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Continental Divide (1981)

A hard-nosed Chicago journalist has an unlikely love affair with an eagle researcher.




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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Howard McDermott (as Allen Goorwitz)
Tony Ganios ...
Max Bernbaum
Liam Russell ...
Everett Smith ...
Train Conductor
Eddie Schwartz ...
Harold Holmes ...
Mr. Feeney
Elizabeth Young ...
Mrs. Feeney
Frankie Hill ...


Ernie Souchak (John Belushi), a tough Chicago reporter, gets a little too close to the Mob, and is assaulted by two crooked police officers sent by a crooked councilman, and ends up in the hospital. To take the heat off of him, his editor sends him to Colorado to investigate an eagle researcher ('Blair Brown'). Sparring partners at first, the pair eventually fall in love, but Souchak must return to Chicago when one of his sources is mysteriously killed. Written by Ray Hamel <hamel@primate.wisc.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


When they met they heard bells. And that was just round one.


Comedy | Romance


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

18 September 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Amerikai románc  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$3,218,347 (USA) (20 September 1981)


$15,578,237 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The Colorado mountain cabin, built with an exterior and an interior, was originally located at a higher elevation on the mountain. Production Designer Peter Jamison, in selecting the cabin's original site with director Michael Apted, did not consider the site's elevation until shooting began. The elevation's thin air caused major problems for both cast and crew, especially John Belushi in his overweight condition. Belushi had to be constantly revived with oxygen by the medic. The production made the decision to move the cabin site to a 1000 foot lower elevation. The entire cabin, and all the bushes and trees, were moved lock, stock, and barrel to the new site. In town, a duplicate interior cabin had been constructed in a warehouse for interior filming, without the exterior log frame. During this logistic cabin move, Belushi put himself on a diet, realizing his weight prevented him from performing his character at mountain elevations. Watching scenes filmed at the exterior Colorado cabin, you see the weight change on his body frame. With the drop in his weight, moving with the film company to film the Chicago scenes, Belushi actually began to visualize himself as a romantic leading man, and kept at his diet to lose more of his body fat. Filming in Colorado was canceled after early snowfalls, preventing completion of the cabin scenes. The company moved to Chicago earlier than scheduled. Construction foreman-supervisor Doug Vlaming and his crew dismantled the mountain cabin, loading the entire set on flatbed trucks. The set and set dressing returned to Universal City Studios and were reassembled on stage over an enormous scaffold frame duplicating the Colorado terrain's scaled hillside. Universal Studios' green department duplicated every tree, grass and dirt ground cover, shrub, bush, and rock from location reference photos. Linda Spheeris' set decorating crew duplicated the Colorado interior. When the company moved back to Universal Studios, the mountain scenes were the first to resume the daily schedule, including the exterior mountain lion shots. Filming in the controlled stage environment was much easier than filming this scene in the Colorado mountain wilderness. The paint department utilized the floor space beneath the high end of the scaled scaffold mountain hilltop for their paint work area. It was notoriously nicknamed the Pharmacy, because of the drug exchanges which occurred in the area, and also became a favorite hideout for Belushi during his stage work. See more »


When Souchak rides the Empire Builder back to Wyoming with Nell, the train takes a route the Empire Builder never takes. In the movie, the train goes through Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and then on to Victor, Wyoming, where they get off. The real Empire Builder goes north from Chicago to Milwaukee and then Minneapolis before heading northwest and crossing North Dakota, Montana and Idaho near the Canadian border. It goes nowhere near Iowa or Wyoming. See more »


Ernie Souchak: I've never seen such big balls - and I'm from Chicago.
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Crazy Credits

At the end of the credits, after some mountain shots, there's a sequence of a selection of some of the black-and-white photos of Ernie and/or Nell that Souchak had on his desk. See more »


Referenced in The Directors: The Films of Lawrence Kasdan (2001) See more »


Theme from Continental Divide (Never Say Goodbye)
Music by Michael Small
Lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager
Performed by Helen Reddy
Available on MCA Records
Record Produced by Joel Diamond
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User Reviews

It ain't "Bluto", "Jake", or "SNL"!
27 May 2004 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

Continental Divide is by far John Belushi's greatest performance. Most people are quick to disagree, usually for one reason, and that is because they didn't find it believable. His audience was so accustomed to his characters, 'Bluto' from Animal House and 'Jake' from The Blues Brothers on the big screen and his usually wild and loud skits on SNL that they couldn't accept him as playing the lead in a romantic comedy. They couldn't and wouldn't accept this new role for him. For Belushi, it was his chance to break out of his stereotype and tackle a role that he felt would prove that he was more than just a skit on SNL. In my opinion, he did just that. Although this is not one of the greatest movies ever made, it certainly isn't as bad as some have claimed it to be. There are some dull moments, but for the most part Belushi comes off as a very likable and convincible guy. Belushi fans waited impatiently for him to get off a good one-liner or to blow mashed potatoes all over the place, but when that never happens they write it off as a bad movie and an even worse performance by John. I like to point this out: Let's pretend that this is Belushi's first movie, forget Bluto, Jake Blues or any character he ever did on SNL. With all of that in mind, watch the movie. John will surprise you by how well he plays his character. If this was in fact, the first movie Belushi ever did, it would of gotten way better reviews and press, and would have been more accepted by his audience, since they wouldn't have been expecting him to pull a Bluto stunt or break out into somersaults a la Jake Blues. The only thing that disturbs me in this movie is that his character makes several remarks about dying very soon. In 1981, it probably wasn't even given a second thought, but, unfortunately as we all know now, Belushi died very soon after this movie was released. Had John not died so soon and so young I think he would still be making movies today, unlike so many of his other SNL co-stars who seemed to have faded away into the woodwork. To make a long story short… Forget about Bluto, Jake and SNL and just watch the movie, you should really enjoy it.

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