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(Credit: Uncle Buck)

Film

The John Candy improvisation that makes Steve Martin emotional

The incredible combination of John Candy and Steve Martin in John Hughes’ 1987 comedy classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles can hardly be forgotten by anybody who has watched it. Even after all these years, that particular Hughes romp remains firmly embedded in the minds of fans who continue to seek comfort from its delightful brand of humour.

Steven Martin starred as a serious executive in the world of marketing who finds himself stranded in Kansan, strangely in the company of an overbearing salesman who sells rings for shower curtains. They embark on a remarkable journey that is riddled with misadventures as Martin’s character tries to make his way home for Thanksgiving.

Over the years, the reputation of Planes, Trains and Automobiles has only grown stronger and it is often regarded as essential Thanksgiving Day viewing by many fans who have turned the screening into an annual tradition. Many cultural commentators have also praised Hughes’ comedy for tackling the volatile issue of class conflicts within the film’s subtext.

Due to the arduous task of shooting on location and even in transit, the production process for Planes, Trains and Automobiles wasn’t really smooth sailing and it was complicated by the fact that Hughes was indulging in copious rewrites as the shooting progressed. However, it all worked out in the end as the film’s status in popular culture is completely solidified.

For Steve Martin, working with John Candy became an incredibly wonderful experience as their on-screen chemistry was a spectacle to behold. Martin even claimed that Candy was one of the finest acting partners that he ever had the privilege of working with: “We had a really good connection. When the camera was rolling, we’d look into each other’s eyes and it felt good together. We had great timing with each other.”

According to Nick de Semlyen who wrote Wild and Crazy Guys: How the Comedy Mavericks of the ’80s Changed Hollywood Forever, both Martin and Candy were distressed by the freezing cold during the production. However, they had the motivation to push forward because they knew what they were making was going to special.

Nick de Semlyen also noted that there was one particular scene that still makes Martin cry whenever he stumbles across it or revisits the film. The scene in question involves Candy’s character confessing to Martin’s executive that his wife had been dead for a while and that he didn’t really have a home which comes across as a huge surprise for audiences.

It explains why he had attachment issues with the people around him and shines a different perspective on the comical events that had unfolded before our eyes. The line that always gets Martin was one that was actually improvised by Candy: “But this time I couldn’t let go.” That scene is still one of the most emotionally moving moments of Candy’s career.