Minnie the Moocher" in better quality than his original album. When he came into the studios he was prepared to do his new disco version that was just released. Of course, the film makers wanted nothing to do with this and asked for the original version, which Calloway reluctantly gave them.
The Springfield High School class of 1980, from Akron Ohio, had a surprise in their yearbook; personal behind the scenes photos, while in character, of both John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd on the set of the Blues Brothers movie. This turns out to be courtesy of Belushi's uncle, who was the owner of a photography studio in the city. As a personal favor, both stars agreed to appear in the shots with the family members for the advertisement/school supporter section of the yearbook, with one of the pictures showing Belushi holding an antique camera with a sign on it which reads: "Look Mean... but smile!"
Graffiti on the bridge the Blues Brothers hide their car under during the show reads, "John *heart* Deborah." This is a reference to director John Landis and his wife, costume designer Deborah Nadoolman.
When Aretha Franklin is describing Jake and Elwood to Matt "Guitar" Murphy, she says "They look like they're from the CIA or something..." The Blues Brothers wardrobe of dark suits and sunglasses originated as Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi's costumes on a few Saturday Night Live (1975) episodes in which they played Secret Service Agents guarding Chevy Chase's President Gerald Ford. In those skits, they wore black suits and sunglasses.
When Jake and Elwood are stuck in traffic backed up by Nazi marchers, they ask a cop what is going on, and he tells them, "Those bums won their court case, so they're marching today." Elwood scoffs, "Illinois Nazis," and Jake agrees, "I hate Illinois Nazis." This is a reference to a mid-1970s incident in which the National Socialist (abbreviated in German as "Nazi") Party of America planned a public demonstration in Skokie, Illinois (the population of Skokie was not only heavily Jewish but also contained an unusually large number of Holocaust survivors). After the local governments provided various impediments to the Nazis' march, they eventually took the matter to the Supreme Court, which led to a 1977 decision (National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie) in favor of the Nazis' First Amendment right to Freedom of Assembly. The group subsequently did hold several Nazi rallies, but in Chicago instead of Skokie.
The scene in which the band appears in a sauna, clad only in towels, is an allusion to the cover photo on the 1973 Blood Sweat & Tears music album "No Sweat", in which the BST band appears in a sauna in identical pose. Lou Marini and Tom Malone, two of the Blues Brothers Band members, were also in BST and appear in both sauna scenes.
At the end, after the Universal Studios logo is shown, there is an ad for Universal Studios in Hollywood. Below "When in Hollywood, visit Universal Studios", it says "Ask For Babs". The same appeared in Animal House (1978) (Babs is the Animal House character Babs Jensen), and it reappeared in Blues Brothers 2000 (1998) underneath a new Universal Studios Hollywood logo at the end of that movie.
Singer/guitarist Joe Walsh can be seen during the "Jailhouse Rock" sequence at the end. He still had long hair and a long mustache at the time and is the first prisoner to jump up on a table and start dancing.
In the public restroom where the Good Ole Boys' front man discovers the graffiti/advertisement for the Blues Brothers' show at the Palace Hotel, the name "Rick Baker" can be seen written in red to the right of the illustration of Jake and Elwood. Baker was the special makeup effects artist for director John Landis's first feature film, Schlock (1973). Following the Blues Brothers, Landis called on Baker's talents once again for the film An American Werewolf in London (1981) and for Michael Jackson's long-form music video Thriller (1983).
The interior for the Blues Brothers' concert was the Hollywood Palladium. Audience members were recruited through radio station promotion. The exterior was Chicago's South Shore Country Club, locate at 7059 South Shore Dr. Chicago, Ill., which was later purchased by the city and reopened as the South Shore Cultural Center.
Elwood removes his hat three times in the film: when going to sleep in his room, to break the window to get into the Palace Hotel, and towards the end of the movie when the Bluesmobile falls apart. His sunglasses are removed once in the scene where he quits his job at the glue factory factory "to become a priest." Jake removes his sunglasses once, when he is talking to Carrie Fisher, but never removes his hat. In the DVD and cable versions, Elwood doesn't wear sunglasses when he quits his job.
In a scene restored to the DVD release, Elwood parks the Bluesmobile in a tiny Chicago Transit Authority storage shed underneath a bank of transformers for the CTA trains. Dan Aykroyd had written this as part of an elaborate scene showing the Bluesmobile being "charged up" by the transformers to explain how the car could perform its impossible stunts. Director John Landis discarded the complicated explanations, saying, "It's just a magic car!"
The record label president who offers the Blues Brothers a recording contract identifies himself as representing "Clarion Records, the largest recording company on the eastern seaboard." There actually was a Clarion Records - a budget label that was only in operation for a couple of years in the 1960s. However, it was owned by what had become, by the time of the movie, one of the largest American record companies: Atlantic Records, which, in real life, was not only a renowned blues/R&B/soul label (home of many of the artists mentioned or featured in the movie), but which also released the Blues Brothers' albums - including the movie soundtrack.
When Jake Blues is being processed for release from prison, the guards tell the clerk that Blues is from the "Maximum Wing, Block Nine", a reference to a song recorded by the Blues Brothers called "Riot in Cell Block #9".
The original trailer for the film contains scenes which were not included in either the original release or the extended edition DVD. Among these is a scene where Curtis (Cab Calloway) asks the Brothers "How are you gonna get $5000 in 11 days without ripping off somebody?"
In both Cab Calloway's basement room and Ray Charles' music store, framed photos of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and John and Robert Kennedy are on display. The framed photos are a tribute to the Civil Rights activism of the 1960s.
The receipt stamped by the tax assessor clerk (Steven Spielberg) is #6829, dated August 9, 1979, and correctly reflects that $5000 cash for St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud Orphanage was received from "Jake & Elwood Blues" with an address of 1060 West Addison, Chicago. The receipt is signed "R. J. Daley" - a reference to Mayor Richard J. Daley for which the plaza they drove through (with the Picasso sculpture) was named.
Just before the Blues Mobile crashes through the Toys-R-Us, a man asks if they have a "Miss Piggy," while holding up a a stuffed Grover toy. This is a nod to the cameo appearance by Frank Oz, the man who provides both Muppets' voices. The man with the toy is Gary McLarty, the stunt coordinator of this film and of Animal House (1978).
In the original film Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) never removes his sunglasses (the DVD extended version features a scene where he is wearing safety glasses instead). Jake (John Belushi) only removes them once in either version.
The bridge that the Illinois Nazis drive off of during the car chase was in downtown Milwaukee. It was a ramp as part of an interchange that had not been fully developed. Later that ramp was torn down and replaced.
Elwood's license number, B263-1655-2187, unfortunately isn't for someone by the name of Elwood Blues. By dissecting the license number, you can find out information about the holder. Birthdate: July 1st 1952 (Dan Aykroyd's birthday). Gender: Male. First Initial: D. Middle Initial: E. Last Name: Starts with a B, followed by a guttural or sibilant (C, G, J, K, Q, S, X, or Z), followed by a short liquid (R), followed by a dental (D or T). The driver's license number turns out to be what Dan Aykroyd's license number would be, if he had obtained an Illinois license, simply substituting the leading 'A' with the 'B' for "Blues"; thus the number shown in the film is a "hybrid" and is an invalid Illinois number. The book "Blues Brothers: Private" by Judith Jacklin (Judith Belushi-Pisano) gives Elwood's birthday as December 6, 1953. Therefore, Elwood's driver's license number should have been B420-2105-3347.
After the concert, the state troopers chase the Blues Brothers back to Chicago. The scene where several state trooper cars crash off the highway embankment was filmed at the Rt. 12 overpass in Wauconda, IL. They had trouble getting the cars to flip over when they went down the embankment, so they dug a hole into the embankment to help the cars flip over as they hit it.
Elwood's Drivers license number is #B263-1655-2187 Elwood had 116 outstanding warrants for parking and 56 for moving violations. This can be seen when Trooper Mount and Trooper Daniel ran his D/L history when he was first pulled over.
In the scene where Carrie Fisher is in the hair salon doing her nails and reading the instruction manual for the flamethrower, you can see a trio of pictures on the table. They are all of Fisher's character and Jake Blues. In every picture, Jake is wearing his sunglasses and hat.
The boat going under the bridge that Jake and Elwood jump at the beginning of the film is the W.W. Holloway. She was originally launched in 1906, laid up on Dec 7, 1981 and scrapped in 1986. In the movie she is wearing the paint scheme of Oglebay-Norton, the last shipping company to operate her.