If the United States was divided into three sections, East, West, and Central, what would be the unofficial capitals of these sections? East and West are obvious, with New York City and Los Angeles immediately coming to mind, respectively. Now, since the center of the United States is often filled with wide-open farmland, the only city that could hold its own against the other two would have to be Chicago. As such, since there are many films set in New York and Los Angeles, it would stand to reason that there would be a similar amount of movies set in Chicago as well. After all, with a cultural nexus like Chicago, there’s just as much reason to set a film there than anywhere else. This week, on our 100th connection, we will look at two films that use Chicago as their backdrop and setting.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Length: 103 minutes / 1.71 hours
A big city always has something to do. With a larger population base, some activities can be profitable since there are enough people who want to do it, even if that percentage of the whole is generally small. Sometimes the mere infrastructure of a large city is inductive to a variety of activities. Of course, this assumes one can participate in these activities without the burden of responsibilities. Often, the normal working hours of these events coincide with work or school, and cannot be done outside these required obligations. This is why vacation hours and holidays are often a prime time to do these activities: the constraints of work or school are no longer there. However, if one was so inclined, a day off might be acquired with an expert application of a false “sick day.”
As far as cities with things to do go, Chicago is certainly up there. In fact, if you’re a graduating high school senior like Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), what better way to spend the day off than in Chicago? Of course, to get there, you need transportation. Ferris convinces his best friend, Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck), to take Mr. Frye’s Ferrari out on the town. After a brief stop at school to pick up his girlfriend, Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara), the trio starts their day off. Visiting such famous Chicago landmarks as Wrigley Field, the Sears Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Ferris and crew also eat lunch at a fancy restaurant, participate in a parade, and have the car cared for at a less-than-scrupulous valet lot. When the day comes to a close, there were a few close calls with authority figures, but in the end, it was a successful day off.
The Blues Brothers
Length: 133 minutes / 2.21 hours
In terms of professional comedy, two cities predominantly stand out: New York City and Chicago. While the sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live is based in New York, many of the comedians who inhabit its cast found their start in Chicago. As such, some of the personas created for the show were distinctly from Chicago. Two of the best known of these Chicago-based SNL characters are Jake and Ellwood Blues, otherwise known as “The Blues Brothers” (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, respectively). While the Blues Brothers are not real, their back-story places them just outside of Chicago, where they were raised in an orphanage and learned to play the blues by the janitor of said orphanage. Therefore, a movie about the Blues Brothers would logically have to be based in or near Chicago.
The reason Jake Blues’ nickname is “Joliet” is that he has spent time there as an inmate. When he is released and picked up by his brother, Ellwood, the duo return to their childhood home: an orphanage by the name of St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud. Unfortunately, it turns out that the orphanage is short on its property taxes and will be closed if $5,000 is not paid. Jake realizes their mission (from God) is to rebuild their blues band and play a gig to raise the money. Unfortunately, on their quest to re-form the band, Jake and Ellwood garner a large number of enemies, including state troopers, a mysterious homicidal woman (Carrie Fisher), and the Nazi party. Once the band is together, and the money has been raised, it’s an all-out race to get to the clerk’s office to pay off the orphanage’s debt.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Chicago cinematic settings