John Candy would have been 70

SCTV

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.

SCTV

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.

Actor Martin Short turns 70

The Associates

Martin ShortMy favorite thing featuring comic actor Martin Short was not a sketch comedy or a movie. It was on something called The Associates.

The writer Ken Levine recently answered a question on his blog. The inquiry was about “sitcoms that lasted a single season that nobody watched that, in your estimation, showcased a certain or unusual style of humor that gave it a little something atmosphere-wise that made them little lost gems?” Levine included “THE ASSOCIATES created by the TAXI team” that starred a young Martin Short as “a standout in the late ‘70s.”

That was my recollection too, but I hadn’t actually SEEN it since that single 13-episode 1979-1980 season. The IMBD describes it. “Three young law school graduates who had just joined the prestigious firm of Bass and Marshall as associates… Tucker [Martin Short] was a Midwesterner slightly out of step with his Ivy League Colleagues, a little naive but very charming.

“Daughter of a poor New York family, Leslie [Alley Mills, Orson Bean’s widow]… felt for the oppressed… Sara [Shelley Smith] was a Boston blueblood, bright as well as sexy.” The “formidable but slightly dotty Senior Partner Emerson Marshall” was played by Wilfrid Hyde-White. The “dedicated junior partner Eliot Streeter” who wanted “to take over the firm” was future Murphy Brown star Joe Regalbuto.

Is it as good as I remember? Do any of you recall it? Here are episodes one and two and three and four and five, at least for now.

SCTV, SNL

After that, Martin Short co-starred on the SCTV network in 1982-1983, with folks such as John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, and Andrea Martin. Then he appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1984-1985. This was an unusual move because SNL tended to pick unknowns, but that season, in addition to Short, the show featured Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest.

He went on to do movies such as the Three Amigos and Father of the Bride. But most recently, I know him best as the voice of the Cat in the Hat cartoon that was on PBS.

Presently, he’s been performing live with Steve Martin. They’d make a great JEOPARDY! “Before and After” clue. “This frequent SNL ‘wild and crazy’ host gigs with an SCTV and SNL star.” Who is Steve Martin Short? Short has a 2014 autobiography, I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend.

Martin Short turns 70 on March 26.