5 Hilarious Scene-Stealing Early Supporting Movie Performances From John Candy

Blues Brothers John Candy screengrab
John Candy (right) as Orange Whip aficionado Burton Mercer in 1980's The Blues Brothers

Anyone who enjoyed watching the Canadian sketch comedy series SCTV in its various incarnations during the late 1970s/early ’80s was certainly not surprised that its brilliant cast of actors and writers all went on to make people laugh in other projects, including movies.

One of the earliest SCTV stars to become a recognizable and popular talent in films was the late, great John Candy.

By his untimely passing at age 43 on March 4, 1994, Candy had quickly established himself as a beloved big-screen presence, not only as a costar in productions like Spaceballs (1987), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) and The Great Outdoors (1988), but also as an eventual lead in titles like Uncle Buck (1989), Only the Lonely (1991), Delirious (1991) and Cool Runnings (1993).

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION, Chevy Chase, John Candy, 1983

Everett Collection

John Candy with Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)


It is unfortunate that we’ll never see what other magic Candy could have created in subsequent big-screen projects (some that were shelved after his passing sound intriguing). He certainly had demonstrated his deft ability at various forms of comedy, ranging from playing off his weight to wryer and more subtle humor. But he had also begun displaying his terrific dramatic side, as well.

It seems likely that Candy would have evolved and explored more of that side of the human experience, which makes sense; someone as well attuned to the hilarity found in our world would also be very cued in to its more serious elements. That’s one thing that continues to make the actor so remembered and beloved 30 years after his death. He went beyond the stereotypical “fat guy falls down for laughs,” and even in roles where he plays kind of a jerky character, there is a sweetness and endearing humanity beneath it.

That combo can be seen even in some of Candy’s earliest film appearances, supporting roles in five late ’70s/early ’80s classics seen below.

In these films, even in just a few seconds of screen time, or simply by the way he makes a line as seemingly simple as “Orange Whip?” or “We’re in a truck!” sound hilarious, the actor managed to stand out among the movies’ bigger moments and display the genius for timing and comedic instincts that quickly made him a star.

Even if you did not know John Candy’s name at the time, thanks to appearances like these, you soon learned that seeing this familiar face pop up at some point in a movie meant a guaranteed laugh.

1941 (1979)

1941, John Candy

Columbia Pictures via MoviestillsDB

There’s a lot going on in this epic World War II comedy from director Steven Spielberg that boasts a very large ensemble of actors from across various eras and specialities.

It would have been easy for Candy, in a relatively small role as Private Foley, to get lost amid all the onscreen chaos, but he, along with fellow comedy greats Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi (who had larger roles but were also big-screen newbies at the time), still makes the most of his limited screen time.

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Candy re-teamed with Aykroyd and Belushi for another epic comedy filled with a lot of action and chaos. Director John Landis does a better job at controlling that chaos here, and that allowed Candy to stand out and shine a bit more than he had in 1941.

In just a couple of scenes as Burton Mercer, a parole officer who helps police try to catch Aykroyd and Belushi’s title siblings, Candy made some great contributions to The Blues Brothers‘ lasting quotability:

Stripes (1981)

STRIPES, John Candy, 1981

Everett Collection

Candy had even more screen time as “lean, mean fighting machine” Army recruit Dewey “Ox” Oxberger in this Bill Murray-led comedy that costarred and was cowritten by Candy’s fellow SCTV alum Harold Ramis.

In Stripes, Candy showed his range of comedic sensibilities, from the physical elements of the mud-wrestling scene or when Ox breaks down the door to help the gang escape Soviet captivity, to the more subtle and ironic:

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Showing up near the end of this Ramis-directed comedy as Walley World security guard Russ Lasky, Candy again had limited, but memorable, screentime:

Splash (1984)

SPLASH, John Candy, 1984

Everett Collection

Ron Howard’s romantic comedy/fantasy was a breakout film for Candy as much as it was for leads Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah.

As Freddie, the womanizing older brother of Hanks’ Allen Bauer, Candy sort of channels the similar Johnny LaRue character that he had regularly portrayed on SCTV, and he again shows his ability for physical humor (especially in the film’s racquetball scene).

But at certain points in Splash, Candy also brings to Freddie a sort of unexpected candidness and self-awareness that certainly was not found in LaRue.

The last of the three clips below offers a nice example of the touching combo of hilarity and humanity that fans would grow to love from John Candy’s characters even more over the following decade.