John Candy and Macauley Culkin had previously worked together in ’80s movie Uncle Buck, but the pair reunited (although not on-screen) the following year for classic Christmas movie Home Alone. In the film, a young Culkin plays Kevin McAllister, who must navigate home invaders after his family inadvertently leave him behind as they go on vacation in the run-up to the holidays.
In one scene, Kevin’s mother Kate, played by Catherine O’Hara, asks someone at the airport whether they had ever left their child behind before. This ‘someone’ was none other than John Candy, who had a small cameo role as ‘Polka King of the Midwest’ Gus Polinski. The character was small, but instrumental, as he helped Kate get back to Chicago as she hitched a ride with his polka band.
After sharing with Kate how he left a child at a funeral once, leaving them alone all day with a body, he attempted to reassure her by saying, “He was ok, you know, after six, seven weeks … came around, started talking again.”
Naturally, this traumatizing story didn’t do much to steady Kate’s nerves, but it did provide a lot of laughs — and according to the family movie‘s director, Chris Columbus, the scene was totally improvised.”None of that stuff was in the script,” the director told Insider. “The funeral-parlor story, that was all improvised at 4:30 in the morning. We could barely keep a straight face on set just listening to John.”
According to IMDB’s trivia page, Candy filmed the scene in just one 23-hour day on-set: but years later, it is still fondly remembered. If you want more heartwarming festive hits, check out our guides to the best Santa Claus movies, best Netflix Christmas movies, and the best Amazon Prime Christmas movies.