John Hughes (filmmaker)

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This article is about the filmmaker. For other uses, see John Hughes.
John Hughes
JohnHughes.jpg
Born John Wilden Hughes, Jr.
(1950-02-18)February 18, 1950
Lansing, Michigan, US
Died August 6, 2009(2009-08-06) (aged 59)
New York City, US
Cause of death
Heart attack
Resting place
Lake Forest Cemetery in Lake Forest, Illinois
Residence Chicago, Illinois,
New York City
Nationality American
Other names Edmond Dantes
Alma mater University of Arizona
(dropped out)
Occupation Director, producer, writer
Years active 1970–2009
Home town Chicago, Illinois
Spouse(s) Nancy Ludwig (m. 1970–2009, his death)
Children John Hughes, III (b. 1976)
James Hughes (b. 1979)

John Wilden Hughes, Jr.[1] (February 18, 1950 – August 6, 2009) was an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He directed or scripted some of the most successful films of the 1980s and 1990s, including National Lampoon's Vacation; Ferris Bueller's Day Off; Weird Science; The Breakfast Club; Some Kind of Wonderful; Sixteen Candles; Pretty in Pink; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Uncle Buck; Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

He is known for his work on teen movies as well as for helping launch the careers of several actors, including Michael Keaton, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Bill Paxton, Matthew Broderick, Macaulay Culkin, and the up-and-coming actors collectively nicknamed the Brat Pack.

Early life[edit]

Hughes was born in Lansing, Michigan, to a mother who volunteered in charity work and John Hughes, Sr., who worked in sales.[2] He spent the first twelve years of his life in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.[3] Hughes described himself as "kind of quiet" as a kid.[4]

"I grew up in a neighborhood that was mostly girls and old people. There weren't any boys my age, so I spent a lot of time by myself, imagining things. And every time we would get established somewhere, we would move. Life just started to get good in seventh grade, and then we moved to Chicago. I ended up in a really big high school, and I didn't know anybody. But then The Beatles came along (and) changed my whole life. And then Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home came out and really changed me. Thursday I was one person, and Friday I was another. My heroes were Dylan, John Lennon and Picasso, because they each moved their particular medium forward, and when they got to the point where they were comfortable, they always moved on."

In 1963, Hughes's family moved to Northbrook, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, where Hughes's father found work selling roofing materials.[3] It was there that Hughes attended Glenbrook North High School, the school that would provide inspiration for the films that would make his reputation in later years.[5]

Career[edit]

After dropping out of the University of Arizona, Hughes began selling jokes to well-established performers such as Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers.[6] Hughes used his jokes to get an entry-level job at Needham, Harper & Steers as an advertising copywriter in Chicago in 1970[7] and later in 1974 at Leo Burnett Worldwide. During this time, he created what became the famous Edge "Credit Card Shaving Test" ad campaign.

Hughes's work on the Virginia Slims account frequently took him to the Philip Morris headquarters in New York City. This gave him the opportunity to hang around the offices of the National Lampoon magazine.[3] Hughes subsequently penned a story, inspired by his family trips as a child, that was to become his calling card and entry onto the staff of the magazine.[6] That piece, "Vacation '58", later became the basis for the film National Lampoon's Vacation. Among his other contributions to the Lampoon, the April Fools' Day stories "My Penis" and "My Vagina" gave an early indication of Hughes's ear for the particular rhythm of teen speak, as well as the various indignities of teen life in general.

His first credited screenplay, Class Reunion, was written while still on staff at the magazine. The resulting film became the second disastrous attempt by the flagship to duplicate the runaway success of Animal House. It was Hughes's next screenplay for the imprint, National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), that would prove to be a major hit, putting the Lampoon back on the map. That film's success, along with the success of another of Hughes' scripts, Mr. Mom, earned Hughes a three movie deal with Universal Studios.[8]

Hughes's directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, won almost unanimous praise when it was released in 1984, due in no small part to its more honest depiction of upper middle class high school life, in stark contrast to the Porky's-inspired comedies made at the time. It was the first in a string of efforts set in or around high school, including The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off (see also Brat Pack) and Some Kind of Wonderful.

To avoid being pigeonholed as a maker of teen comedies, Hughes branched out in 1987, directing the smash hit Planes, Trains and Automobiles starring Steve Martin and John Candy. His later output would not be so critically well received, though films like Uncle Buck proved popular. Hughes's greatest commercial success came with Home Alone, a film he wrote and produced about a child accidentally left behind when his family goes away for Christmas, forcing him to protect himself and his house from a pair of inept burglars. Home Alone was the top grossing film of 1990, and remains the most successful live-action comedy of all time. His last film as a director was 1991's Curly Sue.

He also wrote screenplays under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes (or Dantès), after the protagonist of Alexandre Dumas's novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Screenplays submitted under this pseudonym were Maid in Manhattan, Drillbit Taylor, and the Beethoven franchise.[6][9]

In 1994, Hughes retired from the public eye and moved back to the Chicago area. Hughes was considerably shaken by John Candy's sudden death of a heart attack that same year. "He talked a lot about how much he loved Candy—if Candy had lived longer, I think John would have made more films as a director," says Vince Vaughn, a friend of Hughes.[3] In the years following, Hughes rarely granted interviews to the media save a select few in 1999 to promote the soundtrack album to Reach the Rock, an independent film he wrote.[10] The album was compiled by Hughes's son, John Hughes III, and released on his son's Chicago-based record label, Hefty Records.[11] He also recorded an audio commentary for the 1999 DVD release of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.[12]

Death[edit]

Hughes died of a heart attack on August 6, 2009 while walking in Manhattan where he was visiting his family.[13][14] On that morning, Hughes was on West 55th Street in Manhattan when he was struck with chest pains. At 8:56 a.m., 9-1-1 operators summoned paramedics to assist. Hughes was unconscious when they arrived several minutes later. Hughes was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.[15] He was 59 years old. Hughes's funeral took place on August 11 in Chicago.[16] In addition to his wife and two sons, Hughes was survived by four grandchildren.[17]

Legacy[edit]

The pilot episode of the NBC comedy Community, broadcast on September 17, 2009, was dedicated to Hughes.[18] The episode included several references to The Breakfast Club and ended with a cover of "Don't You".[19] The One Tree Hill episode titled "Don't You Forget About Me", broadcast on February 1, 2010, ended with a scene similar to the ending scene of Sixteen Candles and included some other references to his movies such as Home Alone. The 2011 Bob's Burgers episode "Sheesh! Cab, Bob?" also paid homage to Sixteen Candles.

After Hughes' death, many of those who knew him commented on the impact Hughes had on them and on the film industry. Judd Apatow said "Basically, my stuff is just John Hughes films with four-letter words. I feel like a part of my childhood has died. Nobody made me laugh harder or more often than John Hughes."[6] Molly Ringwald said, "I was stunned and incredibly sad to hear about the death of John Hughes. He was and will always be such an important part of my life.... He will be missed – by me and by everyone that he has touched. My heart and all my thoughts are with his family now."[20] Matthew Broderick also released his own statement, saying, "I am truly shocked and saddened by the news about my old friend John Hughes. He was a wonderful, very talented guy and my heart goes out to his family."[20]

The 82nd Academy Awards included a tribute to Hughes' work. A retrospective of clips from Hughes' films was followed by cast members from several of them, including Molly Ringwald, Matthew Broderick, Macaulay Culkin, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall and Jon Cryer,[21] gathering on stage to commemorate the man and his contributions to the film industry.[22]

The animated film ParaNorman is dedicated in his memory and the film's four main characters even have the same character styles as The Breakfast Club. The school that the main characters go to in Shake It Up is called John Hughes High School, and the series is set in Chicago.

Hughes is buried in Lake Forest Cemetery in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Director (Executive)
Producer
Writer
1979 Delta House (TV show)
NoN
1982 National Lampoon's Class Reunion
NoN
1983 At Ease
NoN
Mr. Mom
NoN
National Lampoon's Vacation
NoN
Nate and Hayes
NoN
1984 Sixteen Candles
NoN
NoN
1985 The Breakfast Club
NoN
NoN
NoN
European Vacation
NoN
Weird Science
NoN
NoN
1986 Pretty in Pink
NoN
NoN
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
NoN
NoN
NoN
1987 Some Kind of Wonderful
NoN
NoN
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
NoN
NoN
NoN
1988 She's Having a Baby
NoN
NoN
NoN
The Great Outdoors
NoN
NoN
1989 Uncle Buck
NoN
NoN
NoN
Christmas Vacation
NoN
NoN
1990 Home Alone
NoN
NoN
1991 Career Opportunities
NoN
NoN
Only the Lonely
NoN
Dutch
NoN
Curly Sue
NoN
NoN
NoN
1992 Beethoven
NoN
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
NoN
NoN
1993 Dennis the Menace
NoN
NoN
1994 Baby's Day Out
NoN
NoN
Miracle on 34th Street
NoN
NoN
1996 101 Dalmatians
NoN
NoN
1997 Flubber
NoN
Home Alone 3
NoN
NoN
1998 Reach the Rock
NoN
NoN
2001 Just Visiting
NoN
New Port South
NoN
2002 Maid in Manhattan
NoN
2008 Drillbit Taylor
NoN

Unproduced screenplays[edit]

  • The History of Ohio From The Beginning of Time to the End of the Universe (with P. J. O'Rourke)
  • Jaws 3: People 0 – a parody sequel to the popular series.[23]
  • The New Kid
  • Bartholomew Vs. Neff – a vehicle that would have starred Sylvester Stallone and John Candy as feuding neighbors.[24]
  • The Bee – a feature length Disney film.[25]
  • Grisbeys Go Broke – a wealthy family loses their fortune, forcing them to move to the other side of the tracks during Christmas.[26]
  • Tickets – Teens wait overnight for free tickets to a farewell concert.[27]
  • Oil and Vinegar – A soon-to-be-married man and a hitchhiking girl end up talking about their lives during the length of the car ride.[28]

Don't You Forget About Me[edit]

Don't You Forget About Me is a documentary about four Canadian filmmakers who go in search of Hughes after his drop out of the spotlight in 1991, featuring interviews with actors from preceding Hughes films, notably missing Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and Matthew Broderick. The film is distributed by Alliance Films.[29] The movie is named after the Simple Minds song of the same name, which was the theme song for the film The Breakfast Club which Hughes produced, wrote, and directed.

Don't You Forget About Me is also the name of an anthology of contemporary writers writing about the films of John Hughes, edited by Jaime Clarke, with a foreword by Ally Sheedy, published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment. Writers include Steve Almond, Julianna Baggott, Lisa Borders, Ryan Boudinot, T Cooper, Quinn Dalton, Emily Franklin, Lisa Gabriele, Tod Goldberg, Nina de Gramont, Tara Ison, Allison Lynn, John McNally, Dan Pope, Lewis Robinson, Ben Schrank, Elizabeth Searle, Mary Sullivan, Rebecca Wolff, and Moon Unit Zappa.

Books[edit]