John Hughes, the writer/director whose comedic films help define the problems facing teenagers in the 80s and launched the careers of many actors including “Brat Pack” members Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson, has died today while visiting family in New York City. TMZ is reporting that Hughes suffered a heart attack while out walking. He was 59.
Hughes got his start as a comedy writer, penning jokes for Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. He eventually landed a job on staff at the National Lampoon humor magazine. His first short story, “Vacation ’57,” would serve as the basis for the 1983 Chevy Chase film National Lampoon’s Vacation, which Hughes would also write.
The following year, Hughes would produce and direct his first film, Sixteen Candles. In a marked contrast to the trend in teenage comedies at the time, Hughes portrait of a teenage girl whose birthday was forgotten in the midst of the preparations for her older sister’s wedding was a revelation in solid characterization and storytelling. Hughes followed Sixteen Candles up by writing and directing The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Weird Science– all of which found laughs and insight in the tribulations of being a teenager in the 1980s. His work on teen movies caused the term “John Hughes Movie” to enter the cultural lexicon and become a label for all movies of that type.
Not confining himself to the teen-comedy genre, Hughes also directed Planes, Trains And Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy, Uncle Buck, and he wrote, but did not direct, the smash 1990 hit Home Alone. His last directorial effort was 1991’s Curly Sue.
Hughes continued his career as a writer, writing the hit Beethoven (under his psuedonym Edmond Dantes) in 1992. His writing career continued even after he moved to Wisconsin in 1994 and went into semi-retirement. He wrote such films as Baby’s Day Out, the 1994 Miracle on 34th Street remake, 101 Dalmations, and Flubber during this period. His last writing work, again under the alias of Edmond Dantes, was the story for last year’s Owen Wilson vehicle, Drillbit Taylor.
Additional reporting William Gatevackes.