A COMEDY SPECTACULAR!

"Madness. It's the only word to describe it."

General Joseph W. Stillwell

1941

Release Date: December 14, 1979

Following the runaway successes of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg decided his next project would be in a genre he had yet to tackle head-on: a comedy, although his previous films all had very memorable moments of comedic relief. The result was 1941, a large-scale production and period piece set in Los Angeles during the panic-stricken days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, when most of the population of Southern California believed a Japanese invasion could come at any time.

Spielberg first became involved with 1941 when his writer-director friend John Milius (cowriter of Apocalypse Now) showed him a script about the Los Angeles air raid written by two young USC graduates, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (who in 1978 made their feature debut as co-writers and director/producer on the Spielberg production of I Wanna Hold Your Hand). When Milius backed out of helming the project himself, Spielberg took over as director, with Milius producing on his behalf.

“I wanted the pleasure and experience of making a comedy,” Spielberg said at the time. “Sure I’m scared. I don’t know how the movie will come out. Two successes back-to-back have not strengthened my belief in my ability to deliver. All the movies I’ve made are different. Jaws was not anything like Close Encounters and neither has any bearing on 1941."

1941 features an all-star ensemble cast including Saturday Night Live superstars John Belushi as Wild Bill Kelso and Dan Aykroyd as Sgt. Frank Tree, Christopher Lee as a Nazi Capt. Wolfgang von Kleinschmidt, Toshirô Mifune as the Japanese submarine Commander Akira Mitamura, Robert Stack as Major General Joseph W. Stilwell, Warren Oates as Col. "Madman" Maddox, Murray Hamilton as a harried lookout guard coupled with Eddie Deezen as a goofy ventriloquist, John Candy, Frank McRae and Mickey Rourke as members of Aykroyd’s squadron, Patti LuPone and Penny Marshall as USO hostesses, David Lander and Michael McKean as civil defense aircraft spotters, Slim Pickens as Christmas tree vendor Hollis "Holly" P. Wood, Lionel Stander as an air raid warden, Ned Beatty and Lorraine Gary as a husband and wife tasked with playing host in their home to a defensive land-to-air anti-aircraft arsenal, and in additional bits, filmmakers Samuel Fuller and John Landis. Amongst the talents of these sterling character actors playing lunatics of all varieties were young cast members Tim Matheson and Nancy Allen playing plane-crazy lovers, and Dianne Kay, Bobby Di Cicco, Treat Williams and a riotous Wendie Jo Sperber as one of the craziest love (and lust) triangles—plus one!—ever thrown at the screen.

A “combination of [It’s a Mad, Mad] Mad, Mad World and Daffy Duck” (according to Spielberg), the grand-scale 1941 was distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Universal and all other territories by Columbia Pictures, as both studios backed the film as a co-production. 1941 was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography, Best Sound, and Best Visual Effects—for the film's innovative and incredibly detailed and realistic miniature effects and physical pyrotechnics.

About the Film

About the Film

CAST
  • DAN AYKROYD,
  • NED BEATTY,
  • JOHN BELUSHI,
  • LORRAINE GARY,
  • MURRAY HAMILTON,
  • CHRISTOPHER LEE,
  • TIM MATHESON,
  • TOSHIRÔ MIFUNE,
  • WARREN OATES,
  • ROBERT STACK,
  • TREAT WILLIAMS,
  • NANCY ALLEN,
  • JOHN CANDY,
  • EDDIE DEEZEN,
  • BOBBY DI CICCO,
  • DIANNE KAY,
  • PERRY LANG,
  • SLIM PICKENS,
  • WENDIE JO SPERBER
DIRECTOR
  • STEVEN SPIELBERG
SCREENWRITERS
  • ROBERT ZEMECKIS & BOB GALE, STORY BY ROBERT ZEMECKIS & BOB GALE AND JOHN MILIUS
PRODUCER
  • BUZZ FEITSHANS
CINEMATOGRAPHER
  • WILLIAM A. FRAKER
PRODUCTION DESIGNER
  • DEAN EDWARD MITZNER
COSTUME DESIGNER
  • DEBORAH NADOOLMAN
EDITOR
  • MICHAEL KAHN
COMPOSER
  • JOHN WILLIAMS

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