On the 30th anniversary of John Candy’s death, netizens remembered how tremendously good he was. @TSting18 tweeted:
“We lost the amazing John Candy [on this day] in 1994. Not many actors have the ability to take you on an emotional rollercoaster quite like John Candy did. He was funny as hell, but he could break your heart in a second.”
Ironically, John Candy died of a broken heart: his heart failed as he slept in his residence near Durango, Mexico, during the filming of Wagons East. The film and Canadian Boomer were released posthumously and were dedicated to his memory.
John died of a heart attack caused by genetics, drug use, and excessive eating
Chris, John’s son, suggested during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that Candy didn’t know of his family’s history of heart disease: “I don’t think he was aware of the genetic heart disease that was in the family. You wish he had figured it out.”
However, the evidence indicates that John knew he had a high chance of suffering a heart attack. Candy’s father died unexpectedly of heart failure; John predicted that he would suffer the same fate, and he did.
“He felt he had inherited in his genes a Damoclean sword, so it didn’t matter what he did,” Carl Reiner, who directed John in Summer Rental, said. John’s drug use and excessive eating increased John’s chances of cardiac arrest.
Candy’s drug habit started when he moved to Chicago and befriended drug users like Bill Murray and John Belushi. John admitted: “The next thing I knew, I was in Chicago, where I learned how to drink, stay up real late, and spell ‘d-r-u-g-s.’”
John Belushi’s death from an overdose prompted John to stop using drugs for a while. However, Candy’s cigarette eating and smoking increased – he smoked a pack daily.
John’s friend, Peter Kaminsky, opined that Candy dealt with anxiety by eating and smoking excessively: “Eating, ingesting, smoking. For John, it was a way of swallowing that anxiety.”
Candy tried to lose weight, a fact his son, Chris, acknowledged: “He had trainers and would work at whatever the new diet was. I know he did his best.” Unfortunately, by losing weight, Candy would have lost a feature that endeared him to audiences – his girth. Getting healthier would likely have caused a career decline.
John was stuck between a rock and a hard place: keep his weight and risk death but maintain his career, or lose weight and regain health but suffer career-wise – he chose the former, and it killed him.
John’s children take care of themselves due to their family’s history
The night before John’s death, he called his children: Chris and Jen. Chris remembers their last conversation fondly, saying: “I was nine. It was a Friday. I remember talking to him the night before he passed away and he said, ‘I love you and goodnight.’ And I will always remember that.”
On the other hand, Jen wishes she’d paid more attention to the conversation. She explained: “I was 14. He had just come home for my 14th birthday, which is February 3, so I was talking to him on the phone, and, I hate this, but I was slightly distant because I was studying.”
In the hours before his death, John proclaimed that he’d given one of his best performances ever and celebrated by cooking dinner for his assistants. However, Chris recalled that John looked weary in the eyes of his castmates:
“Richard Lewis, who worked with him on that movie, told me he was so much fun and so funny, but when he looked at my dad, he looked so tired.”
Jennifer sobbed for five minutes after learning of Candy’s death but didn’t cry again publicly due to the attention from the paparazzi. John was such a beloved character that the LAPD closed down the largest freeway in America for his procession.
Before that, only president John F. Kennedy’s procession had received the same treatment (John played a dramatic role in JFK, a 1991 political thriller examining the events leading up to Kennedy’s assassination). Chris said:
“I remember when we were ready to take him to [Holy Cross Cemetery], they blocked off [Interstate] 405 from Sunset [Boulevard] all the way to Slauson [Avenue]. LAPD stopped traffic and escorted us all. I still can’t believe that. They do that for the president.”
Chris and Jen said they’ve taken measures to reduce the risk of heart failure – unlike John, whose habits contributed to his heart attack. “My sister and I are very well aware of it and take care of ourselves,” Chris told The Hollywood Reporter.
In October 2020, Toronto Mayor John Tory declared Candy’s birthday ‘John Candy Day.’ “As much as he is gone, he is not gone,” Jen said. “He is always there.”