John Franklin Candy (October 31, 1950 – March 4, 1994) was a Canadian comedian and actor known mainly for his work in Hollywood films. Candy rose to fame as a member of the Toronto branch of the Second City and its related Second City Television series, and through his appearances in such comedy films as Stripes, Splash, Cool Runnings, Summer Rental, Home Alone, The Great Outdoors, Spaceballs, and Uncle Buck, as well as more 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. In addition to his work as an actor, Candy was a co-owner of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League from 1991 until his death, and the team won the 1991 Grey Cup under his ownership.
While filming the Western parody Wagons East, Candy died of a heart attack in Durango, Mexico, on March 4, 1994, aged 43. His final two films, Wagons Eastand Canadian Bacon, are dedicated to his memory.
Candy was born on October 31, 1950, in Newmarket, Ontario. The son of Sidney James Candy and Evangeline (née Aker) Candy, he was brought up in a working-class Roman Catholic family. Candy's father was of English and Scottish descent, while his mother was of Polish  and Ukraini and escent.
Candy studied at Neil McNeil Catholic High School, later enrolled in the Centennial Community College to study journalism, and went to McMaster University for higher education.
Candy was interested in performing. He guest starred on a Canadian children's television series, Cucumber and made a small, 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 a TV series Dr. Zonk and the Zunkins (1974–75).
In 1975, he played Richie, an accused killer, in episode "Web of Guilt", on the Canadian TV show Police Surgeon. 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).
In 1976, Candy played a supporting role (with Rick Moranis) on Peter Gzowski's short-lived, late-night television talk show, 90 Minutes Live.
As a member of Toronto's branch of the Second City, he gained wide North American popularity, which grew when he became a cast member on the influential Toronto-based comedy-variety show Second City Television (SCTV). NBC picked the show up in 1981 and it quickly became a fan favourite. It had won Emmy Awards for the show's writing in 1981 and 1982.
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.
Other characters included the cheerful Leutonian clarinetist Yosh Shmenge, who was half of the Happy Wanderers and the subject of the mockumentary The Last Polka, folksy fishin' musician Gil Fisher, handsome if accent-challenged TV actor Steve Roman, Pippy Long Socks, hapless children's entertainer Mr. Messenger, corrupt soap-opera doctor William Wainwright, smut merchant Harry, "the Guy With the Snake on His Face", and Giorgy, "everyone's favourite Cossack".
Mimicry was one of Candy's talents, which he used often at SCTV. Celebrities impersonated by Candy include Jerry Mathers, Divine, Orson Welles, Julia Child, Richard Burton, Silvio Gigante, Luciano Pavarotti, Jimmy the Greek, Andrew Sarris, Tip O'Neill, Don Rickles, Curly Howard, Merlin Olsen, Jackie Gleason, Tom Selleck, Gordon Pinsent, Darryl Sittler, Ed Asner, Gertrude Stein, Morgy Kneele, Doug McGrath, and Hervé Villechaize.
During the series' run he appeared in films like The Clown Murders (1976) and had a lead in a low budget comedy, Find the Lady (1976). He guest starred on shows like The David Steinberg Show and King of Kensington and had a small role in the thriller The Silent Partner (1978).
Early Hollywood roles
In 1979, Candy took a short hiatus from SCTV and began a more active film career, appearing in a minor role in Lost and Found (1979) and playing a US 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 parole officer Burton Mercer in The Blues Brothers (1980), starring Aykroyd and did an episode of Tales of the Klondike (1981) for Canadian TV.
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).
From 1981-83 Candy appeared in SCTV Network on television. He made a cameo appearance in Harold Ramis's 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.
Candy headlined in the Canadian film Going Berserk (1983). He was approached to play the character of accountant Louis Tully in Ghostbusters (completed and released in 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. Candy was one of the many celebrities who appeared chanting "Ghostbusters" in Ray Parker Jr.'s hit "single" for the movie.
Candy played Tom Hanks's womanizing brother in the hit romantic comedy Splash, generally considered his break-out role.
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. 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 second starring role in a Hollywood film was Armed and Dangerous(1986) with Levy and Meg Ryan. He had a cameo in Little Shop of Horrors (1986) and appeared in Really Weird Tales (1987).
Candy had a support role in Mel Brooks' Spaceballs (1987).
Collaboration with John Hughes and beyond
Candy had a hit film when he starred in Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) with Steve Martin, written and directed by John Hughes. He did a cameo in Hughes' She's Having a Baby (1988), then starred in a film written by Hughes, The Great Outdoors (1988), co starring Aykroyd.
Candy provided the voice for Don the horse in Hot to Trot (1988) and starred in a flop comedy, Who's Harry Crumb? (1989), which he also produced. He was one of several names in Cannonball Fever (1989) and had another hit film with Hughes 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 Comicsimprint.
Candy made The Rocket Boy (1989) in Canada and had a cameo in two more films written by Hughes, the hit film Home Alone (1990) and the box office flop Career Opportunities (1991).
He provided a voice for The Rescuers Down Under (1990) and had a support part in Nothing But Trouble (1991), Dan Aykroyd's notorious box office flop.
During this time, Candy played a dramatic role as Dean Andrews Jr., a shady Southern lawyer in Oliver Stone's JFK (1991).
In 1991, Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky, and Candy became owners of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts. 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. The Argonauts took home the 1991 Grey Cup, beating Calgary, 36–21, in the final. 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 Gretkzy's names as well.
Chris Columbus wrote and directed Only the Lonely (1991) starring Candy and Maureen O'Hara which was well reviewed but not a big hit.
Also unsuccessful was the comedy Delirious (1991) and Once Upon a Crime...(1992). He had a cameo in Boris and Natasha: The Movie (1992) and the successful Rookie of the Year (1993).
Candy starred in his first comedic hit in a number of years with Cool Runnings(1993).
He made his directorial debut in the 1994 comedy Hostage for a Day, in which he also made a cameo appearance. His last appearances were in Canadian Bacon (1995) and Wagons East.
In 1994, while on vacation from film production (Wagons East) in Durango City, Mexico, Candy called his friends, including Canadian Football League commissioner Larry Smith, and told them that he had just let go of his team and was putting it up for sale. He then called his assistant, who invited Candy to play golf with him in the spring when he returned to Toronto. After cooking a late lasagna dinner for his assistants, Candy called his co-stars from his hotel, then went to sleep. Some time after midnight, on March 4, 1994, Candy was found dead from a presumed myocardial infarction even though this was unproven, as no autopsy was performed. He was 43 years old. Candy had struggled for many years with weight-related health issues. He was also a heavy smoker and drinker, and he had used cocaine in his past. Candy also had a family history of heart attacks suffered by relatively young men, and the actor was under a significant degree of stress throughout the making of the Wagons East feature film.
Candy and his wife, Rosemary Hobor, had two children, Christopher Michael and Jennifer Anne.
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. 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. These three shelved projects have been referred to as "cursed" because Candy, John Belushi, Sam Kinison and Chris Farley were each attached to all three roles, and they all died before they could make any of these films.
Candy was originally considered to play Alec Guinness's role in the remake of the 1950 film, Last Holiday, with Carl Reiner directing. Eventually the role was played by Queen Latifah in a loose remake released in 2006.
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.
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, California. His crypt lies just above 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.
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 that was 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 due to animation difficulties and production delays, and it was shelved. Candy was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. In May 2006, Candy became one of the first four entertainers ever honored by Canada Post by being featured on a postage stamp. 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.
Ween's Chocolate and Cheese album, released in 1994, is "dedicated in loving memory to John Candy (1950–1994)". At the time Gene Ween remarked, "there was so much going on about Kurt Cobain, and nobody mentioned John Candy at all. I have a special little spot in my heart for him."
The John Candy Visual Arts Studio at Neil McNeil Catholic High School, in Toronto, was dedicated in his honour after his death. 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." Candy's daughter, Jennifer Candy, is an actress and television producer, having production credits for the television series Prom Queen and Sam Has 7 Friends.
Support has been growing for giving the Canadian Screen Awards the official nickname "The Candys," both in honour of the actor and because the name suggests Canada.
|1973||Class of '44||Paule||Uncredited|
|1975||It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time||Kopek|
|The Clown Murders||Ollie|
|Find the Lady||Kopek|
|1978||The Silent Partner||Simonsen|
|1979||Lost and Found||Carpentier|
|1980||Top Kid||Molly Conway||Puppeter & voice|
|The Blues Brothers||Parole Officer Burton Mercer|
|1981||Stripes||Dewey "Ox" Oxberger|
|Heavy Metal||Den, Dan, Desk Sergeant, Robot||Voice|
|1982||It Came from Hollywood||Himself|
|1983||National Lampoon's Vacation||Russ Lasky|
|Going Berserk||John Bourgignon|
|1985||Brewster's Millions||Spike Nolan|
|Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird||Policeman|
|Summer Rental||Jack Chester|
|1986||Armed and Dangerous||Frank Dooley|
|Little Shop of Horrors||Wink Wilkinson|
|Planes, Trains and Automobiles||Del Griffith|
|1988||The Great Outdoors||Chet Ripley|
|She's Having a Baby||Chet from 'The Great Outdoors'||Uncredited|
|Hot to Trot||Don||Voice|
|1989||Who's Harry Crumb?||Harry Crumb||Also Executive Producer|
|Speed Zone||Charlie Cronan|
|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|
|1991||Nothing But Trouble||Deputy Dennis / Eldona|
|Career Opportunities||C. D. Marsh||Uncredited|
|Only the Lonely||Danny Muldoon|
|JFK||Dean Andrews Jr.|
|1992||Once Upon a Crime||Augie Morosco|
|Boris and Natasha: The Movie||Kalishak|
|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; released posthumously|
|Dr. Simon Locke||Richie||Episode: "Death Holds the Scale"|
|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||Episode one |
|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||(various)||50 episodes|
|1977||King of Kensington||Bandit||Episode: "The Hero"|
|1980||The Courage of Kavik, the Wolf Dog||Pinky||TV film|
|Big City Comedy||Himself (host) / various||TV series (sketch comedy)|
|1981||Tales of the Klondike||TV mini-series|
|Saturday Night Live||Juan Gavino||Episode: "George Kennedy/Miles Davis" |
|1981–1983||SCTV Network 90||(various)||38 episodes|
|1983||SCTV Channel||(various)||Episode: "Maudlin O' the Night"|
|1984||The New Show||(various)||Five episodes|
|1985||Martin Short: Concert for the North Americas||Marcel||TV film|
|The Canadian Conspiracy||(various)||TV film|
|The Last Polka||Yosh Shmenge/Pa Shmenge||TV film|
|1987||Really Weird Tales||Howard Jensen ('Cursed with Charisma')||TV film|
|1989||The Rocket Boy||The Hawk||TV film|
|Camp Candy||Himself||40 episodes, voice|
|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"|
|1994||Hostage for a Day||Yuri Petrovich||TV film|
|—||The Magic 7||Smokestack Sam||TV film; voice; produced in 1990–1993; Movie never released|