It’s crazy to think John Candy was my age, 43, when he passed away on this date, March 4, 1994. He was filming Wagon’s East, a not-so-good movie Candy reportedly didn’t like doing. He had also filmed Canadian Bacon, Michael Moore’s only feature film, a satirical look at a new Cold War between America and Canada.
Candy has also directed the TV movie, Hostage for a Day, released on April 25, 1994 to bad reviews and obscurity. The last movie released while he was alive was Cool Runnings. It got mixed reviews but now is considered one of the best inspirational sports movies in recent decades.
For the most part, his career was in comedy. A veteran of Second City, he was on SCTV with other comedians such as Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara and Harold Ramis to name a few. Throughout the 1970s, he appeared in a lot of movies you may never have heard of such as Find the Lady and The Silent Partner, which you may have remembered seeing in the Blockbuster Video aisles.
He has a supporting role in the comedy ensemble 1941, directed by Steven Spileberg and was later cast in another supporting role in The Blues Brothers. But it was Stripes in 1981 in which he played Dewey “Ox” Oxberger who during a memorable scene mud wrestles with women at a bar.
There was another role in National Lampoon’s Vacation, which was added when test audiences didn’t like the original ending to the movie. He was cast as Russ Lasky, a strict by-the-book security guard who is taken hostage by Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) at the amusement park WallyWorld.
But it was Splash in which he stole the show as smooth-talking, beer-guzzling brother of Tom Hank’s character who love for adult magazines and porno comes in handy when they have to pretend to be Swedish doctors.
Other roles in Brewster’s Millions and Summer Rental made him more of a leading man, but it was his role as Del Griffith in Planes, Trains and Automobiles that made him a true star. The outrageous road comedy directed and written by his friend, John Hughes, made Candy something more than the loveable big guy roles. It made Candy an actor. When he has to tell Steve Martin’s character his wife has been dead for eight years, he’s almost in tears.
He played Barf in Spaceballs which was a favorite of many Gen Xers and Millennials. He continued to work with Hughes in The Great Outdoors, Uncle Buck and Home Alone. The latter of which he did as a favor only working for scale of the daily rate of the Screen Actors Guild at the time. It’s been reported he could’ve taken a percentage of the profits but never regretted it after the movie became the most successful comedy at the time.
In the 1990s, he turned to more serious roles, playing the real-life New Orleans attorney Dean Andrews, Jr. alongside Kevin Costner in JFK. He also played a more lighter tone more serious role in Only the Lonely. He also voiced and appeared in his own Saturday morning cartoon, Camp Candy.
It seems his life was cut short early but he had been appearing in TV shows and movies as early as 1972 with 65 acting credits to his resume. It’s been said by those close to him that Hughes walked away from Hollywood following Candy’s death because he couldn’t imagine not writing any roles for Candy.
Many years have passed since he died. He is still loved and missed by his fans to this day. Maybe it’s because he passed so young and had so many more things he could have done which makes his legion of fans miss him still. Most of his dialogue in comedies were mostly improvised on the spot. He was supposed to be cast in Ghostbusters but he and Ivan Reitman, who passed last month, had a disagreement on how Louis Tully should be. Hughes had to cut about an hour and a half of footage from PTAA because Candy and Martin had done so much improve and ad-libbing.
Watching his movies always brings a joy to me.
What are your favorite Candy movies? Please comment.