Streampix Watch: The ‘SNL’ Connection: Chase and Aykroyd Movies

Chevy Chase on "Saturday Night Live." (NBC)

Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd were both members of the original cast of “Saturday Night Live” when the show first debuted on NBC October 11, 1975, along with fellow “Not Ready for Prime-Time Players” John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Laraine Newman and Garrett Morris. There are several features available on Streampix that feature them this month, including “Spies Like Us,” in which they co-star.

The New York-born Chase wrote for the short-lived Smothers Brothers comeback TV series in the early ‘70s before becoming part of the “National Lampoon Radio Hour,” a syndicated series where he first worked with future “SNL” mainstays Belushi, Radner, Bill Murray (who eventually replaced him) and brother Brian Doyle-Murray. Originally signed to a one-year deal as a writer to the fledgling show, Chase became a case member in rehearsals just before the show’s premiere. Known for introducing the show with its trademarked “Live from New York…it’s Saturday night,” his frequent pratfalls as then-President Gerald Ford and anchoring the “Weekend Update” (“I’m Chevy Chase…and you’re not”), Chase left the show midway through the second season in ‘76. He became a comedic leading man in several hit comedies, including “Foul Play” (with Goldie Hawn), “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and a pair of “Fletch” movies.

Ottawa native Aykroyd was a member of the famed Second City comedy troupe in both Toronto and Chicago when he was tapped for the initial “SNL” cast.  He became known for his impersonations of celebrities like Jimmy Carter, Vincent Price, Richard Nixon, Rod Serling and Tom Snyder, as well as his role in such sketches as the crazed late-night Ron Popeil-styled pitchman for “Super Bass-o-Matic ‘76,” the Coneheads, the “Two Wild and Crazy Guys,” with Steve Martin, and, most famously, the Blues Brothers, with good friend Belushi. After leaving the show in 1979, Aykroyd went on to great success in films, co-writing and starring in the film version of  “The Blues Brothers,” “Ghostbusters” and the 1987 reboot of “Dragnet” with Tom Hanks.

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Chase and Aykroyd co-starred in just two moves together, 1985’s “Spies Like Us” (which Aykroyd also co-wrote) and 1991’s “Nothing But Trouble,” Aykroyd’s directorial debut (he also co-wrote the screenplay). He earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in 1990’s “Driving Miss Daisy,” also available on Streampix. Last year, Aykroyd announced a new project with Chase, though nothing seems to have come of it.

Top 10 Streampix Movies Starring Chase and/or Aykroyd

Spies Like Us”: In one of only two movies each starred in, Chase and Aykroyd play a pair of novice intelligence agents sent to the Soviet Union, in director John Landis’ homage to the famed Bob Hope (who has a cameo as a golfer)-Bing Crosby road movies. Aykroyd co-wrote the screenplay with Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Aykroyd’s Austin Millbarge is a geeky, basement-dwelling codebreaker for the Pentagon who aspires to escape his under-respected job to become a secret agent, while Chase’s Emmett Fitz-Hume is a wisecracking, pencil-pushing son of an envoy, who takes the foreign service exam, where they first meet, under peer pressure. The title song for the movie was written and performed by Paul McCartney, and became a Top 10 hit, the ex-Beatle’s last such solo hit in the U.S.

Chevy Chase Films
Memoirs of an Invisible Man”: Chase takes the title role in director John Carpenter’s 1992 movie loosely based on a 1987 novel which tells the first-person story of how he became invisible. A weird mix of comedy, drama, suspense and science fiction, it co-stars Daryl Hannah and Sam Neill. A pet project of Chase—who saw director Ivan Reitman ankle the production before it began because of “creative differences”—he wanted to make a film about the loneliness of invisibility.

Fletch”: In this 1985 noir spoof, Chase takes on several different guises in his role as an undercover investigative reporter approached by a rich aviation executive (Tim Matheson) for a complex insurance scam. Directed by Michael Richie, based on the popular novels by Gregory McDonald, it also stars Joe Don Baker, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Richard Libertini and Geena Davis. Chase said he took the role because it allowed him to play a variety of different characters, which played into his strength as a performer.

Fletch Lives”: For the 1989 sequel, Chase inherits Belle Isle, a rundown Southern plantation in Thibodaux, Louisiana, which prompts another series of disguises, to help solve a murder. Once again directed by Michael Ritchie, the movie co-stars Hal Holbrook, Julianne Phillips (the one-time Mrs. Bruce Springsteen), R. Lee
(“Full Metal Jacket”), Cleavon Little and boxer Randall “Tex” Cobb.

National Lampoon’s European Vacation”: This 1985 sequel to the very successful 1983 feature, “National Lampoon’s Vacation” finds Chevy once packing up his family for a summer trip. Beverly D’Angelo once more plays his wife, with Amy Heckerling (“Clueless”) directing. The Griswold kids are both new, and the backdrop is now Europe, but the slapstick hijinks remain the same.

Vegas Vacation”: This 1997 feature is the fourth iteration of the “Vacation” series, with Chase and Beverly D’Angelo once more embarking on a family sojourn, where they encounter, among others, the first film’s Christie Brinkley and none other than Wayne Newton. Look for comic legend Sid Caesar, animal tamers Siegfried & Roy as well as the movie’s producer Jerry Weintraub in cameos. This was the only film in the series not to carry the National Lampoon label.

Dan Aykroyd Films
The Blues Brothers”: John Landis’ groundbreaking 1980 comedy tracks the adventures of Ray-Banned Belushi and co-writer Aykroyd’s itinerant bluesmen Jake and Elwood, on a “mission from God” to save the Joliet, Illinois, orphanage from foreclosure where they were raised. Along the way, they are targeted by a destructive “mystery woman,” Neo-Nazis, and a country and western band—all while being relentlessly pursued by the police. The film, based on an “SNL” sketch, was a huge success, earning more than $115 million world-wide and spawned a second, musical career for the duo, which continues to this day.

The Blues Brothers 2000”:  The sequel follows the adventures of Aykroyd’s Elwood, this time with John Goodman’s Mighty Mack McTeer sitting in for the late Jake. John Landis once more handles the directorial duties, and co-wrote the screenplay with Aykroyd for the film, dedicated to John Belushi, Cab Calloway and John Candy, who all starred in the first movie and died in the interim. The movie features an all-star line-up of musicians and several memorable set pieces, including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Clarence Clemons, Bo Diddley, Isaac Hayes, Dr. John, Junior Wells, Sam Moore, Erykah Badu, Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd, Jonny Lang, Koko Taylor, Billy Preston, Stevie Winwood and Paul Shaffer, among many more.

Sgt. Bilko”: Aykroyd and the late “SNL” star Phil Hartman co-star in this remake of the classic Phil Silvers TV series, with Steve Martin in the title role. Aykroyd plays Bilko’s nemesis Colonel Hall, played by the great Paul Ford in the original, “The Phil Silvers Show.”

The Great Outdoors”: Aykroyd plays an obnoxious loudmouth who crashes the vacation home of his brother-in-law, played by the late John Candy, in this 1988 comedy produced and written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutsch. Perhaps its biggest claim to fame today is the inclusion of one of its sets as part of
the Universal Studios tour. Also stars Annette Bening and a bald-headed bear named Bart.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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