I was flipping through the channels and came across The Great Outdoors on TV yesterday. I had forgotten how incredibly funny that movie was and also how good John Candy was in it. It was a real shame to lose John Candy at such a young age.
I looked at his IMDb profile and realized that the fifteenth anniversary of his death passed by just recently. It was on March 4, 1994 that Candy died of a heart attack in Mexico, while filming Wagons East! He was 43 years old. Seeing him in his prime in The Great Outdoors made me remember not just how much I enjoyed watching him, but the unique qualities that he brought to the screen, qualities that we seem to be losing these days.
Candy got his start with the famous Second City sketch comedy group in Toronto. This led to a successful stint on their TV show, SCTV, along with future stars such as Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, and others. He was reportedly offered a spot on Saturday Night Live, but never took it. He stayed in Canada before embarking on a successful film career.
With SNL and SCTV stars and friends making it big in Hollywood in the early '80s, Candy found several supporting roles. The biggest was a spot in John Landis's blockbuster, The Blues Brothers (1980), where he played an absurdly cheerful police detective. After that, he cemented his spot as a character actor with a big role in Stripes, a Bill Murray army comedy. Candy did several films as the comic sidekick — usually a big, lovable buffoon — in comedy hits likes Splash, Brewster's Millions, and Volunteers.
Candy moved from sidekick to major character in 1985's Summer Rental, directed by Carl Reiner. The film doesn't rate very highly among his efforts, but it did introduce us to the type of character he would bring back in later films.
After a memorable turn as Barf in Mel Brooks' Spaceballs, Candy took on another notable bit part in Little Shop of Horrors, as campy radio host "Weird" Wink Wilkinson. The film also featured hilarious cameos by Candy compatriots Bill Murray and Christopher Guest.