One of the most honest actors I can think of was John Candy. As the loveable big man, he always brought an innocence and sincerity to each role he breathed life into. Here is a list, in no particular order, of my favorite performances from John Candy.
The best place to start because this is where and how most people where introduced to Mr. Candy. He wrote and starred in this seminal television show that really launched the careers of several actors. Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy to name a few, but it was Candy’s devotion to the show and earnest characterizations that fueled the group. He was so devoted to SCTV that he turned down SNL to stay and play at Second City. I know it isn’t a “John Candy movie” but it is worthy to mention on the list.
In one of my favorite 80’s comedies as well as sports movies (those lists with come later), Candy plays a catcher for Minor League Baseball team called the “Hackensack Bulls”. His character, Spike Nolan, Candy plays the best friend to Montgomery Brewster, who of course is played by one of the greatest comedic minds to walk the Earth; Richard Pryor. If you haven’t seen this movie you should. It is all things a good comedy should have; Good actors, good script, good direction, and heart. Candy shines as the best friend to new found millionaire Pryor. If you weren’t a fan of his before this film, you will be after. The one scene in particular that stands out for me is near the end. During the concession party where Brewster blows what he thinks is his last $38,000, Spike take up a collection to give to Brewster. The following interaction between the two is funny, touching and most of all pure.
Candy’s character, Jack Chester, is an overstressed air traffic controller who is forced to take a vacation. So he packs his family into the station wagon and heads off to Florida for the summer. Needless to say, crazy random happenstances occur! It was his first real shot at being the headliner of a film. He stepped out of the second banana suit and donned the leading man hat and made another classic 80’s comedy that is worth watching. Plus it has the 80’s staple…. the MONTAGE!!!!
The Great Outdoors
This movie is one of, not only my all-time favorites, but an all-time favorite of my entire family. It brings together two Canadian countrymen and makes the people of the world smile. As Chet Ripley, Candy really shows off his comedic range. He plays the straight man to Aykroyd, he plays the clown, he sets up situational comedy and pulls off flawless slapstick.
Only The Lonely
This was Chris Columbus’ directorial follow up to “Home Alone”. (Of which JC had a part) It was also one of 5 films Candy appeared in that year. (Nothing But Trouble, Career Opportunities, JFK, and Delirious were the others.) This film went deep into what kind of man we all picture John to be; Loveable, caring, thoughtful and malleable. He portrays the leading “Beta” male to perfection. He plays one of Chicago’s Finest who falls in love but because of his overbearing mother (Played to perfection by Maureen O’Hara), who he takes care of out his endless sense of devotion, he can’t commit his life to the woman he loves. He shows the struggles of a man torn between perceived obligation and what his heart truly wants. This is one of the most relatable roles he has ever laid down on film. The trailer doesn’t do the film justice, but it is voiced by the best; Don LaFontaine…. may he rest in peace.
Not his most well know comedy or a very popular movie with most by any means. But to me it was another movie that he embraced the leading man role and did a wonderful job with what he was given. Candy plays Jack Gable a write for the daytime soap opera “All My Dreams”. He gets knocked out and when he wakes up he finds himself in the fictional town of Ashford Falls he created in the soap opera. With his trusty typewriter he can decide the fate of what goes on around him. A great premise and Candy, like I said, does well with what he was given. Fun fact: It is the last theatrical movie that Raymond Burr appeared in. Plus it has a cameo from Robert Wagner!
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Widely considered John Candy’s best film and by his own admission, it is the favorite of the movies Steve Martin has done. The character of Del Griffith is the loveable loser. He’s the guy who is endlessly frustrating but has a certain innocence and charm that you can’t turn your back on. The deep loneliness that is hidden deep inside Del Griffith, I think, was a shadow of John Candy the man. There is good reason why this ranks high on many lists of people’s favorites.
Honorable mentions go to Spaceballs, Nothing But Trouble, Uncle Buck, Armed And Dangerous and of course Stripes.
There it is, for better or worse. That is my list of John Candy movies.
Let me know…