Saturday, 15 December 2018

It's Chrrrriiiiissssssttttmmmmaaaasssssss!

It’s Chhhhhhhrrrrrrriiiiiiiisssssssssssssttttttttmmmmaaaaaaaaasssssssssssssss (well nearly). 

I love the food, the get togethers, the good spirit, the overeating of chocolate and some of my favourite movies being played on the TV (I’m so old fashioned, I still love watching them the old school way, it reminds me of being a kid). ‘I bet six bucks and my right nut’ that there are going to be some Candy classics on over the holidays... Uncle Buck, Cool Runnings and of course, Home Alone. With that in mind I thought you might like to read an edited excerpt of my forthcoming book ‘Searching For Candy’ to get you in the mood. 


Polka, polka, polka 

Home Alone - as we know - is about a child, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), from a large family, accidently being left behind at Christmas time whilst the family go on vacation (due to a head count error). The whole film is then about Kevin coping on his own and also defeating some pesky house burglars determined to break into his home, whilst his family, mother in particular (played by Catherine O’Hara) desperately tries to get home to her son even though there are no flights. 

Hughes asked John to do him a favour and have a cameo part in the film as Gus Polinski – the Polka King of the Northwest who was travelling with his band the “Kenohsa Kickers” and is the sweet man that offers Kate McCallister a lift back to her son after hearing her plea in the airport. Hughes in fact offered John 1% of the royalties from Home Alone, however John advised he was doing it for Hughes, not for the money and kindly declined his offer. In hindsight he turned down a huge payday as Home Alone is the biggest grossing comedy of all time, cue the John Candy shrug of the shoulders and laugh.

John literally filmed his scenes in Home Alone in less than 24 hours whilst a driver was waiting in the car park ready to take him to his next job. The Kenosha Kickers (John’s band) were actually Eddie Korosa Jr and the “Boys From Illinois”. They got the job as Home Alone was being filmed near to Chicago where Korosa’s parents owned a very famous polka bar called “Baby Doll Polka Club” since 1954. 

Korosa Jr. remembers spending a wonderful 18 hours filming with John, he told me; 

“During scene set up I would take requests from John to play and sing polkas. While setting up we had most of the crew singing ‘Beer Barrel’ polka, ‘In Heaven There is No Beer’ polka, we even did the ‘Chicken Dance’. 

“We got yelled at by Director, Chris Columbus, for having too much fun! He wanted us to stop playing. John Hughes was there and requested us to play one more polka. Fun!” 

Korosa remembers that John was just so kind and talked to everyone, every single band member and told the funniest jokes. 

There was a recent internet theory originating from Reddit that John’s character, Gus, may actually have been the devil. For starters Kevin’s mum is pleading for someone to help her get home and declares “If I have to sell my soul to the devil himself I will get home to my son” when John’s character Gus pips in. Gus also plays the clarinet - the Devils choice of instrument is always woodwind according to the bible. The fact that they meet in the crossroads of Scranton Airport (to me this is tenuous, but lets keep going) means that Gus could be a Crossroads Demon. Apparently if you call the Devil at a crossroad he will come, I’m going to take people’s word for that, I don’t feel like I have to test the theory out! 

I think both Johns (Candy and Hughes) would marvel at this thought and laugh it off without commenting either way. Maybe I shouldn’t bring up that Hughes turns Del Griffiths into the Devil in Planes, Trains and Automobiles? As both Del and Neil are in a near death truck sandwich after Del is driving up the motorway on the wrong side, Neil looks at Del and Del is cackling, cloaked in red, adorned with horns. Maybe there is something in this after all? 

Ya know who also wears red? 


Whether you believe in him or not I hope you have a very Happy Holidays! I would like to thank you for your ongoing support this year. I’m also over the moon to announce ‘Searching for Candy’ will be out in Spring 2019, with huge thanks to ‘Team Candy’ - Joe Shooman, David Morgan, Rhys Perry and Horse. 

Merry Christmas ya filthy animals, see you on the other side, 

Big love to you all, 

Tracey xxx

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Happy Thanksgiving! I like me...

Hi all, 

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends that are celebrating! 

Below is a selection of edited excerpts from the book - just as a wee teaser.   A big thank you to Joe Shooman, Rhys Perry and David Morgan for all their help!

Sending you all lots of love as always, 
Tracey xx

PS I know what I'll be watching this evening 

I like me…

“A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met yet” - Will Rogers

Planes, Trains and Automobiles writer John Hughes had such a knack for creating scripts that would reach into your soul, it’s like he had a pair of x ray specs that could see what made people tick, every nuance, he could just get into people’s heads and hearts. He then took those scripts and matched them with the perfect cast, who, he would then encourage to make the script their own. Candy always found that fascinating, the scripts were tight enough in his eyes, but the true glimmers of humanity - the bits that made the whole film truly believable, were the improv moments that caught everyone off guard, including the improviser.

I learnt something recently, in fact my counsellor, Michael pointed it out to me. The friendliest, smiliest, most tolerant people - the ones that laugh and joke and are constantly looking on the brightside, are masking deep pain, they have been to hell and back. One of the most complex and sweet characters John ever played was Del Griffith, to anyone who met Del briefly he was a happy go lucky salesman, overly chatty, generous and a little annoying.

“The last thing I want to be remembered as is an annoying blabbermouth... You know, nothing grinds my gears worse than some chowderhead that doesn't know when to keep his big trap shut…” - Del Griffiths

If you can find the original Planes, Trains and Automobiles script (and it is out there in the ether), you can see how the characters are portrayed exactly as Hughes wanted, but both actors (Martin and Candy) added a little something of themselves too. Hughes always encouraged his actors to improvise, in fact they would finish the scene and not hear the words ‘cut’ so they knew they had to keep going. [...] Hughes had so much footage that the initial cut was four and a half hours long, I would have so loved to have seen that, a lot of comedy gold must have ended up on the cutting room floor. You can actually find one deleted scene on YouTube where Del and Neal are eating their in-flight dinners, it’s hilarious, I have no idea why it was left out.

Candy really found his acting chops in this film, it’s up there with some of his finest work and he never fails to make me laugh and cry, no matter how many times I have watched his performance.

Del’s s speech after Neal has laid into him at the hotel room was just magnificent, the hurt in Candy’s eyes, the way he delivered his lines, “You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better…” was worthy of an Oscar. If you aren’t already completely in love with Candy, it’s moments like this that make you fall for him.


The Great Lost Short

From all the extra footage Hughes filmed, a 10 minute short was also created, from the ‘Doobie’s Taxiola’ scene. Larry Hankin who played Doobie, told me;

“I revered John (Hughes), I was very happy to work with him, he made great movies and this guy knew ‘funny’. He was watching me and John (Candy) hang out and riff, so John Hughes set aside a whole afternoon of me, John and Steve Martin to work in the cab. The cab was set up on rockers in a garage, we weren’t really driving around. When we shot the scene in the cab, the actual scene you saw in the movie took an hour to shoot. But then he sent everybody home expect a very small crew, the cinematographer, the sound guy, him, Steve Martin, me and John.

“So for the rest of the afternoon we improvised in that cab for hours. It was really great because John and I were (from) Second City, so we were great at improvising, we were just playing together. We must have improvised for three hours just inside that cab. He (Hughes) was watching on the screen and he would come down and would just watch all three of us improvise and he would sit on this orange crate outside the cab, and he would say ‘remember Steve when you said that? and Larry, you said that, and John you answer…’, I was like this guy is incredible he has a photographic memory. So that was just really cool, I got to riff with two of the heaviest guys in comedy, for hours! None of that stuff ever appeared in the movie. “


Scenes from Marines

The wonderful “those aren’t pillows scene” in the motel room was not in the original script, Candy had a similar experience with Jonathan O'Mara when they went to Buffalo as teenagers for John to apply for the Marines, O’Mara said it was so close to their experience “John must have influenced the scene”. John remembered in interviews that this scene took forever to film, Hughes would say things like “just kiss his ear”, by the time the two leads had stopped corpsing the camera would then start to shake, it took an eternity for everyone to get through it.

Another great scene was between Martin, Candy and Martin Ferrero who played the motel clerk at the El Rancho Motel, ... Ferrero was only on set for a day to film that scene and told me about meeting Candy;

“When I went on set that day, John was chatting with all the crew and he was on set practically all the time, talking to people and being very outgoing. He welcomed me in, he said ‘I know we are working together’. Steve Martin wasn’t on set a lot, he would do his part and then go back to his trailer.

“When I saw Steve and John work that day I noticed there was no improv at all, they didn’t improvise, they stayed on the script and I asked him about it, John said “No we don’t do a lot of improv because John Hughes has written a script that is pretty tight and there is a rhythm to what he has written, if you were to begin to improvise you might waste a lot of time, it might be funny but you might be upsetting the rhythm, it’s a heartfelt important movie and you need to stay on course.”

(NB from author. It always makes me chuckle that the two leads were trying to speed the process up half way through, they were so behind schedule I suspect they were trying to keep their director on track).

This is a selection of edited excerpts from the forthcoming biography, Searching for Candy by Tracey J. Morgan.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Happy Birthday John - Big Bear Chase Me

Hey Everyone! 

So today would have been John's 68th birthday! To commemorate and celebrate I thought I would release an edited excerpt from the book. The book is coming along slowly but surely (as usual) and I am very lucky to be working with a great team around me. 

I appreciate all your patience so I thought you might like a wee snap shot of what's to come. 

Happy Halloween to you all, and of course, a very Happy Birthday John - I am thinking of you today Mr Candy and I'll be raising a glass! 

Lots of love to you all,
Tracey xx

PS How ace is this Uncle Buck print from Lamplight Design? It will be going on my wall as soon as I find the right frame. Go and check out their work here

Big Bear Chase Me

Imagine being chased. 

Now imagine you are being chased through a wood. 

It is raining heavily and you are trying to navigate your way through trees, over roots, through the terrain debris littered on the floor. 

Imagine that the thing that is chasing you weighs over 800 pounds, has four legs, claws like razors, and a guttural roar that makes the ground beneath your feet shudder. 

Your heart is pounding, it’s leaping out of your chest and you can hear it thumping in your head. 

You slip a little. 

Looking over your shoulder you can see the beast advancing. Your brow covered with sweat. You are literally running for your life. 

Anyone who put themselves in this situation on purpose would - have to be a little crazy, or very dedicated to their art. 

That’s exactly what John did, in one of the most memorable scenes in The Great Outdoors, and he was terrified. 

Go south west of Yosemite National Park, California and it won’t be long before you hit Bass Lake Lodge, a 1940s resort that was the location for another John Candy and John Hughes classic, The Great Outdoors filmed in 1987.

Director, Howard Deutch had not met John prior to The Great Outdoors, which was originally going to be called ‘Big Country’. Hughes had convinced Deutch that he should direct the film. John was excited to play the part of Chester ‘Chet’ Ripley, a sweet family man wanting to take his wife and kids on a holiday that would get them back to nature. After reading the script John was convinced his character should have a beard covering his face, after Deutch discussed this with Universal, the feedback was “he can’t have that beard, you can’t see his face!” Hughes advised Deutch he would have to be the one to tell John the bad news, Deutch remembers “Candy was really upset about it, ‘This is my character and now this movie will always be a black spot on my soul’. He was pissed. We got off to a very rocky start because he was unhappy. However he never ever leaked that into his work, he never had an attitude, he was a fantastic person and one of my favourite people I have ever worked with. He was just an amazingly sweet man, the funniest, you can just imagine, but generous, generous, generous and always very giving to the other actors and me and everyone, but he was upset about the beard!”

The holiday for the Ripley’s, although maybe a little more rustic than they remembered (Chet and Connie went there for their honeymoon), was going ok until out of the blue Connie’s sister turns up with her arrogant investor husband and twin girls. So John is reunited with his old pal and Second City Alumni, Dan Aykroyd who plays his brother in law, Roman Craig. Aykroyd really pushed to get the part and Hughes was thrilled he wanted to be involved. According to Deutch, Candy, Hughes and Aykroyd were all very similar “Candy was from Canada and John (Hughes) from Chicago but they were definitely kindred spirits and they both had this sense of blue collared glory to them, they adored Aykroyd – he wanted to be a cop. They were their sort of people, they enjoyed smoking cigarettes and hanging out, it was everything to them, that is what they loved.”

Dan and John (Candy) got on so well, they adored each other, you would think with their improv background they may have continually gone off script, however according to Deutch they were very professional and stuck to script as much as possible. In fact Aykroyd even helped with some of the rewrites for the third act which “needed some work”.

Back to the film: For Chet this is his worst nightmare, he wanted a quiet family holiday which has now been gatecrashed by his arrogant and materialistic in-laws. Many hijinks ensue along the way; Chet accidently being dragged around the lake on water skis (he didn’t even want to water ski, he wanted to rent a pontoon boat only to be berated by Roman), late night stories of a bald headed bear (bald headed as Chet had come face to face with it on a previous visit, taken a shot and blown the hair off its head), an extremely persistent bat, pesky raccoons that seemed to torment Chet and a host of crazy characters including ‘Lightning Rod Reg’ - a man that had been struck by lightning 66 times in the head! Not to mention conquering the old 96er, ‘a 96 prime aged beef steak’ that if ordered and consumed in its entirety (including the gristle and fat), the restaurant would grant your whole party a free bill.

As the story unfolds it turns out Roman made a bad investment, is totally broke and was hoping to hit Chet up for some money. The brother in laws never really got on; however on a stormy night when the twins go missing, the two are brought together through adversity.

The twins fall down a mineshaft and can’t get out, Chet and Roman discover them, Chet encourages Roman to go down the hole to comfort his girls, whilst he goes to get some rope. Meanwhile, Roman finds out there is dynamite in the hole and manages to get the two girls out. Unbeknownst to Chet, he goes back, throws down the rope and much to his surprise helps the bald headed bear out of the shaft, only to be chased through the woods by the angry beast. 

The bear was played by ‘Bart the Bear’ and John was petrified of him, however as Deutch explained to me they needed to work together, “There was one time when I had to do a shot where there was a bear in the shot (the “big bear chase me” scene lead up) and he (John), was afraid of the bears, but I had to get a shot of them both. I told him we need to do it but it will only take thirty seconds, he did it but he was mad at me. There was no CGI in those days, he had to do it for real.” I bet John had never run so fast in his life! Of course Bart the Bear was well trained. Doug and Lynne Seus, who have worked as animal trainers in Hollywood for years, rescued Bart and his sister after their mother was killed. They said, “John was so very kind to us, the lowly bear trainers in the ‘prop department’. We can't say enough good words about him. A beautiful human being.” That was typical of John, everyone on set loved him, he gave everyone the same amount of respect and love, he was always such a sweet Canadian boy at heart. 

According to Deutch, it was obvious at times that John had some demons, although it never, ever affected his work, even if he had been up all night he would turn up on set with no sleep and work as hard as ever. “He ate, he drank, he would come back having not slept sometimes and that was not a secret. When my kids came to visit me once he said to them ‘whatever you want, come look in my fridge’, he took them on to his trailer and he had like five lunches in there. But the thing is he never showed those demons, he was private about it, he never ever lost his temper, never ever was a diva – never! I don’t care if he had been up for a week he would always be professional.”

This is an edited excerpt from the forthcoming biography, Searching for Candy by Tracey J. Morgan.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Nearly there!

Hey everyone

Well, guess what? I am nearly there with the book, like seriously! I know, I wasn't sure I would get there in the end either. I have a great editor on board, Joe Shooman (go check out his work) and some great proof readers. I am on deadline at the moment and I'm going to Toronto in April to see first hand some of the places John would have hung out and get some pictures for the book! I am so excited about that I can't tell you! I'm planning to do some vlogs from Toronto too - so keep your peepers peeled for those.

Still work to do though, hence the short blog post, but thought I would let you know where I was up to.

I recently commissioned Craig McKay to do this amazing sketch of John for the book (top left), you can check out his work here.

I also commissioned my friend, who goes under the name of Odandiee, to do an illustration of myself and John, purely because I hate all pictures of myself and I needed one for the author section of the book. Along with Gary's (Horse) artwork for the cover I am thrilled with how it's going to look, I'm so lucky to know such talented people. I am also seriously lucky to have been given permission for several photos for the book from some of John's friends and colleagues, I just hope I don't let everyone down with the writing!

Thanks for all your support and patience, let's keep on keeping on,

Tracey xxxx