The Tragic Death Of John Candy

John Candy is well remembered as a great comedian and a fabulously funny actor. When Candy suddenly passed away at the shockingly young age of 43, people were astounded. As it would turn out, Candy had a long history of poor health and bad habits which would contribute to his early death. But not everyone realized the mental anguish that Candy suffered as a result of his struggles with his weight issues and the ridicule he often received for his heaviness. 

Oddly enough, Candy's own father also died young — at the age of 35 of heart disease. Candy was only four when his father passed away, and his mother was left to raise him and his older brother alone. Regrettably, even with the knowledge of that direct family health history, Candy would likewise go on to die much too soon and also leave behind a widow and two young children. 

John Candy's death was shocking

The news of John Candy's death on March 4, 1994, was universally shocking. He was only 43-years-old — far too young for anyone to assume he was close to dying. At the time of his death, Candy was filming his last movie in Mexico, the 1994 film Wagon's East. The cause of death was heart failure. It was the last thing anyone expected. 

When Candy died, he left behind his wife, Rosemary, and two children, Jennifer and Chris. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Candy's children recalled speaking with their father on the telephone shortly before his death. He was just calling from the film location just to say hello. First from son, Chris: "I was 9. 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." And from daughter, Jennifer: "I remember my dad the night before. I was studying for a vocabulary test. I was 14. He had just come home for my 14th birthday, which is Feb. 3. So I was talking to him on the phone, and, I hate this, but I was slightly distant because I was studying. So I was like, 'Yeah, OK, I love you. I will talk to you later. Have a great night.' Then I hang up, and I go back to studying."

The children had to be pulled out of school to receive the devastating news. 

John Candy was accustomed to hard living

Although he was only 43 at the time of his death, John Candy had put himself through the wringer. Candy was always on the heavy side physically and had struggled with his weight throughout his life. Despite attempts to eat better and lose the weight, Candy struggled to stick to his diets. He was also a heavy smoker and known to go through a pack of cigarettes per day on top of poor nutrition.

And back in the day, Candy wasn't exactly a stranger to drugs. When he was living in Chicago and part of the Second City comedy group, Candy, by his own admission, according to People, became very into the party scene. "I was in Chicago, where I learned how to drink, stay up real late and spell 'd-r-u-g-s.'"

Although he quit hard drugs well before his death, no doubt they took a toll on his body. By 1994, Candy may still have been young, but he was by no means healthy. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, according to Candy's son, Chris, Candy was having a hard time on the set of Wagons East — he was not feeling great at all. "I don't know if he was excited to work on it [Wagons East] or wasn't. 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."

John Candy suffered from mental health problems

Although Candy was a highly successful actor, fame could actually be quite hard on him. He couldn't stand the barbs from critics about his weight. In fact, he was once supposed to host The Genies (Canada's major award show), but when the CBC launched an advertising campaign making a jab at his weight, he backed out of the gig. Although Candy tried to lose weight with the help of a personal trainer and better eating, he always fell back into poor food habits. 

According to People, Candy had severe anxiety, and by 40, Candy was suffering from panic attacks and sought help from a therapist. Candy himself publicly admitted that he had terrible anxiety to the point where he couldn't watch his own films, saying, "I don't watch my movies. I just get too critical of myself," and "I did The Tonight Show once, and I choked up. I get intimidated."

It would certainly seem that Candy's bad habits of binge eating and smoking stemmed from his mental health issues. Candy's friend, producer Peter Kaminsky, seemed to think so. "Eating, ingesting, smoking. For John, it was a way of swallowing that anxiety."