John Belushi, biography of the American actor starring in “The Blues Brothers”

John Belushi’s life is marked by ups and downs, by a rise worthy of the best Hollywood stars, but which culminated in a tragic and premature end. After a first part of his television career, he also established himself in the cinema, becoming an internationally renowned comedian thanks to cult films such as The Blues Brothers” .


  • John Belushi, the beginnings
  • John Belushi, success
  • John Beluschi and the untimely death
  • John Belushi filmography

John Belushi, the beginnings

John Belushi, born in Chicago on January 24, 1949 , was the son of Adam, a restaurateur of Albanian origins. The latter came from Coriza, when at the age of 16 he decided to seek his fortune in the United States. After a series of minor jobs, he managed to open two restaurants right in Chicago.

In addition to John, Adam Belushi had other children by his wife: Marian, twelve years older than the actor, James and William, younger brothers. 

Despite a life of excesses and recklessness, John Belushi’s childhood was quite peaceful, like most children. The only noteworthy episodes are the scholastic ones that saw the poor boy as the protagonist, often made fun of by his classmates because he was the son of immigrants. 

It was probably when his father decided to move to another area of ​​Chicago that John began to find the first difficulties in settling in. Problems that however did not last longer than expected and did not hinder the actor’s growth. Very young, at the age of fifteen, John met what would become his future wife, or Judith Pisano. 

It should be noted that it was during high school, however, that Belushi understood his interest in theater and acting and so I began specific courses. Not only. He also started playing drums and playing football: during college he also achieved some good sporting results. Already during high school he managed to get noticed for his sympathy and for his acting skills, especially in comedy shows.

Later she attended the University of Wisconsin, then dropped out to go to DuPage college: here she earned a bachelor’s degree in arts.

Although some professors urged John to pursue his passion as an actor, the boy’s father was not convinced that this was the right career for him. Often, the future actor worked in family restaurants to help out his father.

The first plays are with friends Tino Insana and Steve Beshekas, who will give life to the comic trio called West Compass Players

John Belushi, success

At 22, however, John Belushi’s career underwent a real turning point. After an audition he was singled out by Second City Comedy , a major Chicago theater company that was particularly attentive to the talents they could improvise on stage.

Precisely in this company he was able to express himself at his best and was able to point out his talents to the public: many characters that would later become commonly used were created during this period, such as the imitation of singer Joe Cocker.

Second City Comedy became central to Belushi’s success. In 1972 it was Tony Hendra, who was working as an editor for a comic magazine, the National Lampoon , who noticed the actor’s skills and who decided to offer him the opportunity to participate in the show he was organizing, the National Lampoon’s Lemmings , a sort of comic alter ego of the Woodstock Festival

Moving to New York, Belushi began to smell success and above all I began to use drugs. A fundamental step in his career will be his work on the radio show, again thanks to Tony Hendra. He was so appreciated by the public that, in 1975, he was offered a space in the cast of the show that would later make the history of American comedy, Saturday Night Live, an NBC television show that brought together all the best American comedians.

During this time Belushi met Dan Aykroyd, an actor who became not only his great partner at work, but also a very close friend. Among other colleagues, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner cannot fail to be mentioned. Belushi entertained the American public with imitations that made history, such as those of Marlon Brando, John Lennon, John Travolta and the one for which he became famous, the aforementioned Joe Cocker. 

He was master of the stage and the screen: his was a new way of doing comedy, direct, nonconformist, which had never been seen before. 

Together with Dan Aykroyd he then founded a band, The Blues Brothers , which debuted in 1978 in a sketch on Saturday Night Live : it will be the great response from the public to push the two comedians to start recording the albums (in all they will be released 14) and touring throughout the United States.

Two years later, The Blues Brothers will land on the big screen and, thanks also to the screenplay by John Landis, will become a real cult. The film was attended by many successful singers, such as Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.

Nowadays there is no person who does not know the two characters with the characteristic dark suits.

Belushi’s first time on the big screen, however, will be with Animal House (1978) , also by John Landis. It is a sometimes insane comedy that has become a real symbol of genre comedy.

In a statement released by John himself, his life and the way of understanding his films shines through:

“My characters say it’s okay to be messed up. People don’t have to be perfect. She doesn’t have to be super smart. He doesn’t have to follow the rules. He can have fun. Most of today’s movies make people feel inadequate. The no”.

John Belushi plays a really curious character, Bluto, who is part of a brotherhood dedicated to wild parties. As mentioned, the film has become a cult, above all thanks to his style that is absolutely out of any pattern. 

Enter the history of cinema and even in common use, a phrase that he recites in the film that goes like this:

“When the going gets tough, the tough get to play”!

John Beluschi and the untimely death

As mentioned, since the beginning of the seventies John Belushi began to make regular use of drugs and even alcohol. In several of his latest works on the big screen he often appeared drunk during filming, while before filming he often injected drugs via venous.

On March 5, 1982 , after a party at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, he went to his bungalow with singer Cathy Evelyn Smith: the latter, as she later admitted, injected a dose of cocaine and heroin to the actor who fell asleep. .

The next day he was found lifeless, the help was useless. He passed away when he was only 33 years old.

But despite his untimely death, John Belushi is still remembered today for his comedy and for his films, which have entered the history of cinema. His inheritance from him was collected by his brother Jim Belushi.

John Belushi filmography

At Cinema

  1. Tarzoon – The Shame of the Jungle (Tarzoon: The Shame of the Jungle), directed by Picha and Boris Szulzinger (1975) – vocals English version
  2. All You Need Is Cash, regia di Eric Idle e Gary Wais (1978) – film tv
  3. Animal House (National Lampoon’s Animal House), regia di John Landis (1978)
  4. Goin ‘South, directed by Jack Nicholson (1978)
  5. Old Boyfriends, directed by Joan Tewkesbury (1979)
  6. 1941 – Alarm in Hollywood (1941), by Steven Spielberg (1979)
  7. The Blues Brothers (The Blues Brothers), regia di John Landis (1980)
  8. Call Me Eagle (Continental Divide), by Michael Apted (1981)
  9. Neighbors, by John G. Avildsen (1981)


  1. National Lampoon’s Lemmings, regia di Tony Hendra e Michael Keady (1973)
  2. Saturday Night Live – show TV, 86 episodi (1975-1979)
  3. The Beach Boys: It’s OK, regia di Gary Weis (1976)
  4. The Richard Pryor Special?, regia di John Moffitt (1977)
  5. Things We Did Last Summer, regia di Gary Weis (1978) – cortometraggio
  6. Grateful Dead: The Closing of Winterland (1978)
  7. Steve Martin’s Best Show Ever, regia di Dave Wilson e Eric Idle (1981)