Twenty-Six Years Ago Today Marks the Loss of Comedy’s John Candy
On March 4, 1994, the world lost one of it's comedy legends, John Candy, to a massive heart attack. He was 43 years old. I remember that day when I heard the news. I was dumbfounded. Candy was truly a larger-than life personality. A big man who had an even bigger heart. And when I heard the news that he was gone from us, I felt this hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach like I was going to be sick. Just overcome with emotion.
John Candy started his career as an actor in children's theater in his native Canada. In his early 20's, Candy was accepted into the Second City comedy group in Toronto. He would eventually become a writer and performer on the group's television show, SCTV, which also featured other up-and-coming stars like Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Harold Ramis, Andrea Martin, Joe Flaherty, Catherine O'Hara, Dave Thomas and Martin Short. Candy ended up winning Emmy Awards for writing for his work on SCTV.
The next step was theatrical films. Candy appeared in several films before landing his big break in 1984's Splash, directed by Ron Howard. The film, about a man falling in love with a mermaid, was such a huge hit that it basically jump-started the careers of everyone who was in it. Tom Hanks, Darryl Hannah and Candy's SCTV co-star, Eugene Levy. But it was John Candy who stole every scene he was in, playing the brother of Hank's character.
Many more film roles followed and whether John Candy was the star, a supporting player or even just a cameo role he could usually be depended on to deliver some comedy gold. Here's just some of his post-Splash work: Summer Rental; Brewster's Millions; Volunteers(where Candy was reunited with Tom Hanks); Armed and Dangerous; Little Shop of Horrors; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; The Great Outdoors, Uncle Buck; Spaceballs; Home Alone; a dramatic role in Oliver Stone's JFK; Who's Harry Crumb?; Cool Runnings and many, many more.
I believe John Candy had tremendous potential to be a dramatic actor. We'll never really know for sure. But John brought some definite pathos to his performance in certain scenes(especially towards the end) from 1987's Planes, Trains and Automobiles:
The very first thing that I saw John Candy in was Bill Murrays' 1981 movie, Stripes, as Dewey "Ox" Oxberger(I didn't discover SCTV until later). My family had just gotten cable TV at our house, and I swear during that first month, HBO must have showed Stripes approximately 846 times. And I think I caught about half of those showings. Needless to say, Candy's performance as the "Lean, Mean, Fighting Machine" made a big impact on me and I quickly sought out other Candy roles. He was the easy-going parole officer in The Blues Brothers. He also had a minor role in Steven Spielberg's 1941. Candy headlined the Canadian film, Going Berserk. And he voiced numerous characters in the animated feature, Heavy Metal, all before his "big break" in Splash.
I'm sure right now, somewhere up above us, John's bringing mirth and joy to all the halo-heads. Thanks for all the years of laughter, John. I think I'm going to go watch Stripes again...