John Adam Belushi (January 24, 1949 – March 5, 1982) was an American actor, comedian and singer. Born in Chicago to Albanian American parents, Belushi started his own successful comedy troupe with Tino Insana and Steve Beshekas, called The West Compass Trio. After being discovered by Bernard Sahlins, he performed with The Second City and met Dan Aykroyd, Brian Doyle-Murray and Harold Ramis.
Belushi was one of the seven original cast members of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, with Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Lorraine Newman, and Gilda Radner. Belushi was recommended to SNL creator and showrunner Lorne Michaels by Chase and Michael O’Donoghue, who accepted Belushi as a new cast member of the show after an audition. He developed a series of characters on the show that reached high success, including his performances as Henry Kissinger and Ludwig van Beethoven.
After his breakout film role as John “Bluto” Blutarsky in National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), directed by John Landis; he would go on to appear in films such as Goin’ South (1978), with Jack Nicholson (who also directed), Mary Steenburgen and Christopher Lloyd; Steven Spielberg‘s ensemble WWII comedy 1941 (1979), with Ned Beaty, Christopher Lee, Toshiro Mifune, Slim Pickens, Tim Matheson, Nancy Allen, and Robert Stack; The Blues Brothers (1980), with Aykroyd, John Candy, and Carrie Fisher; Continental Divide (1981), with Blair Brown; and Neighbors (1981), with Aykroyd, Kathryn Walker, and Cathy Moriarty. He also pursued interests in music, creating with Aykroyd, Lou Marini, Tom Malone, Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and Paul Shaffer, the Blues Brothers, from which the film received its name.
In his personal life, Belushi struggled with heavy drug use that threatened his comedy career; he was dismissed and rehired at SNL on several occasions due to his behavior. In 1982, Belushi died from combined drug intoxication caused by Cathy Smith, who injected him with a mixture of heroin and cocaine known as a speedball. He’s survived by his wife, Judith, and younger brother, James, who’s also an actor. He was posthumously honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004.
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle (1975) – directed by Picha & Boris Szulzinger – aka Tarzoon, la honte de la jungle – France/Belgium – English dub released in 1979
- The Beach Boys: It’s OK (1976) – directed by Gary Weis – also co-writer – TV movie
- The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978) – directed by Eric Idle & Gary Weis
- National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) – directed by John Landis
- Goin’ South (1978) – directed by Jack Nicholson
- Old Boyfriends (1979) – directed by Joan Tewkesbury
- 1941 (1979) – directed by Steven Spielberg
- The Blues Brothers (1980)** – directed by John Landis
- Continental Divide (1981) – directed by Michael Apted
- Neighbors (1981) – directed by John G. Avildsen