Chicago’s celluloid city
Dan Aykroyd, the film's co-star, said in 2005 that 'Chicago is one of the stars of the movie. We wrote it as a tribute.' And the film, in which a couple of street-rat blues musicians attempt to get their old band back together, certainly features a stream of familiar city locations, from Wrigley Field baseball stadium to East 95th Street Bridge. But The Blues Brothers also acted as Chicago's olive branch to the film industry. The authorities were so obliging to director John Landis - even letting him crash a car into the mayor's own building, the Daley Centre, narrowly missing the huge Picasso sculpture in the forecourt - that the city instantly shot up directors' hotlists. Here was a city you could have fun with.
The Blues Brothers is one long celebration of the Chicago music scene. Chicago's South Side was a haven for African-Americans fleeing the virulently racist South. And it was from here that blues music began to seep into the popular consciousness via local labels such as Chess Records.
The Blues Brothers acknowledged this heritage by filming its famous Shake Your Tail Feather dance scene in the South Side, with Ray Charles providing the accompaniment. A mural depicting some of Chicago's blues heroes was painted on the wall of a pawn shop, Shelly's Loan Co - rebranded as Ray's Music Exchange for the movie - and the pavement became the dancefloor. The mural's still there, a little faded, but nonetheless a symbol of Chicago's significance in the history of pop music.
The South Side used to be full of small blues joints, where veteran bluesmen would bark lyrics of lovelorn pain. Nowadays, the best place to experience the atmosphere that so entranced John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd is on the North Side, at Rosa's Lounge. Set up by Italian blues fanatic Tony Mangiullo in 1984, Rosa's is a narrow dive bar with large posters of famous visitors plastered on the walls - including a young, even thinner, Barack Obama. Unlike the more commercial clubs, Rosa's is a throwback to the roots of Chicago blues. 'I wanted to recreate the spirit that I found in South Side bars like Theresa's [revered blues bar] when I first moved here,' says Tony. 'The people there were so friendly, even though I didn't speak any English. So I wanted Rosa's to be the friendliest blues bar in town.' Judged by the convivial atmosphere amongst the barflies here tonight, shooting pool and clambering up on stage to knock out a solo, he's not gone far wrong.
The city of high school dreams
For all The Blues Brothers' success, its tale of cop-dodging music fiends didn't do much to allay Mayor Daley's fear that movies would portray Chicago in a dodgy light. It took the emergence of the man who would become Chicago's most successful homebred director to offer reassurance. Starting with his 1984 directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, John Hughes released a succession of movies in which he turned his hometown into a high school utopia. And huge hits like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club and Home Alone imprinted this image on the minds of a million teenagers across the planet.
Hughes spent his own adolescence in Northbrook, a quiet suburban town a few miles north of the city. Northbrook was historically known as Shermerville, and Hughes tried to use the name in nearly all of his films. Ferris Bueller, Home Alone and The Breakfast Club were all set in 'Shermer', the town acting as an avatar of Chicago's North Shore suburbs - a place where high school dreams could come true.