It has now been 23 years. I wrote this 3 years ago.
March 4th and 5th marked the anniversary of the deaths of two true comedy legends. The sad portion is that one was much more widely remembered than the other. Monday the 5th was the 30th year since John Belushi passed away prematurely at the age of 33. Belushi was regarded as the wild man of comedy. He lived hard and fast burning the candle at both ends, which was ultimately his downfall as well.
Where I want to shift the focus is that Sunday the 4th marked the 20th anniversary of a truly good guy all around and great comedian. It was John Candy who has been gone for 20 years, which may come a bit of a surprise to some that it’s been quite that long. Candy’s death was not as premature as Belushi but it came much too early for many since he was only 43 at the time.
John Candy was nothing short of a brilliant comedian and quite an underrated actor as well, although there are not too many pieces of work that show the range he did possess. He was also one of the few celebrities whose genuine good guy quality came through the screen and was felt to a point that made you feel like you knew him and also that you wanted to know him. He was a true family man loved his wife and kids and they in turn loved him back.
Candy really came to light in the film world for most people in 1981 opposite Bill Murray in Stripes. He would go on to be in some very memorable movies including his bit part in the John Hughes written movie National Lampoon’s Vacation as the Wally World security guard. That would begin a relationship that would be one of the most beloved teams in comedy and film in the 80’s and early 90’s. Starring in several John Hughes written and directed films, they would go on to be some of his best and most loved roles. John Hughes would say that he gave up his directing and most of his writing because after Candy’s death he just couldn’t do it any more.
His relationship would go on to provide some of the great movies and movie moments of the 80’s. Planes, Trains and Automobiles has gone on to be a holiday time classic with scenes that went on to be nearly legendary. It was in his films with Hughes that he was able to capture movie lover’s hearts and show his true range as an actor. Planes, Trains and Automobiles he was the lifelong salesman who delved deep into his work to forget about the pain of having lost his wife. The scene in the hotel after the infamous car fire, showed him play and hide a wide range of emotions that goes without discussion when talking about the movie, yet it is what gives the movie so much heart and love.
Candy would again be the perfect casting in Hughes’ movie Uncle Buck as the consummate bachelor who is seemingly irresponsible. Buck is tasked with watching after his brother’s kid’s despite being their last choice. His handling of the kid’s with which he has no experience proves to a changing moment in the dynamic of the family who is having troubles of their own. His scenes with Tia trying to teach her what he’s learned from his years of bad mistakes prove to be the pulse of the movie. It’s the closing scene and freeze frame of Candy’s big heartfelt smile and wave that encompasses the good guy and good comedian Candy was. He was able to do it while being clean, non vulgar and made family movies cool enough for everyone to love.
Candy would go on to do many other films, even a pivotal role in Oliver Stone’s JFK, which would again show his acting chops.
Candy passed away on the set of his film Wagon’s East which unfortunately wasn’t his finest moment but he was quintessential Candy anyway. His final release would be a much better film to remember him by in Michael Moore’s only fictional movie, Canadian Bacon in which he would play an extremely patriotic American who follows what his government says and begins to overly support a war with Canada despite Candy being a native Canadian.
Candy will never get the recognition that Belushi get’s mostly because his life wasn’t one big tabloid headline. He was just a great, great comedian a great man whose time was brief and what he gave us will always leave wishing there was more but hold dear what he gave us. Despite no fan fare we will never forget John Candy.