Born in Toronto, Ontario, John Candy lost his father when he was young and was raised by his working mother. Candy was a hockey and football player, gregarious with family and friends but somewhat shy in unfamiliar settings. He spent only two years at Centennial College before turning to acting. He bounced around Toronto with a group of other up-and-coming comics including Gilda Radner and Dan Akroyd. While his contemporaries became Not-Ready-For-Primetime-Players on the NBC television network's fledgling Saturday Night Live in 1975, John remained in Toronto and honed his comedic skills as a member of the Toronto theater troupe of The Second City. In 1976 SCTV, a television comedy series spoofing television networks, was born starring Candy, among others. The series was slow to catch on at first due to airing on the relatively small Global Television Network, with GTN the source for parody material on the show. But SCTV became wildly successful over the next several years when it returned to television under the CBC network.
Candy began acting in movies with great success and was a darling of successful writer, director, and producer John Hughes in the 1980's. He starred in Hughes films Uncle Buck; Trains, Planes, and Automobiles; Great Outdoors; Only The Lonely; and he had minor roles in Home Alone, National Lampoon's Vacation; She's Having A Baby; and Career Opportunities. Candy had roles great and small in prominent pictures including The Blues Brothers, Stripes, Splash, JFK, Volunteers, Little Shop of Horrors, Who's Harry Crumb?, Summer Rental, Brewster's Millions, Trouble In Mind, Delirious, Spaceballs, Cool Runnings, and Wagons East among others. While between movie projects he found time to become a part owner of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League along with hockey legend Wayne Gretsky and con man/huckster Bruce McNall.
Unfortunately, Candy was a manic-depressive who suffered for his need to be liked by friends and strangers alike and his desire to have ultimate control over his career and acting endeavors. It is ironic that his life and death are paralleled so closely by the short and meteoric careers of fellow large, physical comedians John Belushi and Chris Farley. The combination of continual drug use, heavy drinking and smoking, and over indulgent eating as well as fast lifestyles and hectic acting careers created a deadly mix of abusive, risky behavior, ultimately leading to their deaths.
This report prepared by David Fletcher