The Jerk: That Movie About Hating Cans

I recently finished “Born Standing Up“, Steve Martin’s memoir about the beginning of his career. Martin’s “The Jerk” has been my favorite comedy since I was in high-school; but there is a relative a dearth of information about this classic film. So I decided to see what I could dig up. Below is a few random interesting things I could find about “The Jerk”. If you have any more additional interesting information on this film, please post it in the comments and I’ll continue to update this post. I’m dying to find more out about the “nine weeks and five days” scene…

THE MANSION

The mansion shown in the film was actually two Beverly Hills mansions. The outside shots were taken at the same mansion (map) that was used in the Godfather and the Bodyguard, and was once owned by William Randolph Hearst. It is currently for sale for “what may be the most expensive residential property listing in the US.” [1]

The interior shots were filmed just a year after the owner at the time, Sheik Al-Fassi, took over the mansion (map). After moving in, Al-Fassi proceeded to redecorate the mansion in the tasteful ways depicted in the film. He even painted flesh tones and pubic hair on all the Greek statues within the property. In the course of this 3 years owning the property, he adopted over 100 stray cats. The year after the Jerk was filmed, the property was torched by an arsonist, while onlookers reportedly yelled “Burn, burn, burn”. Al-Fassi was rumored to be secretly detained in Riyadh by the Saudi government for years following the Gulf War for airing radio messages in Bagdad in support of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. He passed at the age of 50 in 2003.

TONIGHT YOU BELONG TO ME

Written in 1926 by Billy Rose and Lee David. Recorded by Gene Austin in 1927. Popularized by Patience and Prudence in 1956.

The song was performed in the Jerk by Lyle Ritz. Ritz was a studio jazz bassist during the 60′s and 70′s. In ’58 and ’59, he recorded two jazz ukulele albums and then didn’t touch it professionally until the Jerk in ’79. Since then, he didn’t put it down and was recently introduced into the Ukulele Hall of Fame in June of ’07.

Ukulele Chords for “Tonight You Belong To Me”. Alternate voicing and video for playing the song on ukulele.

Gene Austin – Tonight You Belong To Me (1927):

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Patience & Prudence – Tonight You Belong To Me (1956):

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Steve Martin & Bernadette Peters – Tonight You Belong To Me (1979):

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Bird & the Bee – Tonight You Belong To Me (2008):

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The Bird and the Bee are two of my favorite artists and coincidentally just released this on their new EP.

UPDATE (4.24.08) - From “Steve Martin, The Magic Years.” Regarding the performance of this song:

Steve purposely wrote the part for [Bernadette Peters] in The Jerk. David Picker, who was a Paramount executive and the co-producer for The Jerk, said, “The fact that they knew and loved each other made the scenes in the movie work even better.”

OTHER OBSERVATIONS ON THE JERK

From Born Standing Up:

It was a joy to work on the movie and the script. Our goal in writing was a laugh on every page. But my favorite line in the movie was an ad lib, one that is mildly obscured by traffic noise in the finished film. My character, Navin Johnson, is hitchiking in Missouri, headed for the big city. A car pulls over, and the dirver asks, “St. Louis?” “No,” I answer, “Navin Johnson.”

I was injecting stage material into the screenplay, including a bit that was taken directly from the end of my act, first developed at the Boarding House. On stage, I would exit through the audience, saying, “I’m quitting, I’m leaving and never coming back, and I don’t need anything, nothing at all, well, I need this ashtray.” I would collect doodads from the tabletops until I finally disappeared out the door. The bit appears in the final film as I forlornly leave Bernadette Peters and my movie mansion.

Martin’s line from the opening scene was taken from his act as performed on his first album “Let’s Get Small” (1977):

I started off at the bottom. I was born a poor black child. And all day long around the house, they’d sing the blues. Then I heard my first Mantovani record, and I knew that this is where it’s at for me. The kind of music I enjoy. These are my people. So I decided to become white. I had my cock shortened. Then I got a job as a television weather man.

Martin’s co-writer (Carl Gottlieb) has a cameo role as Iron Balls McGinty. He also had a hand in writing the first 3 Jaws movies and wrote the character development for “The Jerk, Too”

UPDATE (4.18.08) - From “Steve Martin, The Magic Years.” The author discusses his early adolescence with Steve:

In discussing the way people actually “did it,” Steve suggested that a man would put his “thing” in the woman and move it in and out. I objected to this theory, and expressed my belief that one should just insert “it” and leave “it.” Well, Steve was right (except in rare cases); nevertheless, his only description of “it” was simply “it.”

Since he apparently had one hand up on me in this in-depth biological debate (no pun indented), I then had to explain to him that the real terminology for this “thing” we were discussing was given to me by my mother when I was but a mere child. “It’s called your special purpose,” I told him proudly. His face widened with a wild and crazy grin, which from that point on was instantly plastered upon his countenance whenever anyone would say “special purpose” –whether it was a teacher or an innocent bystander at Disneyland (we would break up and nobody knew why).

DELETED SCENES

Bill Murray filmed a cameo that was deleted. On the December 15, 1979 broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” (S05E07), Murray jokingly reviewed ‘The Jerk’, saying:

Which brings me to “The Jerk.” Steve Martin is a friend. As a matter of fact, I was in the movie but cut out of it. That doesn’t influence my opinion. The movie is a dog. There’s something missing. I don’t– Who it is, I can’t say.

POST JERK

Stanley Kubrick was impressed with Martin and was interested in having him play the lead in his adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler‘s “Traumnovelle“. Kubrick intended on making his take on the novel as a dark sex comedy. Kubrick approached several writers to take a shot at it, but the project never got off the ground until Kubrick recast the role in 1999 with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in what became “Eyes Wide Shut“.

THE JERK, TOO

The Jerk grossed over $100m on a $4m budget, and this convinced the world of television in 1984 to get a piece of the pie. A “made-for-TV” movie was made as a pilot for for a potential series staring Mark Blankfield of Fridays as Navin R. Johnson. It seems to take place in an alternate universe where Martin’s “Jerk” never happened. And there aren’t jokes in the movie as much as lucky occurrences that happen to Navin.

I found a copy of this and posted a torrent: The Jerk, Too (95min., 703MB, MP4)

8 Responses to “The Jerk: That Movie About Hating Cans”

  1. TV Movies Soaps » The Jerk: That Movie About Hating Cans Says:

    [...] Chris Brummel placed an interesting blog post on The Jerk: That Movie About Hating CansHere’s a brief overviewThe Jerk grossed over $100m on a $4m budget, and this convinced the world of television in 1984 to get a piece of the pie. A “made-for-TV” movie was made as a pilot for for a potential series staring Mark Blankfield of Fridays as Navin … [...]

  2. Curtis Retherford Says:

    The nine weeks and five days scene was completely improvised. Apparently they filmed it about 4 or 5 times, and each time it was a completely different, and completely hilarious.

    Source: Some documentary I saw about Steve Martin. Reiner was describing the scene.

  3. PSP Movie Says:

    awesome post, very interesting info …thanks

  4. Daniel Says:

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article k: That Movie About Hating Cans | BrumBrum, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  5. Tim Says:

    I love this movie. Interesting tidbits, thanks for that!

    I still would like to know the name of the song that inspires Navin to leave home. I’m pretty sure it’s Mantovani, but I haven’t found the right tune yet.

    Anyone know?

  6. Adam Says:

    I know they say its in St.Louis. But where there any parts actually filmed in st.louis or was it all Beverly Hills and they called it st.louis?

  7. Chris Brummel Says:

    I have no definitive source saying that they never went to St. Louis, but everything I’ve read about the movie talks only about California. Even the farm house he grew up in was supposedly someplace outside of LA.

  8. jackie paper Says:

    Who is the guy from the Maple’s Rum Ad? Be Somebody!

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