The Best John Candy Role Is In 1980s Goofball Mystery Comedy

By Brian Myers | Published

John Candy seemed to really be hitting his stride in the late 1980s. He secured a solid co-starring role with Dan Aykroyd in the 1988 hit comedy The Great Outdoors, made audiences laugh along with Steve Martin in the holiday favorite Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and still had the time to go down in history as the worst babysitter ever in Uncle Buck. The 1989 comedy Who’s Harry Crumb has somehow fallen off the radar for films associated with the late actor, making the present the perfect time to remember this classic comedy and give Candy’s best performance a good rewatch.

Harry Crumb

John Candy who's Harry Crumb

0John Candy stars as Harry Crumb, the youngest generation in a line of successful private detectives. It’s obvious from the opening scene that Crumb is an oblivious moron with a mouth that runs faster than his brain can process information.

Though the family detective agency is based in Los Angeles, it’s hinted in the first few moments of Who’s Harry Crumb that Harry is placed in a satellite office in Tulsa so he won’t harm the business.

Crumb Gets Hired

John Candy who's Harry Crumb

But a high profile kidnapping of model Jennifer Downing (Renee Coleman) has her wealthy father (Barry Corbin) wanting the best man on the job.

P.J. Downing solicits the private detection services from the Crumb & Crumb Private Detective Agency, where its lead operative, Elliot Draisen (Jeffrey Jones) has John Candy’s character summoned from Oklahoma and on his way back to the home office for the big assignment.

Harry Crumb quickly shows its lead character warming up to P.J.’s youngest daughter Nikki (Shawnee Smith), who lends a needed hand in helping the bungling idiot Crumb ultimately solve the case.

Candy Is At His Best

While the storyline Who’s Harry Crumb offers isn’t something original, it’s a fun twist on a fish out of water story.

John Candy is at his comedic best in the film, appearing in ridiculous costumes and sputtering out lines in almost believable accents in order to get leads in the kidnapping case. Candy plays these parts in disguise masterfully, adding additional comedic layers to the move.

As well as John Candy’s performance in Who’s Harry Crumb, it could be argued that Annie Potts is the real scene stealer. Her portrayal of P.J. Downing’s new wife Helen is Potts in one of her best roles.

Potts plays the part of a conniving, sociopathic gold-digger to perfection and hilariously is able to switch gears from a doting wife to a raging lunatic with perfect timing.

A Classic ’80s Comedy

John Candy who's Harry Crumb

John Candy gets the greatest lines, however. Crumb’s aloofness and his serendipitous discoveries are hilarious to witness, most notably his reaction when the real kidnapper is revealed.

Anyone who loves comedy films from this era will need to give Who’s Harry Crumb a watch, and any fan of Candy should have already made viewing this comedic gem a priority.

Stream It Now


John Candy’s portrayal of the buffoonish detective without a doubt made the movie. Who’s Harry Crumb shows the late actor in his prime, and without the benefit of A-list stars helping to carry the movie, proving that Candy doesn’t need to be paired with a Dan Aykroyd or a Steve Martin to shine in a performance.

While this John Candy classic isn’t available to stream for free, Who’s Harry Crumb can be viewed On Demand with Vudu, Google Play, Prime, and AppleTV.