THE JERK (1979)
Director: Carl Reiner
Stars: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Catlin Adams
WIDELY regarded as one of the funniest films of all time, The Jerk tells the sorry story of Navin R. Johnson (Martin), the adopted son of a poor black family from Mississippi who decides to strike out on his own.
The only trouble is Navin is incredibly naïve and the laughs come thick and fast as he stumbles from one ridiculous situation to the next, until one day he learns that an outlandish invention has made him a millionaire, albeit temporarily.
Along the way, Navin falls in love with a beautiful woman named Marie (Peters) and they do a sweet duet of the 1926 classic Tonight You Belong To Me, with Navin supposedly strumming a soprano ukulele. In reality, the tune was recorded by jazz uke legend Lyle Ritz and overdubbed.
On the excellent ‘26th Anniversary Edition’ DVD of the movie, Californian ukulele chanteuse Janet Klein (billed as ‘Ukulele Gal’) teaches a simplified version of the song, while a more complex Ritz arrangement can be found in the songbook Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Masters: Lyle Ritz – Jazz (2000).
As a result of the success of The Jerk, Tonight You Belong To Me has become synonymous with the ukulele and has been covered by a number of artists, including Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie (daughters of Willie Nelson and Arlo Guthrie, respectively) on 2005’s Folk Uke and Eddie Vedder and Cat Power on Vedder’s 2011 album Ukulele Songs.
This article originally appeared in Issue 5 of KAMUKE Ukulele Magazine, which is available in the STORE