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Remembering John Candy

18 June 2015

It has now been over two decades since the passing of John Candy, who was undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s greatest comedy-actors.

Born in Newmarket, Ontario, in the year 1950, Candy was the son of Evangeline (Aker) and Sidney James Candy. His mother was of Ukrainian and Polish ancestry. Candy found his passion for drama while attending a community college. He found a number of bit parts in Canadian television shows and also in such small films as Tunnel Vision (1976) and Find the Lady (1976). However, his big success came at the age of twenty-seven, when he became part of the comedy group "Second City" in Toronto. Alongside such soon-to-be Canadian stars as Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, and Harold Ramis, Candy was also part of the television show the group inspired. SCTV (1976) earned Candy a reputation for his quirky humor and his uncanny imitations of others.

After the television series, Candy appeared alongside fellow Canadian Dan Aykroyd in the Steven Spielberg flop 1941 (1979). However, other jobs followed and Candy landed a role, once again with Aykroyd, in the successful classic The Blues Brothers (1980). Candy played a parole officer who is part of the chase after Jake and Elwood Blues. The film was a hit and Candy followed up accordingly. Candy acted in the smash hit Stripes (1981) where he played a dopey, overweight recruit affectionately nicknamed 'Ox'. After the success of Stripes (1981), Candy returned to the Second City with the other former stars, in SCTV Network (1981). Candy also hosted "Saturday Night Live" before landing himself a role in the Ron Howard film Splash (1984), a romantic comedy about a mermaid who washes ashore and learns to live like a human. Candy played a sleazy womanizing brother to the character played by Tom Hanks. The film was a bigger success than even Stripes(1981) and a number of people have said that Splash (1984) was his breakout role.

He took a second billing in the comedic film Brewster's Millions (1985) where a man must spend thirty million in order to inherit three hundred million from his deceased relative. Candy played the man's best friend, who accidentally gets in the way as much as helping out. Candy continued making films tirelessly, including the film Armed and Dangerous (1986) where he and Eugene Levy play characters who become security guards. 1987 was an especially good year to Candy, giving him two classic roles: Barf the Mawg in the Mel Brooks comedy Spaceballs (1987) and the bumbling salesman Del Griffith alongside Steve Martin's uptight character in the John Hughes film Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987). The latter film is a golden classic and is one of Candy's greatest films. He followed up immediately with The Great Outdoors (1988), once again alongside Dan Aykroyd. Candy landed another classic role in the film Uncle Buck (1989) which was about a bumbling uncle who must look after his brother's three children.

Although he was in the smash hit Home Alone (1990), Candy's career fell into a slump, turning out unsuccessful films in the early nineties. This caused him to change his strategy by taking more serious roles. The first of these serious roles was the corrupt lawyer Dean Andrews in the 'Oliver Stone' film JFK (1991). The film was a big success, and Candy moved on from this victory to make the film Cool Runnings (1993) about the first Jamaican bobsled team. Candy was well known for his size, six feet two and weighing around 300 pounds. However, he was very sensitive about the subject and in the nineties tried to lose weight and quit smoking. He was aware that heart attacks were in his family: both his father and his grandfather died of heart attacks and Candy wanted to prevent that happening to him as best he could.

In the mid-nineties Candy filmed the Michael Moore comedy Canadian Bacon (1995) then went to Mexico to film the western spoof Wagons East (1994). It was in Mexico that Candy had a heart attack and passed away in March 1994. Canadian Bacon (1995) was released a year after his death and is his last film. Candy was loved by thousands of people who loved his classic antics in Splash (1984) and The Great Outdoors (1988). He was well-known for his roles in Stripes (1981) and Uncle Buck (1989) and is still sorely missed.

Although Candy’s film career spanned three decades, he only appeared in four New York-based films.

Splash (1984)

Directed by Ron Howard and written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, the romantic comedy Splash starred Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Dody Goodman. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Candy’s role was that of womanizing older brother Freddie, and although he was only briefly on screen, critics gave him the credit he truly deserved as a supporting actor alongside Tom Hanks.

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Brewster's Millions (1985)

Directed by Walter Hill and starring Richard Pryor and John Candy based on the 1902 novel of the same name by George Barr McCutcheon. It is the seventh film based on the story, with a screenplay by Herschel Weingrod and Timothy Harris. Although the movie received mixed reviews, John Candy was praised for his supporting performance as Spike Nolan.

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Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

Written, produced and directed by the legendary John Hughes, the film stars Steve Martin as Neal Page, a high-strung marketing executive, who meets Del Griffith, played by John Candy, an eternally optimistic, overly talkative, and clumsy shower curtain ring salesman who seems to live in a world governed by a different set of rules. They share a three-day odyssey of misadventures trying to get Neal home to Chicago from New York City in time for Thanksgiving dinner with his family. The film was a financial success, grossing over $49.5 million domestically on a production budget of almost $30 million, and was considered as John Candy’s best role to date.

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Delirious (1991)

Directed by Tom Mankiewicz and starring John Candy, Mariel Hemingway, Emma Samms and Raymond Burr, Delirious was a commercial failure after its release. Despite this, the film received mixed reviews. Candy played Jack Gable, a New York City-based lead writer and producer of the soap opera "Beyond Our Dreams". Consumed by his work, he harbours an unspoken attraction to Laura Claybourne played by Emma Samms, the selfish actress playing the lead character of Rachel Hedison. Made late to the office by a long wait for a visit by an unpleasant cable repairman, Jack crosses paths with Louise played by Mariel Hemingway, an actress who is there to interview for the part of Janet DuBois, a character Jack had made plain he did not want introduced. Jack then has a contentious meeting with his co-producers, the Sherwoods. The Sherwoods reveal that they are displeased with several elements of Jack's outline for the upcoming season and wish to kill off Rachel Hedison, due to Laura's outrageous contract demands. Feigning compromise, the Sherwoods immediately hire Arnie Federman, a rival of Jack's, to make the changes they desire. Planning an escape to Vermont for the weekend, Jack is contacted by Laura. She has just broken up with her boyfriend Dennis, the actor who plays Rachel's boyfriend Dr. Paul Kirkwood on the show, and wishes to accompany Jack. As Jack loads their luggage into his car, Dennis suddenly appears and calls out to Rachel. Jack looks up from his trunk to see them kissing passionately. The trunk snaps up and smashes into Jack's chin. Upon awakening, he drives toward Vermont himself, alone and distraught. Not far out of New York, he crashes his car. Upon waking from the crash, Jack finds himself in Ashford Falls Community Hospital, one of the prime settings of his show. Thinking himself the victim of a prank by the actors, he goes to the window to confirm his suspicions, only to find the view beyond the glass a complete town is entirely of his own creation.

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