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The Jerk (1979)

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

Director:

Carl Reiner

Writers:

Steve Martin (screenplay), Carl Gottlieb (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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Popularity
2,185 ( 174)
1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve Martin ... Navin / Cat Juggler (as Pig Eye Jackson also)
Bernadette Peters ... Marie
Catlin Adams ... Patty Bernstein
Mabel King ... Mother
Richard Ward ... Father
Dick Anthony Williams ... Taj
Bill Macy ... Stan Fox
M. Emmet Walsh ... Madman
Dick O'Neill ... Frosty
Maurice Evans ... Hobart
Helena Carroll Helena Carroll ... Hester
Renn Woods ... Elvira (as Ren Wood)
Pepe Serna ... Punk #1
Sonny Terry Sonny Terry ... Blues Singer
Brownie McGhee Brownie McGhee ... Blues Singer (as Brownie McGee)
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 December 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Easy Money See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

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

Gross USA:

$73,691,419
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (Super 8-version in 2 parts)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ranked #48 on movie magazine Total Film's 2000 year readers poll of the greatest comedy films of all time. See more »

Goofs

When Navin realizes the credit card is stolen, he walks backward past the car. However the gas nozzle and hose hasn't been removed from the car but he passes the car without coming into contact with the hose. See more »

Quotes

[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...
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Alternate Versions

The scene where Mr. Hartounian hires Navin is a bit different in the TV version. Instead of showing Navin at the urinal, the entire shot of Jackie Mason is used until Navin exits the men's room. Also, Mr. Hartounian mocks Navin's response and mentions how kids today "wanna start on the top and work their way sideways," which ends in him wondering, "who'm I talkin' to?" See more »

Connections

Referenced in Suits: To Trouble (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
Funnier with time!
29 August 2002 | by jjh6519See all my reviews

I saw "The Jerk" several times on the screen when it first released and then I have watched it either as a video or on TV (the butchered version, where the dog "Shithead" gets changed to "Stupid", etc.). I always thought it was funny, if not more than a little stupid. Even so, it's been quite a while since I've seen the original version.

Well, about a week or so ago, my 14-year-old grandson asked me if I wanted to watch "Joe Dirt" with him, and based upon the reviews I had read, I wanted to say no, but I could tell it was important to him. Well, "Joe Dirt" is by no means that great, but I was amazed that I found myself laughing at it. And after the movie was over, it occurred to me that, if my grandson liked this story-of-a-loser's-life-as-told-by-the-loser, he would at least enjoy "The Jerk", which uses a similar plot device. Of course, "The Jerk" is not at all as raunchy and gross as "Joe Dirt", which tries to emulate the Farrelly brothers. But I still had hope that my grandson might enjoy it, so I rented it so we could watch it together.

My grandson roared! I have never heard him laugh so loud and so often while watching any movie. He could not contain himself during the scenes in Navin Johnson's old shack of a home, where he believed he grew up as a part of a poor but close African-American family in Mississippi. He loved the part when the crazy guy picks out Navin's name from the telephone book by pure chance, and tries to shoot him, but Navin, in his stupidity, thinks the guy is really trying to shoot the oil cans right next to him, because the crazed sniper (M. Everett Walsh) keeps accidentally hitting them when he misses Navin. And when Navin finally gets the courage to be intimate with Marie (Bernadette Peters), and as we are all expecting an amorous kiss, he licks the side of her face! OK, OK, it's stupid, but it's also hilarious! My grandson was roaring with laughter throughout, including the bit about "And I don't need anything! Well, I need this thing here. But I don't need anything else! Well, I need this..."

"The Jerk" made me laugh all over again. It has become funnier with age, even though some of the jokes are dated. (By the way, even a classic comedy such as "Blazing Saddles" has become dated due to its lame ending.)

And I noticed that some reviewers actually find "The Jerk" to be a racist movie. Why? Because of the one scene in which the N-word was used and turned into great satire? They must have watched a totally different film than the one I have watched over the years. Or has political correctness totally gone crazy and lost all sense of humor?


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