John Candy
Candy in 1993
Born
John Franklin Candy

(1950-10-31)October 31, 1950
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedMarch 4, 1994(1994-03-04) (aged 43)
Burial placeHoly Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, U.S.
Alma mater
Occupations
  • Actor
  • comedian
Years active1971–1994
TelevisionSecond City Television
Spouse
Rosemary Margaret Hobor
(m. 1979)
Children2

John Franklin Candy (October 31, 1950 – March 4, 1994)[1] was a Canadian actor and comedian who is best known for his work in Hollywood films. Candy first rose to national prominence in the 1970s as a member of the Toronto branch of the Second City and its SCTV sketch comedy series. He rose to international fame in the 1980s with his roles in comedic films such as Stripes, Splash, Brewster's Millions, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Spaceballs, The Great Outdoors, Uncle Buck, and Cool Runnings. He also appeared in supporting roles in The Blues Brothers, National Lampoon's Vacation, Little Shop of Horrors, and Home Alone, and featured in dramatic roles in Only the Lonely and JFK.

In addition to his work as an actor, Candy was a co-owner of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL), and the team won the 1991 Grey Cup under his ownership. He died in 1994 at the age of 43. His final two film appearances, Wagons East and Canadian Bacon, are dedicated to his memory.

Early life and education

Candy was born on October 31, 1950, in Toronto and grew up in Newmarket, Ontario.[2] The son of Sidney James Candy and Evangeline Candy, he was brought up in a working-class Catholic family.[3] His childhood home was at 217 Woodville Avenue in East York, Ontario.[4] According to the 1921 Canadian census records Candy's father Sidney was born to English parents who immigrated to Canada in 1913.[5] John Candy's mother was of Polish Jewish descent.[6]: 19  His father died of complications of heart disease at age 35 in 1955 when John was five years old.[7]

Candy attended Neil McNeil Catholic High School where he was the treasurer of the student council and played offensive tackle on the school's football team and participated in drama club. Long before considering acting, Candy aspired to become a professional football player, but a knee injury during his high school football career prevented him from fulfilling his dream.[8][9] He later enrolled in Centennial College to study journalism, and then went to McMaster University.[10][11] He started acting while at college.[citation needed]

Career

1971–1978: Early career and SCTV

In 1971, Candy was cast in a small part as a Shriner in Creeps by David E. Freeman, a new Canadian play about cerebral palsy, in the inaugural season of the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto.[6]: 22  Candy guest-starred on a Canadian children's television series, Cucumber, and made a brief, uncredited appearance in Class of '44 (1973). He had a small part in The ABC Afternoon Playbreak ("Last Bride of Salem") and had a regular role on the TV series Dr. Zonk and the Zunkins (1974–75).

Candy became a member of Toronto's branch of The Second City in 1972.[12] He gained wide North American popularity when he became a cast member on the influential Edmonton and later Toronto-based comedy-variety show Second City Television (SCTV). NBC picked the show up in 1981 and quickly became a fan favorite. It won Emmy Awards for the show's writing in 1981 and 1982.[13] Among Candy's SCTV characters were unscrupulous street-beat TV personality Johnny LaRue, 3-D horror auteur Doctor Tongue, sycophantic and easily amused talk-show sidekick William B. Williams, and Melonville's corrupt Mayor Tommy Shanks.

In 1975 he played Richie, an accused killer, in the episode "Web of Guilt" on the Canadian TV show Police Surgeon.[14] He was in It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (1975), shot in Canada, as well as the children's sitcom Coming Up Rosie (1975–78) with Dan Aykroyd. Candy had a small role in Tunnel Vision (1976).

During the series' run he appeared in films such as The Clown Murders (1976) and had a lead in a low-budget comedy, Find the Lady (1976).In 1976, Candy played a supporting role (with Rick Moranis) on Peter Gzowski's short-lived late-night television talk show 90 Minutes Live. In 1978, Candy had a small role as a bank employee (with Christopher Plummer and Elliott Gould) in the Canadian thriller The Silent Partner. He guest starred on such shows as The David Steinberg Show and King of Kensington.

1979–1987: Hollywood breakthrough

In 1979, Candy took a brief hiatus from SCTV and began a more active film career, appearing in a minor role in Lost and Found (1979) and playing a U.S. Army soldier in Steven Spielberg's big-budget comedy 1941. He returned to Canada for roles in The Courage of Kavik, the Wolf Dog (1980) and the action thriller Double Negative (1980). He had a supporting role as easygoing parole officer Burton Mercer in The Blues Brothers (1980), starring Aykroyd, and did an episode of Tales of the Klondike (1981) for Canadian TV.

In 1980, Candy hosted a short-lived NBC television program, Roadshow, described by The Washington Post as "improvisational journalism".[15] Appearing as himself, Candy and a video crew traveled in a tour bus to Baton Rouge, Louisiana (home of Louisiana State University), and Carbondale, Illinois, home of Southern Illinois University Carbondale), and interviewed college students amid party atmospheres such as the latter's Halloween street celebration.[16] He also obtained backstage access to interview Midge Ure, the lead singer of the UK electronic band Ultravox, which performed a concert on the SIU campus the evening of 10/31/80. It is unknown if more than two episodes aired.

Candy played the lovable, mild-mannered Army recruit Dewey Oxberger in Stripes (1981), directed by Canadian Ivan Reitman, which was one of the most successful films of the year. He provided voices for multiple characters in the animated film Heavy Metal (1981), most notably as the title character in the "Den" segment, which was well-received,[17] including by the character's creator, Richard Corben, who singled out Candy's humorously lighthearted interpretation of the title character as excellent.[18]

From 1981 to 1983, Candy appeared in SCTV Network on television. He made a cameo appearance in Harold Ramis' National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), his first collaboration with John Hughes, who wrote the script. Candy appeared on Saturday Night Live twice (hosting in 1983) while still appearing on SCTV. According to writer-comedian Bob Odenkirk, Candy was reputedly the "most-burned potential host" of SNL, in that he was asked to host many times, only for plans to be changed by the SNL staff at the last minute.[19] Candy headlined in the Canadian film Going Berserk (1983). He was approached to play the character of accountant Louis Tully in Ghostbusters (1984), starring Aykroyd and directed by Reitman, but ultimately did not get the role because of his conflicting ideas of how to play the character; the part went instead to SCTV colleague Rick Moranis, whose ideas were better received. However, Candy did make a contribution to the franchise, as one of the many people chanting "Ghostbusters" in the video for Ray Parker Jr.'s hit single for the film.

Candy played Tom Hanks's womanizing brother in the hit romantic comedy Splash, generally considered his break-out role.[20] After the success of the film, he had signed a three-picture development and producing deal with Walt Disney Pictures, and he would develop and executive produce various theatricals as planned starring vehicles for himself.[21]

Candy went back to Canada to star in The Last Polka (1985), which he also wrote with co-star Eugene Levy. He was Richard Pryor's best friend on Brewster's Millions (1985) and had a cameo in the Sesame Street film Follow That Bird (1985). Candy's first lead role in a Hollywood film came with Summer Rental (1985), directed by Carl Reiner.[22] He was reunited with Hanks in Volunteers (1985), though the film did not do as well as Splash. He had a cameo in The Canadian Conspiracy (1985) and appeared alongside Martin Short in Dave Thomas: The Incredible Time Travels of Henry Osgood (1985) in Canada. Candy's next starring role in a Hollywood film was the box office disappointment Armed and Dangerous (1986) with Levy and Meg Ryan.[23] He had a cameo in Little Shop of Horrors (1986) and appeared in Really Weird Tales (1987). He also had a supporting role in Mel Brooks's Spaceballs (1987).

1987–1995: John Hughes films and final roles

In 1987, Candy co-starred in Planes, Trains & Automobiles with Steve Martin, written and directed by John Hughes. The film had positive reviews.[24] The film grossed $49,530,280 at the US box office.[25] He appeared in a cameo role in Hughes's She's Having a Baby (1988) and then starred in a film written by Hughes, The Great Outdoors (1988) which co-starred Aykroyd.

Candy provided the voice for Don the Horse in Hot to Trot (1988) and starred in a flop comedy, considered by some to be a cult classic, Who's Harry Crumb? (1989), which he also produced. He was also in the box office flop Speed Zone aka Cannonball Fever (1989), however, he had another hit film with Hughes as writer and director in Uncle Buck (1989). Candy also produced and starred in a Saturday-morning animated series on NBC titled Camp Candy in 1989. The show was set in a fictional summer camp run by Candy, featured his two children in supporting roles, and also spawned a brief comic book series published by Marvel Comics' Star Comics imprint.[26] During this time, he also made the television film The Rocket Boy (1989) in Canada.

Candy also provided the voice of Wilbur the Albatross in Disney's animated film The Rescuers Down Under (1990) and had a cameo in two more films written by Hughes, the blockbuster hit film Home Alone (1990) and the box office flop Career Opportunities (1991). According to Candy's biography, he was in talks to play Bette Midler's working-class husband in the 1990 film Stella. However, when he was informed that Midler demanded he do a screen test, Candy became incredulous proclaiming "Who the (expletive) does she think she is?!" and declined. John Goodman was eventually cast in the role. From 1988 to 1990, Candy hosted "Radio Kandy," a hot adult contemporary radio music countdown syndicated by Premiere Networks.

In 1991, Chris Columbus wrote and directed Only the Lonely with John Hughes serving as co-producer, and starring Candy and Maureen O'Hara; it was well reviewed but not a big hit. Candy also had a supporting role in Nothing But Trouble (1991), Dan Aykroyd's notorious box office flop. Also unsuccessful were the comedies Delirious (1991) and Once Upon a Crime... (1992). During this time, Candy played a small dramatic role as Dean Andrews Jr., a shady Southern lawyer in Oliver Stone's JFK (1991), and had a cameo in the television film Boris and Natasha: The Movie (1992). Candy starred in his first comedic hit in a number of years with Cool Runnings (1993), a story of the first Jamaican national bobsleigh team attempting to make it to the 1988 Winter Olympics. He also had a cameo in the successful Rookie of the Year (1993). He made his directorial debut in the 1994 comedy television film Hostage for a Day. His last appearances were in Wagons East (1994) and Canadian Bacon (1995).[27][28]

Unfinished projects

Candy was in talks to portray Ignatius J. Reilly in a now-shelved film adaptation of John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer Prize–winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces.[29][30][31] He had also expressed interest in portraying Atuk in a film adaptation of Mordecai Richler's The Incomparable Atuk and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in a biopic based on the silent film comedian's life.[32][33] These three shelved projects have been alleged as cursed because Candy, John Belushi, Sam Kinison, and Chris Farley were each attached to all three roles; they all died before they could make any of these films.[34][35] Candy was originally considered to play Alec Guinness's role in the remake of the 1950 film Last Holiday, with Carl Reiner directing.[36] Eventually the role was played by Queen Latifah in a loose remake released in 2006.[34] Candy was also slated to collaborate with John Hughes again in a comedy opposite Sylvester Stallone, titled Bartholomew vs. Neff. Candy and Stallone were to have portrayed feuding neighbors.[37][38] In the animated Disney film Pocahontas, the role of Redfeather the Turkey was written for him, but was subsequently cut from the film after his death.[39] Stephen King reportedly wanted Candy to portray Billy Halleck in the film adaptation of his novel Thinner.[40]

Personal life

Candy and his wife Rosemary Hobor had two children, Christopher Michael and Jennifer Anne.[41] He was a Roman Catholic.[42]

Sports

In 1991, Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky, and Candy became owners of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts.[43][44] The celebrity ownership group attracted attention in Canada, and the team spent a significant amount of money, even signing some highly touted National Football League prospects such as wide receiver Raghib Ismail. Under Candy's co-ownership, the Argonauts took home the 1991 Grey Cup, beating Calgary 36–21 in the final.[45] Only McNall's name was etched onto the Grey Cup trophy as an owner of the team, but the CFL corrected the error in 2007 and added Candy's and Gretzky's names as well.[46]

Health problems and death

Candy's crypt in the mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California

Candy publicly shared his experiences of living with severe anxiety and panic attacks.[47]

Candy died in his sleep at the age of 43, on March 4, 1994, in Durango City, Mexico, while filming Wagons East; a spokeswoman said that Candy's cause of death was a heart attack.[48][49] He tended to binge eat in response to professional struggles[50] and weighed more than 300 pounds (140 kg) at some points in his life.[49] Candy had a number of risk factors for heart attack, including strong family history (his father had died prematurely of a heart attack, although his children say he was unaware of his genetic risk),[41] smoking a pack of cigarettes a day,[50] obesity, alcohol abuse, and cocaine use.[50] However, Candy was concerned about his weight. He once lost 100 pounds (45 kg) over a summer while preparing to film Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin. He frequently dieted and exercised with trainers because of his family history.[49][41][51][52]

Legacy

Candy's funeral was held at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Los Angeles. Candy was entombed in the mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. His crypt lies just above that of a fellow actor, Fred MacMurray. On March 18, 1994, a special memorial service for Candy, produced by his former improvisation troupe the Second City, was broadcast across Canada.[53]

Candy's star on Canada's Walk of Fame

Wagons East was completed using a stunt double and special effects and released five months after Candy's death. His final completed film was Canadian Bacon, a satirical comedy by Michael Moore released a year after Candy's death. Candy played American sheriff Bud Boomer, who led an "invasion" of Canada. Candy recorded a voice for the TV film The Magic 7 in the early 1990s. The film remained in production for years owing to animation difficulties and production delays, and it was eventually shelved.

Candy was posthumously inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 1998.[54] In May 2006, Candy became one of the first four entertainers ever honored by Canada Post by being featured on a postage stamp.[55] On October 31, 2020, Toronto Mayor John Tory proclaimed "John Candy Day" in honor of what would have been John Candy's 70th birthday.

Blues Brothers 2000 is dedicated to three people, including Candy, who played a supporting role in the original Blues Brothers. A tribute to Candy was hosted by Dan Aykroyd at the 2007 Grey Cup festivities in Toronto in November 2007.[45]

Experimental rock band Ween's album Chocolate and Cheese, released in 1994, is "dedicated in loving memory to John Candy (1950–1994)". At the time lead singer Gene Ween remarked, "There was so much going on about [the suicide of] Kurt Cobain, and nobody mentioned John Candy at all. I have a special little spot in my heart for him."[56]

After his death, the John Candy Visual Arts Studio at Neil McNeil Catholic High School in Toronto was dedicated in his honour. Candy, one of the school's most famous alumni, said during one of his annual visits to the school, "My success is simply rooted in the values and discipline and respect for others that I was taught at Neil McNeil." It has been suggested, among others, that the Canadian Screen Awards be given the official nickname "The Candys," both in honour of the actor and because the name suggests Canada.[57]

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1973 Class of '44 Paule Uncredited
1975 It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time Kopek
1976 Tunnel Vision Cooper
The Clown Murders Ollie
Find the Lady Kopek
1978 The Silent Partner Simonsen
1979 Lost and Found Carpentier
1941 Pvt. Foley
1980 Deadly Companion John
The Blues Brothers Parole Officer Burton Mercer
1981 Stripes Dewey "Ox" Oxberger
Heavy Metal Den / Dan, Desk Sergeant, Robot Voice roles
1982 It Came from Hollywood Himself
1983 National Lampoon's Vacation Russ Lasky
Going Berserk John Bourgignon
1984 Splash Freddie Bauer
1985 Brewster's Millions Spike Nolan
Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird The Policeman
Summer Rental Jack Chester
Volunteers Tom Tuttle
1986 Armed and Dangerous Frank Dooley
Little Shop of Horrors Wink Wilkinson
1987 Spaceballs Barf
Planes, Trains and Automobiles Del Griffith
1988 She's Having a Baby Chet (from The Great Outdoors) Uncredited
The Great Outdoors Chester "Chet" Ripley
Hot to Trot Don Voice role
1989 Who's Harry Crumb? Harry Crumb Also Executive Producer
Speed Zone Charlie Cronan a.k.a. Cannonball Fever[58]
Uncle Buck Buck Russell
1990 Masters of Menace Beer Truck Driver
Home Alone Gus Polinski – Polka King of the Midwest
The Rescuers Down Under Wilbur Voice role
1991 Nothing but Trouble Dennis Valkenheiser, Eldona Valkenheiser
Career Opportunities C. D. Marsh Uncredited
Only the Lonely Danny Muldoon
Delirious Jack Gable
JFK Dean Andrews Jr.
1992 Once Upon a Crime Augie Morosco
1993 Rookie of the Year Cliff Murdoch (announcer) Uncredited
Cool Runnings Irving "Irv" Blitzer
1994 Wagons East James Harlow Released posthumously
1995 Canadian Bacon Sheriff Bud Boomer Filmed in 1993;[59] released posthumously

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1972 Cucumber Weatherman Unknown episodes
Dr. Simon Locke Richie Beck / Ramon 2 Episodes
1974 The ABC Afternoon Playbreak 2nd son Episode: "Last Bride of Salem"
Dr. Zonk and the Zunkins Unknown episodes
1976 The David Steinberg Show Spider Reichman / Spider 6 Episodes
90 Minutes Live (various) TV series
1976–1977 Coming Up Rosie Wally Wypyzypychwk TV series (With Rosemary Radcliffe, Dan Aykroyd and Catherine O'Hara)
1976–1979 Second City TV Johnny LaRue / / Various 50 episodes
1977 King of Kensington Bandit Episode: "The Hero"
1980 The Courage of Kavik, the Wolf Dog Pinky Television film
Big City Comedy Himself (host) / various Television series (sketch comedy)
Roadshow Himself (host) / various "Improvisational journalism" (at least 2 episodes)
1981 Tales of the Klondike Hans Nelson Miniseries
1 episode
Saturday Night Live Juan Gavino Episode: "George Kennedy/Miles Davis"
(uncredited)
1981–1983 SCTV Network 90 Johnny LaRue / Zontar / Dr. Tongue / Yosh Shmenge / Various 38 episodes
1982 The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour Orson Welles 1 episode
1983 Saturday Night Live Host Episode: "John Candy/Men at Work"
SCTV Channel Various Episode: "Maudlin O' the Night"
1984 The New Show Luciano Pavarotti / Orson Welles / Various 5 episodes
1985 Martin Short: Concert for the North Americas Marcel Television film
The Canadian Conspiracy (various) Television film
The Last Polka Yosh Shmenge, Pa Shmenge Television film
1986 Really Weird Tales Howard Jensen Episode: "Cursed with Charisma"
1988 Sesame Street, Special Yosh Shmenge Television film
1989 The Rocket Boy The Hawk Television film
Camp Candy Himself, Yosh Shmenge, Dr. Tongue, Various 40 episodes, main voice role
The Wonderful World of Disney Himself Episode: "Donald, the Star-Struck Duck"
1990 The Dave Thomas Comedy Show One episode
1992 Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories Narrator Episode: "Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat/Millions of Cats"
Boris and Natasha: The Movie Kalishak Television film
1994 Hostage for a Day Yuri Petrovich Final television film

Music videos

Year Title Role Notes
1984 Ray Parker Jr.: Ghostbusters John Candy Cameo - Uncredited
1991 The Traveling Wilburys: Wilbury Twist John Candy Cameo - Uncredited

Accolades

Work Year Accolade / Category Results Ref
SCTV Network 90 1982 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program (episode: "Tony Bennett") Nominated [60]
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program (episode: "Christmas Show") Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program (episode: "Cycle Two, Show Two") Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program (episode: "Moral Majority Show") Won
1983 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program (episode: "Towering Inferno") Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program (episode: "Joe Walsh") Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program (episode: "Robin Williams, America") Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program (episode: "The Christmas Show") Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program (episode: "The Energy Ball" + "Sweeps Week") Won
The Last Polka 1985 CableACE Award for Performance in a Comedy Special Nominated
CableACE Award for Comedy Special (shared with Eugene Levy & Jamie Paul Rock) Nominated
Splash Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Planes, Trains and Automobiles 1988 American Comedy Award for Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Nominated
1992 Banff Television Festival for Sir Peter Ustinov Award Won
Nothing But Trouble Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress (playing in drag) Nominated
Cool Runnings 1994 Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Movie Actor Nominated
1995 Gemini Award for Earle Grey Award
(shared with Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Catherine O'Hara, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin & Martin Short)
Won

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