Cue outrage as Billie Eilish doesn’t know who Van Halen are! Look, I’m a heavy/thrash metal fan and know who Van Halen are. Here’s the thing though, it’s a secret. I was born in the 70's and grew up as Van Halen were arguably at their peak, they were founded in 1974. Billie Eilish was born in December 2001 for goodness sake. I’m sure she has heard their songs but never known who they were.
But if she didn’t, why does it matter? Why do people even care? Because people think that them knowing something that she doesn’t make them superior to her, that’s why. Okay, sweeping generalisation, but mostly true. Don’t play the “but she’s in music” line either. That pisses me off no end. She doesn’t need to know every dead, ageing or irrelevant pop/rock/rap/metal band ever.
Comedic Legend Fawning
But what does this have to do with John Candy? Here’s the thing, people are going to read this who have never heard of John Candy, he was born in 1950 and died way too soon in 1994. John Candy was the, to me, one of the greatest comedic actors of a generation. Yeah, we have Steve Martin, Dan Akroyd and the legend Bill Murray and have lost the likes of Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder and John Belushi. However, I don’t think I have ever felt so attached to characters in movies as much as I did with the ones John Candy portrayed.
Whether Candy portrayed Ox, Spike, Freddie Bauer or Bud Boomer (and a ridiculous number of others) he always stood out. The characters he portrayed could for the most part (that doesn’t mean all) described as kind, funny and caring. Let’s bear in mind the jaded world we sometimes live in and reflect on me growing up seeing his movies starring with many of the other stars I highlighted earlier. John Candy was an actor you could always rely on to provide an escape and to make you laugh but, more importantly, he would make you smile and feel happy.
So, in short, this article is about John Candy and his incredible comedic acting prowess… And, please just give Billie Eilish a break!
Born in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada in 1950 he starred in numerous Canadian TV shows gaining a following across North America when working on SCTV. Candy would take a break from TV finding roles in movies in 1979 including Lost and Found and in Steven Speilberg’s 1941 then appearing in the Blues Brothers in 1980, with other roles in film and TV in the intervening period.
In 1981 Candy played the lovable Character Ox in the Bill Murray movie Stripes. Which happened to be one of the most successful movies of the year.
In 1983, made a cameo as a security guard (Russ Lasky) at the end of one of my favourite comedy films of all time, National Lampoons Vacation, directed by Harold Ramis. He had been one of the supporting actors in Stripes with Candy. While Candy only appears after the shenanigans are well and truly underway, his portrayal of an inept security guard held hostage by Clark (Chevy Chase) is funny, and you can’t help but feel only he could’ve played the role.
Stints starring as the host of SNL followed the rest of the year, and Candy was linked with the role in Ghostbusters that finally went to one of his friends Rick Moranis.
The movies my friends know way too much about because of me
In 1985, Tom Hanks found love in Splash a rom-com in which John Candy played Hanks’ womanising brother. This role catapulted Candy into the late 80s and 90s as a major comedy star.
Roles in Follow That Bird (Sesame Street not more womanising) and the Richard Pryor led movie, the excellent, Brewster’s Millions, followed with Candy playing Pryor’s best friend, Spike Nolan. Spike spent the movie trying to stop Brewster squandering the money he had inherited unaware of the wager. The movie also starred the incredibly talented Jerry Orbach as the coach of Brewster and Spike’s baseball team the Hackensack Bulls. Much like Splash and Stripes, this movie is a must-see!
The remainder of 1985 saw Candy in his first lead role starring as Jack Chester in Summer Rental, he was then reunited with Hanks in the underrated movie Volunteers, as well as having parts in The Last Polka, The Canadian Conspiracy and Dave Thomas: The Incredible Time Travels of Henry Osgood.
In 1986 Candy starred in another of my favourites, Armed and Dangerous. Candy plays Frank Dooley, an LAPD officer who has been fired after two corrupt detectives frame him for theft of a TV. In this movie Candy team up with Eugene Levy, a former defence attorney who, after a blackmailing incident defending a white supremacist (stick with me here) he promises a judge to leave law behind from then on. This leads to both men joining a seemingly hapless security guard company, that is helping facilitate robberies. Anyway with shenanigans afoot our stars end up becoming unlikely heroes leading to Dooley being reinstated and Kane joining the police too.
Following up Armed and Dangerous (which btw had an awesome theme song!) with appearances in Little Shop of Horrors and Really Weird, Candy also had a significant supporting role in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs in 1987, a cult classic you have to see! You already know the memes, so you have to.
That’s not a pillow!
1987/88 saw the release of two major movies starring Candy. Planes, Trains and Automobiles saw Candy and Steve Martin teaming up as an odd couple attempting to get home for Thanksgiving. Candy plays Shower Curtain Ring Salesman who is annoying but has a good heart. Martin plays a rather selfish Account Executive, and when you combine the two shenanigans are aplenty. The movie has a ridiculous number of laugh out loud moments, and I still watch this movie every Christmas. The film has so many touching moments along with the laughs and a massive bittersweet ending. If you haven’t seen this movie, you have to.
The Great Outdoors co-stars the unbelievably talented Dan Akroyd, with Candy playing the lead Chester “Chet” Ripley. I mean this movie has laughs and a bald bear, what more do you need? You have to see it. But in short, the movie is a great family comedy revolving around Candy and Akroyd, as brothers, and a family holiday where the kids have started to find holidays with parents a chore.
The slapstick comedy throughout the movie, with eating contests and tall tales, told around the campfire all make for a thoroughly enjoyable movie. The ending is pure Candy and his affable self being pushed to the forefront, with an aww style ending to boot.
1989 was the year the hugely underrated and enjoyable Who’s Harry Crumb was released, Candy staring as a Private Investigator that everyone writes off as a buffoon, but he solves the case in the end through various shenanigans. The movie was a flop but was still enjoyable and is one of those weekend movies you can stream to have a laugh and pass the time. Candy also starred in Cannonball Fever which was the third of the Cannonball Run movies. I’ll write an article about Cannonball Run and how I loved the film as a kid watching it over and over on VHS, Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise in their ambulance! I know all the words of the opening song for goodness sake! But, back to John Candy.
Uncle Buck was next in 1989, and this saw Candy play a loveable, down on his luck, uncle who has to step in and babysit when the Russell family’s head to help look after a seriously ill grandparent. This leads to Buck looking after a 15 and 6-year-old girl, as well as an 8-year-old played by Macaulay Culkin. The now usual kids hate the babysitter, the inevitable fall out of all parties, and redemption storyline ensues. But, it is well done, and the party scene, with the golf lesson afterwards, is definitely a must-see.
In 1990 Candy would have a cameo in Home Alone as a member of a band who hire a U-Haul van and help Kevin’s mum get home, seconds before the rest of the family do. Erm…. Spoiler!
Parts in the Rescuers Down Under and the unfortunate flop Nothing But Trouble followed in 1990.
In 1991 Candy took on a serious role as a Southern Lawyer in JFK. The lawyer was shady in real life and ended up charged with various crimes.
Several movies followed through 1991 to 1993 where Candy would play mostly supporting roles to other actors. Until the making of Cool Runnings, Candy playing the lead role of the coach of the Jamaican bobsleigh team. A comedy based on the true story of the Jamaican team who competed in the bobsleigh event at the 1988 Winter Olympics. The comedy followed the ups and downs of the team through training to competing. With Candy acting as their coach, a retired medallist in previous games.
In 1994 Candy directed his one and only movie Hostage For A Day and started filming Wagons East. Ultimately, during a break from filming Candy died of a presumed heart-attack on March 4th. Candy passed away with many projects unfinished. Wagons East was completed using extra footage and doubles. Canadian Bacon released in 1995, but his shooting had completed before his death.
So, here we are at the end of my journey about John Candy, and I haven’t forgotten Billie and Van Halen. See, here’s the thing. Billie Eilish doesn’t know Van Halen, but why should she. Van Halen’s legacy is there for those of age, or who follow classic rock to be remembered. Just like John Candy’s legacy is there for me. You might not have heard of him, seen anything he did, that’s the funny thing about these sorts of things. So cut Billie Eilish some slack and move on.
The most important thing is Candy had a family, a wife and two kids who were left behind.
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