Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is my favorite John Candy movie. It’s also my favorite John Hughes film.
James Kendrick described it as “a road comedy about two men trying desperately to get home for Thanksgiving and having every obstacle imaginable thrown in their way. The men are played, in a feat of pitch-perfect casting, by Steve Martin and John Candy as complete opposites who, at the beginning of the film, don’t know each other, but by the end have found that they have more in common than they thought.”
Candy himself was quoted about the script. “I just cried with laughter when I read it. It’s like it was written with me in mind, which makes a big difference. I could see just see the movie in my mind.”
Back in 1972, John was accepted in the Second City comedy troupe’s Chicago group. For two years, he worked with folks such as John Belushi and Gilda Radner. He then returned to Toronto in 1974, working with Second City’s Toronto group.
John “helped bring the troupe’s skits and sketches to Canadian television in 1977 as SCTV. The series also featured Martin Short, Eugene Levy, and Harold Ramis. That’s where I first him. “John Candy’s Johnny LaRue, Josh Shmenge and Gil Fisher (“The Fishin’ Musician”) were about as different from each other and Candy himself as you could possibly get.”
He reportedly turned down offers to be in the SNL cast. Interesting, then that he ended up in ten movies with SNL alums.
Among the movies I saw, he appeared in The Blues Brothers, Stripes, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Splash, and Home Alone. One of his best performances was in a more serious role. “During his screen-time as Dean Andrews in JFK (1991), the nervous sweat seen on his face is real, as the thought of acting in a dramatic film opposite such heavyweight actors as Donald Sutherland and Gary Oldman made him very scared.” He was very good.
Another solid role was as the title character in Uncle Buck (1989). He said, “In the movie, Uncle Buck doesn’t talk down to these kids. And I think that’s why they like him. He treats them as an equal.”
A sad demise
I’ve learned that John Candy lost his father Sidney to a heart attack when John was only five years old. Sidney was 35; HIS father also died of a heart attack. “John was a heavy smoker for most of his adult life. He officially quit smoking cigarettes a few months before he passed away.” And the large man was sensitive about his weight and periodically tried to shed some pounds.
Still, he too died of a heart attack, on March 4, 1994 at the age of 43. He was in Durango, Mexico filming the western spoof Wagons East. According to fellow SCTV alum Catherine O’Hara, “just before going to Mexico, Candy talked to her on the phone and told her that he feared going to Mexico because he felt that ‘something bad is going to happen there.'”
Sadly, John Candy, who was born 31 October 1950 in Toronto, Ontario, was only 43 when he died. He was well-loved by his compatriots.