John Candy was a Canadian actor and comedian and actor known mainly for his work in Second City Televion ("SCTV") and several movies, particularly "Planes, Trains And Automobiles," "Summer Rental," "The Great Outdoors," "Spaceballs" and "Uncle Buck." He is considered possibly among the greatest comedic talents in the movie industry.
Born John Franklin Candy on October 31, 1950 to a working-class Roman Catholic family in Newmarket, Ontario, Candy was of English and Scottish descent; his mother was of Polish and Ukrainian descent. He studied at Neil McNeil Catholic High School and later enrolled in the Centennial Community College to study journalism. He also attended McMaster University for higher education.
In 1973, Candy guest starred on the Canadian children's' television series, "Cucumber" and made a small, uncredited appearance in the film "Class of '44' which was followed by a small part in "The ABC Afternoon Playbreak," which was followed by a regular role on the 1974 TV series "Dr. Zonk and the Zunkins." He followed up with roles in the TV shows "Police Surgeon," "Coming Up Rosie" with Dan Aykroyd and "90 Minutes Live" with Rick Moranis. During this time, he also had appearances in the movies "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time" and "Tunnel Vision."
During the Seventies, Candy gained wide North American popularity as a cast member of Toronto's branch of SCTV alongside other future stars whose careers would intersect often with his own carerr. His co-stars included Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, Catherine O'Hara, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis. The series was a huge success and won Emmy Awards for writing in 1981 and 1982. Through the series, he created the roles of 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 among others along with masterful impressions of Jerry Mathers, Divine, Orson Welles, Julia Child, Luciano Pavarotti, Jimmy the Greek, Don Rickles, Curly Howard, Merlin Olsen, Jackie Gleason, Tom Selleck and Hervé Villechaize. His popularity led to roles in the movies "The Clown Murders" and "Find the Lady" in 1976 and the thriller "The Silent Partner" in 1978.
In 1979, Candy took a short hiatus from SCTV and began a more active film career with a minor role in the 1979 movie "Lost and Found" and in Steven Spielberg's big-budget comedy "1941" with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in a celebrity laden cast. His other films included "The Courage of Kavik, the Wolf Dog," "Double Negative" and a memorable minor role in "The Blues Brothers" with Aykroyd and Belushi in 1981, but it was his role as the lovable, mild-mannered Army recruit Dewey Oxberger in the 1981 Bill Murray film "Stripes," directed by Ivan Reitman which started getting him international attention. After providing a voice for the lackluster rock and roll animation, "Heavy Metal" in 1981, he returned to SCTV, during which he made a cameo appearance in Harold Ramis's 1983 "National Lampoon's Vacation," his first collaboration with John Hughes, who had wrote the script.
While still appearing on SCTV, Candy hosted its American counterpart, "Saturday Night Live," twice and starred in the 1983 movie, "Going Berserk." After losing out on the role of Louis Tully in "Ghostbusters" over creative differences to SCTV colleague Harold Ramis, he played Tom Hanks's womanizing brother in the hit romantic comedy "Splash," generally considered one of his top break-out roles, but he still returned to appear in the "Ghostbusters" promotional music video with Ray Parker Jr. His following roles included "The Last Polka" with Eugene Levy, "Brewster's Millions" with Richard Pryor and a cameo in the Sesame Street film "Follow That Bird" in 1985.
One of Candy's first Hollywood films was "Summer Rental" in 1985, followed by "Volunteers," which reunited him with Tom Hanks, "The Canadian Conspiracy" and "Dave Thomas: The Incredible Time Travels of Henry Osgood" in 1985 with Martin Short. He also became notorious for his role as Barf in the 1987 Mel Brooks movie, "Space Balls." His other films included "The Great Outdoors" and "Uncle Buck" along with dramatic roles in "Only the Lonely" and "JFK." One of his most renowned onscreen performances was as Del Griffith, the talkative shower-curtain ring salesman in the John Hughes comedy "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" followed by a role in "Home Alone" which reunited him with SCTV cast member Catherine O'Hara.
Candy followed up with roles in "Who's Harry Crumb? " in 1989), which he also produced, and the celebrity laden flick, "Cannonball Run 3," released to theaters under the name "Speed Trap." He also produced and starred in "Camp Candy," a Saturday-morning animated series set in a fictional summer camp run by Candy as well as roles in "The Rocket Boy," "Career Opportunities," "The Rescuers Down Under" and "Nothing But Trouble with Chevy Chase, Demi Moore and Dan Aykroyd in 1991, which became known as a notorious box office flop.
Candy became owners of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts alongside Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky in 1991, attracting attention in Canada. That year, the Argonauts took home the Grey Cup, beating Calgary, 36–21. Unfortunately, several of his later movies failed at the box office. His 1991 movie, "Only The Lonely," written and directed by Chris Columbus, was well reviewed but not a big hit. The comedy, "Delirous," failed at the box office but attracted a small cult of fans. It was followed by "Once Upon a Crime..." "Boris and Natasha" and "Rookie of the Year" in 1993.
In 1993, Candy had his first comedic hit in a number of years with "Cool Runnings" about the first Jamaican Bobsled Team. He made his directorial debut in the 1994 comedy "Hostage for a Day" with George Wendt and 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. However, these three shelved projects have long been referred to as "cursed" because previous actors as John Belushi, Sam Kinison and Chris Farley had each been attached to these roles, and they all died before they could make any of these films. After finishing "Canadian Bacon," Candy was filming the Western parody "Wagons East!" when he died of a heart attack in Durango, Mexico, on March 4, 1994 at the age of 43. His final two films, "Wagons East!" and "Canadian Bacon," were dedicated to his memory. The movie was completed using a stunt double and special effects and released five months after Candy's death, followed by "Canadian Bacon." It is believed he suffered from a presumed myocardial infarction even though this was unproven as no autopsy was performed. For much of his life, he had struggled with several weight-related health issues.
He was survived by his wife, Rosemary Hobor Candy, had two children, Christopher Michael Candy and Jennifer Anne Candy. The comic role of the turkey Red Feather in the animated 1995 Disney film "Pocahontas" had been written for him, but it was subsequently cut from the film after his death. His funeral was held at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Los Angeles and he was laid to rest at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. On March 18, 1994, a special memorial service for Candy, produced by Second City was broadcast across Canada. He was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame, and in May 2006, became one of the first four entertainers ever honored by Canada Post by being featured on a postage stamp. The John Candy Visual Arts Studio at Neil McNeil Catholic High School, in Toronto, was dedicated in his honor after his death.