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Remembering The Beloved Comedian John Candy

Candy was a kindhearted animal lover who gave generously to several causes. But his friendliness and generosity were matched by a pack of cigarettes a day habit, unhealthy eating patterns, and a cocaine addiction.

The world was shocked by John Candy’s passing, but the comedian knew it was coming for years. The adored comic had been convinced that he would experience the same fate since his own father passed away from a heart attack 38 years prior—and he did.


Candy’s Early Life

In 1950, John Franklin Candy was born in Ontario, Canada on Halloween. His parents were working-class, and when he was just five years old, his father passed away abruptly from a heart attack. His father’s cardiac ailment and his own obesity would remain dangerous themes throughout his life.

Candy excelled in football throughout high school and intended to continue playing in college, but a knee injury prevented that. In order to change careers, he turned to comedy. He then enrolled in Centennial College to study journalism. However, his big break came in 1972, when he was invited to join Toronto’s Second City comic improv group.

In 1977, he started contributing regularly as a writer and performer to SCTV, the group’s television program. Then, not long after, he was moved to Chicago to formally train with the troupe’s heavyweights. After that, John Candy’s career took off.


Hitting The Big Screen

He later went on to act in and star in beloved favorites like The Blues Brothers (1980), Stripes (1981), as well as true blockbusters like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987), Home Alone (1990), and JFK (1991).

But Candy’s addiction to narcotics and binge eating was hidden by his reputation as a witty man. Despite his repeated attempts to diet and exercise, Candy would relapse into poor routines. The fact that Candy’s success was primarily based on playing the big humorous guy didn’t help.

Candy later acknowledged that after moving to Chicago to play at Second City, his drug use really took off. He joined a group of serious drug users there, including John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Bill Murray.

Candy temporarily stopped using narcotics after John Belushi died from a drug overdose. He nevertheless persisted in smoking and relied on food to make him feel less anxious. When that failed, panic and dread began to set in. His internal conflict accompanied him to Durango, Mexico, the set of his last movie, hastening his demise.


Heart Failure Claims John Candy’s Life

John Candy contacted multiple people the evening before he passed away. His children, who had no idea it would be the last time they ever heard their father’s voice, as well as his co-stars, were called.

The following day, on March 4, 1994, John Candy, then 43, returned to his hotel room following a day on the Wagons East set.

After a particularly successful day of filming, during which Candy apparently thought he had just given one of the best performances of his career, he celebrated by preparing a late-night dinner for his assistants. After dinner, Candy said the cast and crew farewell before retiring to his room to sleep. He, however, never awoke. Similar to his father, John Candy passed away in his sleep from heart failure.


Remembering Candy

Candy’s legacy was based on much more than just his success as an actor and movie star. The comedian gave generously to organizations including the Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He cared for animals and identified with people who were powerless to change their circumstances.

“He liked to make people laugh and feel good,” his daughter Jen said. “And with certain kinds of charity work, especially with kids, he could do that, and that made him feel good.”