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Actor John Candy dies in Mexico

HOLLYWOOD was in shock and mourning last night following the death of the rotund comedian and film actor John Candy. He was 43.

Mr Candy collapsed suddenly on the set and died of a heart attack near Durango, Mexico, where he was on location for Wagons East, the latest film in a career which earned him popularity around the world.

Mr Candy, a Canadian, won widespread acclaim for numerous films, especially the hilarious Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, in which he played an irksome traveller, and last year's box-office hit Cool Runnings, about the Jamaican bobsled team.

He was known in Hollywood as an extremely hard worker, a characteristic reflected by his long list of credits, which included stage acting, numerous television shows, and two Emmy awards for writing. One commentator once described him as 'an energy source contained in clothes'. Other notable film performances include Splash, Only the Lonely, Stripes, Three Amigos], National Lampoon's Vacation and The Great Outdoors.

He rose to prominence in the US and Canada in 1972, shortly after completing a journalism course at Centennial College, Toronto, and turning to acting. His breakthrough came when he joined the Second City comedy troupe, whose work began to be televised in the US.

Audiences immediately warmed to him as the funniest and friendliest member of the group, not least because of his bizarre collection of off- beat characters, such as Johnny LaRue, Dr Tongue, Harry - 'the guy with the snake on his face'. He recently completed his directorial debut, the Fox Television movie Hostage for a Day.

Throughout his life, John Candy, who was married with two children, exhibited sensitivity about his weight, which has exceeded 325lb on occasions. Tabloid newspapers carried reports about his love of junk food and sweets and crash diets. One unkind account even suggested that he insisted in film contracts on having a refrigerator stuffed with goodies on set.

It was a subject that Mr Candy preferred not to discuss, although he at times seemed disturbed by the possibility that he owed his comic popularity to his tubby looks. 'I hope my comedy isn't tied to my weight,' he told one reporter.

Last night Carolco Pictures issued a statement describing the actor as 'a marvellous entertainer, a wonderful human being and one of the most respected actors in the motion picture and television industry'.