I think it’s kind of a reflex when people express surprise over how much time has passed when reminded a celebrity passed away on this or that date.
That seemed to be the sentiment when memories of great Canadian comedic actor John Candy were being shared March 4, the 25th anniversary of his passing at the age of 43. “I can’t believe he has been gone that long,” people, I heard in-person or read over social media, state … impulsively in my mind.
I have the exact opposite reaction, thinking about all the great comedic moments the Toronto-born Candy would have brought to both the large and small screen, had he not died so young.
Candy was part of my youth. At an age when going out on Friday nights with friends was just starting to become the norm, but not to a point where it involved parties that stretched into the wee hours of the morning (that would come soon after), I would return home at 11 or 11:30 to find Candy and the SCTV gang ending my night with laughs that, in my mind, topped anything else on TV at the time – including the similar and much more well-known Saturday Night Live, the following late-night.
I still include SCTV on my list when asked about my favourite TV shows of all time, which is saying something for a comedy show now almost 35 years old since its last broadcast (July 17, 1984). Comedy has a hard time translating over time but the characters and skits created by Candy and the other Canadian comedy icons on the show endure; not surprising when you consider the list of other performers includes; Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Harold Ramis and Martin Short.
Think of the 1980s’ Edmonton Oilers or 70s’ Montreal Canadiens all-star line-ups when you think of the SCTV cast and creators.
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Candy had tremendous chemistry with all his co-stars but, in particular, with Flaherty and Levy. The three would team up for a movie around the same time (1983) called Going Berserk which was reported, in numerous articles and books, to be a disappointing experience for the three but, for me, my brother and oldest nephew, a cult favourite. A couple of scenes featuring Levy as a sleazy, obnoxious director stand out, as does one of Candy handcuffed to a fugitive while the man is having sex. Candy on one side of a door, the convict on the other … well, you have to see the movie.
Of course Candy would go on to star in bigger name movies during his career with Splash, The Great Outdoors, Cool Runnings, Uncle Buck and Spaceballs being just some of his more notable.
My favourite is the brilliant Planes, Trains and Automobiles where he teams up with Steve Martin in what it still, for me, the best movie about the American Thanksgiving holiday ever made. Not bad for a Canadian guy.
And Candy was never quiet about promoting his home country and is well remembered for teaming up with hockey great Wayne Gretzky, as well as disgraced former L.A. Kings owner Bruce McNall, in purchasing his hometown Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.
I like too whenever they interview Candy’s former co-stars, such as Levy, O’Hara and Short, they always mention two things; his immense talent and what a sweet, gentle person he was. It’s always nice when the people you admire on the screen are how you envision them to be in real life.