Favorite Fictional Characters, #11: "Joliet" Jake Blues
Updated: Jun 18, 2019
If I had to compile my all-time favorite movies, there is no question that The Blues Brothers would compete for the top spot. It is a cult classic for a reason: great musical numbers by some huge talents, endlessly quotable dialogue, the most rambunctiously improbable car chase scene in cinematic history, and a career performance by John Belushi at the height of his powers. His Jake Blues is a slovenly, hedonistic scofflaw, with only two redeeming qualities - he loves his brother, and he loves the music. Three qualities, if you consider that God lit him with divine fire and chose him as His instrument on Earth to save the St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud orphanage.
Joliet Jake shuffled across the screen, a self-absorbed sloth content to come alive only in those moments of dire need for a slick-talking con man or when on stage, when his talent and showmanship ignited whole cities. There was a charisma to him, a gravity that ensnared Carrie Fisher's nameless jilted lover despite Jake's implied misdeeds. (Remember this is 1980 - in the same year, Fisher was locking lips with both Belushi and Harrison Ford. What a country.) Together with his long-suffering and enabling brother Elwood, Jake took a few steps on the path to righteousness, but like his iconic suit, it was never a perfect fit. Jake was made for the shadows, and for the blues.
I'd be remiss if I didn't note that my affection and affinity for Jake (and this movie) is a great shared passion with my lifelong friend Nate Oxnard. Once upon a time, we'd put on the hats and glasses and suits, and adapt their pieces for trumpet and tuba. Like other attempts at capturing the magic of these characters, I am certain we fell well short. Just like Belushi, some things are true originals.