Feature

John Hughes

The filmmaker who gently captured teenage angst

John Hughes
1950–2009

“Many filmmakers portray teenagers as immoral and ignorant, with pursuits that are pretty base,” John Hughes once said. “But I haven’t found that to be the case. I listen to kids. I respect them.” Hughes deployed that sensibility to write and direct some of the most memorable coming-of-age movies of the 1980s, among them Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Much of Hughes’ oeuvre derived from his childhood in the comfortable Chicago suburbs, said The Hollywood Reporter. After dropping out of Arizona State University, he worked in advertising while “turning out short stories, magazine articles, and jokes for stand-up comedians like Rodney Dangerfield. He eventually earned himself a spot as an editor at The National Lampoon.” From that perch, Hughes wrote two National Lampoon movies. Then, in 1984, he wrote and directed Sixteen Candles.

The funny yet touching look at a love-struck teenager (Molly Ringwald) whose parents have forgotten her birthday established the Hughes template, said Slate.com. His view of “middle-class adolescence was ironic in the best sense: never cynical or detached, but perched on the line between identifying with high school joy and suffering and being wryly amused at the whole thing.” In 1985, Hughes released The Breakfast Club, about “a taxonomy of suburban social types” fighting and bonding during school detention. His other notable films of the period were the winsome love stories Pretty in Pink (1986) and Some Kind of Wonderful (1987), as well as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), which starred Matthew Broderick as a rascally student playing hooky.

Hughes went on to write such “modest-size hits” as She’s Having a Baby (1988) and Uncle Buck (1989), as well as the big-budget projects Home Alone (1990) and 101 Dalmatians (1996), said The Miami Herald. But “after a 1993 profile in Spy magazine, entitled ‘Big Baby,’ painted him as temperamental and difficult to work with,” he became increasingly reclusive. “His most recent credits included screenwriting duties on straight-to-video sequels to Home Alone and Beethoven, a movie about a slobbering St. Bernard.” Hughes died suddenly of a heart attack while taking a walk in Manhattan, leaving behind his wife of 39 years and two children.

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