Saturday, August 8, 2009

Screenwriter and Director John Hughes R.I.P.

John Hughes, the screenwriter and director of such films as Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Planes, Trains & Automobiles, passed on Thursday at the age of 59. The cause was a heart attack.

John Hughes was born in Lansing, Michigan on February 18, 1950. When he was thirteen years old his family moved to Northbrook, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He graduated from Glenbrook North High School there in 1968. He attended the University of Arizona for a time before dropping out, after which he went into advertising. While still in advertising he would visit the offices of the National Lampoon while in New York City, eventually being published in the magazine and later part of its staff. It was while he was on staff that he wrote his first screenplay National Lampoon's Class Reunion. While National Lampoon's Class Reunion would not do particularly well at the box office, his next screenplays would prove successful: Mr. Mom and National Lampoon's Vacation.

It was with Sixteen Candles in 1984 that John Hughes made his directorial debut. It was also the beginning of a string of hits from Hughes that would last through the Eighties. Films such as Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Uncle Buck all did well at the box office. Hughes also continued writing screenplays for films which he did not direct, among them Christmas Vacation and Home Alone.

While Hughes directed no more films after Curly Sue in 1991, he continued churning out screenplays for such films as Beethoven (as Edmond Dantes), 101 Dalmations, and Just Visiting.

Unlike many, I cannot say I was a huge fan of John Hughes' films. He either wrote or directed a few films that I actually disliked. That having been said, he also wrote or directed some films which I dearly love. When John Hughes was at his best, he was absolutely brilliant. Indeed, he either directed some of the few comedies made after 1980 that I found hysterically funny. Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and Home Alone all had me laughing through most of the movie. And there can be no doubt that as both a screenwriter and director, John Hughes knew what audiences wanted. Very few of the films that he either wrote or directed (or both) ever bombed at the box office. There can be little wonder that he is so identified with the decade of the Eighties. It was when he was at the peak of his success. It is sad to know that he is gone now, and at such a young age.

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