Born October 31, 1950 – Newmarket, Ontario
Died March 4, 1994 – Durango City, Mexico
In 1973, a Toronto offshoot of Chicago’s legendary Second City opened, and within that first year welcomed a 22 year-old kid into the fold, John Candy joining a cast that included Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, and Rosemary Radcliffe. He had talent and an undeniable presence, and before long was sent to Chicago to work the mainstage with Bill Murray, Betty Thomas and others.
In 1976 Andrew Alexander, the producer of Toronto’s Second City, and others in the SC family crafted the idea to have a show built around the broadcast day of a tiny TV station, and Second City Television was born. With a cast made up of Toronto’s mainstage performers, SCTV presented Candy with the opportunity to created hilariously memorable characters that let him stretch his creative wings. Johnny LaRue, Dr. Tongue, talk show sidekick William B. Williams, Yosh Shmenge, Harry “The Guy With The Snake On His Face”, and Melonville mayor Tommy Shanks among them. While SCTV was airing, he was also able to guest on the series King of Kensington, have a recurring role on The David Steinberg Show and eventually move into film joining buddy Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers (1980), and Chicago stage pal Bill Murray in Stripes (1981).
SCTV’s popularity grew, and while it had been broadcast across Canada and a scattering of American markets in syndication, in 1981 NBC came calling, adding a 90-minute version of the show to their Friday Night lineup. SCTV Network 90, as it was now called, was lauded by critics, including those who called it the best show on television, and wildly celebrated (in each of its first two years on U.S. TV, Candy and the rest of the cast and writers would win the Emmy for Writing).
While he had previously taken time away from the show for other projects, he would depart the franchise after the second NBC season to concentrate on films, beginning with his best role yet, starring as Tom Hanks’ brother in Splash (1984). He would follow that alongside Richard Pryor in Brewster’s Millions (1985), have the lead in Carl Reiner’s Summer Rental (1985), re-team with Hanks for Volunteers (1985), and join the ensemble for Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs (1987). His biggest successes to date would come working with director John Hughes, first with Steve Martin in Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) then starring in Uncle Buck (1989), and finally supporting as “Polka King” Gus Polinski, in the monster hit Home Alone (1990). His last success would come in the Jamaican bobsled team comedy Cool Runnings (1993) and the following year would pass away while shooting the film Wagons East in Mexico. He was just 43.