I miss John Candy. He left us all too soon when he was only 44 years old. So it was with great pleasure that I was able to see his film “Only the Lonely” once again. John Candy was considered by many to be one of the most genuinely nice people who worked in show business. That trait comes across in all of his films, many of which portray him as a bumbling oaf with a good heart.
Only the Lonely - Wikimedia
“Only the Lonely” is one of my favorite John Candy films. He portrays a cop named Danny Muldoon who is 38 years old, unmarried, and living at home with his mother Rose (Maureen O’Hara) in Chicago. It is a compliment to John Candy that Maureen O’Hara came out of a long-term retirement to play the part of Rose Muldoon.
We have a star-studded cast here. In addition to John Candy and Maureen O’Hara, we can enjoy the likes of Ally Sheedy, Anthony Quinn, Jim Belushi, and Macaulay Culkin.
The situation that is presented is one with which I am familiar. Having been raised in an Irish setting, I was able to experience so many families who would cling to their children in their old age, disallowing them to marry and have a family of their own. This attribute is well portrayed in “Only the Lonely.”
Danny First Spots Theresa
Danny Muldoon’s job in the police department involved dropping off certain dead bodies at a funeral parlor. On one of his trips, he spied the daughter of the funeral director, Theresa (Ally Sheedy), whose job as a cosmetologist was to prepare the dead person’s features to be presentable at the wake. When Danny first saw Theresa, she was at her job while watching a movie starring Clark Gable. Her “client” was made to resemble Clark Gable in an uncanny way. She was also viewed later making up a man to look like Jimmy Durante.
Theresa Agrees to Date Danny
Danny remarked to his partner Sal (Jim Belushi) that he found Theresa to be attractive. Sal, whose own marriage was foundering, warned him to stay happily single, while his other co-workers urged him to go for it. Following his better instincts, he went to visit Theresa at work the next day, and was able to ask her awkwardly if she would like to go out. He was pleasantly surprised that she said yes.
When he arrived home, he was stopped by his next door neighbor Nick (Anthony Quinn) who asked Danny to give his mother a bouquet of Nick’s finest flowers from his front yard garden. Danny obliged, but Rose refused to accept the flowers since Nick was Greek and she had an aversion to him. Nick told Danny to give the flowers then to his date Theresa the next day.
Ally Sheedy - Wikimedia
A First Date at the Empty Comiskey Park
Danny and Theresa’s first date was unusual in that he took her to Comiskey Baseball Park which was slated to be demolished in favor of a new park that was being built across the street. As Danny was wont to say, “being a cop has its good points,” the maintenance worker allowed Danny and Theresa to use the empty park for their date. Danny brought a picnic basket and they sat on the grass near the pitcher’s mound. Danny did most of the talking, and Theresa admitted that she was more than introverted. She found it hard to carry on a conversation since her work involved dealing with people for eight hours a day who did not talk back to her. The couple had a clumsy goodbye at the end of the evening, which seemed to be a total loss, but as Theresa walked away, she turned back to Danny and said she really had a good time and would like to see him again. He was overjoyed.
Rose Reveals her Prejudice
When Rose asked her son how his date went, she learned that Theresa was Italian, and hoped that she was not Sicilian because Sicilians, in her estimation, were thieves and murderers. Danny had to confess that, yes, Theresa was Sicilian.
Maureen O'Hara Wikimedia
Danny’s Brother Arranged for Danny and Rose to Live in Florida
Meanwhile, Danny’s brother Patrick (Kevin Dunn), a successful attorney, brought the news to Danny that he had arranged for Rose and Danny to move together to Florida where Patrick had connections which would benefit both Patrick and his mother and brother. Danny was shocked that Patrick would make such a decision without consulting him first.
Danny’s next date with Theresa was a night at the ballet for which Danny bought a new suit. Theresa seemed to open up a little more and they enjoyed the evening. Danny had to slip away to a pay phone at one point to make sure his mother was all right. The couple took a horse and carriage ride and watched the sunset. It was a pleasant evening.
The Dinner Date was a Total Flop
Danny made arrangements for a dinner at a luxurious restaurant so that Theresa and Rose could meet each other. Rose, in her inimitable fashion, asked Theresa about her heritage and learned that Theresa’s mother was Polish. She went on to say she had a Polish friend who was the dumbest person she ever knew. She remarked about Theresa’s slim figure and indicated that Theresa was probably bulimic, especially because she ordered only chicken with nothing else. Rose then told Danny she wanted nothing, that she would just fill up on bread and save him $50 from the high-priced menu. Theresa finally became incensed at Rose’s behavior and got up and left.
Anthony Quinn - Wikimedia
A Unique Proposal
After having several acrimonious words with his mother, Danny announced to her that he was going to marry Theresa. The next day he bought her a diamond ring, and with the aid of his friends at the fire department (“being a cop has its good points”), he was able to be raised in their bucket to Theresa’s second floor bedroom above the funeral parlor to knock on her window and offer her the beautiful diamond ring. She said yes.
Danny Checks on Rose
The party the night before the wedding was held at the local tavern and one of Danny’s friends offered to take Rose home although he had imbibed quite a bit at the party. Danny worried about her, and when he and Theresa were talking about last minute arrangements, he excused himself to call Rose to make sure she had made it home all right. Theresa called Danny on this and said “I want a guy who will always stand up for me. I thought that guy was you. I was wrong.” On the eve of their wedding, they parted on unfriendly terms.
The Bride and Groom are “No-Shows”
The next day, everyone showed up at the church except the bride and groom. Each had second thoughts about the wedding and decided not to go. Things went back to normal, and Danny’s brother made final arrangements for Danny and Rose to move to Florida.
Danny and Rose argued again as usual, and Danny backed out. He went to the funeral parlor to learn that Theresa had left to catch a train to New York where she had dreamed of being a cosmetologist for the stars. Danny dashed off to the train station to try to catch Theresa.
Jim Belushi Wikimedia
Nick Uses Danny’s Plane Ticket
When Nick, whose love for Rose had never faltered, was only too happy to take Danny’s plane trip to Florida, and he surprised Rose by showing up in the seat next to her on the plane. She had softened her thinking about Nick and was happy to see him.
Danny Catches Up with Theresa
Meanwhile, Danny caught up with Theresa and vowed that he would always put her first, and told her that his mother had moved to Florida. Danny had police department friends in the Bronx and would easily be able to make a transfer. A happy ending to this up-beat drama.
John Candy - His Profile
John Candy died while making the film “Wagons East” in Mexico in 1994. Strangely, he had a conversation with his friend Maureen O’Hara before he left for Mexico, and stated that he sensed that something bad was going to happen in Mexico.
He was 6’2” tall and weighed 300 lbs. Both his father and grandfather had died of heart attacks. John had stopped his life-long habit of smoking about three months prior to his death.
John Candy is long remembered for his classic films “Spaceballs,” “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” “Uncle Buck,” “Home Alone,” and “Canadian Bacon,” as well as many others. The title “Only the Lonely” is taken from Roy Orbison’s great hit which was written in 1960.
R.I.P. John Candy.
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