Don't you forget about me— The life of John Hughes

If by any chance, you were a teenager growing up during the 1980s, you've probably seen a movie or two by John Hughes. Though you would have seen many movies during that time, you probably remember Hughes' movies because they spoke your language. Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone 1 & 2, and the Breakfast Club are just some of the movies that have inspired, captured, enthralled and entertained a movie going generation. Particularly the teenagers.

Hughes was known for this shockingly frank dialogue and quirky ensemble driven comedies which was a hit with the teen crowd of the era. And it just wasn't that, many actors and actresses owe their careers to the writer director, in particular, Judd Nelson, Matthew Broderick, Macaulay Culkin, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, John Cusack, Steve Carell, and Lili Taylor, just to name a few. It wasn't that he had a talent of spotting a young actor's potential, he could literally bring the best in them shine through on the screen. It's not just actors and actresses that owe their careers to Hughes, directors like Wes Anderson and Kevin Smith have clearly been affected by Hughes' career and filmmaking.

Hughes began his career as an advertising copywriter in Chicago. He would later pen a story for Lampoon Magazine, about the adventures of his family during their vacation trips. That story would ultimately become his first movie credit as a writer and was called, National Lampoon's Vacation. Starring Chevy Chase and directed by Harold Ramis, the movie would spawn sequels and ultimately become the successful comedy of its time. That was 1983 and a movie here and there later, in 1984, he branched out into directing. His first directorial effort, Sixteen Candles, won almost unanimous praise when it was released, due in no small part to its more realistic depiction of middle-class high school life, which were attracting more audiences than the screwball and slapstick comedies being made at the time. It was also the first in a string of efforts set in or around high school, including The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Instead of continuing to make teen drama/comedies, Hughes showcased his other comedic storytelling skills by directing Planes, Trains & Automobiles starring Steve Martin and John Candy. Followed by Uncle Buck, viewers didn't appreciate these Hughes films as his previous ones, but they did laugh. It was however, a comedy adventure about a boy who was accidentally left home when his parents went on vacation that would bring John Hughes to worldwide acclaim. Home Alone made a star out of its star, Macaulay Culkin. Home Alone would be the top grossing film of 1990, and remains his most successful live-action comedy.

As a director, he has only made 8 movies. His recent movies have been through writing, rather than directing. Drillbit Taylor, Maid in Manhattan, Beethoven's 5th, were all either his scripts or stories. Even his previous movies—which had found a home in the hearts of the teen of the 80s—the teens of the 90s and the 2000s needed the edgier comedies, such as the American Pies and the Van Wilders to make them laugh.

In 1994, Hughes retired from the public eye and moved to Wisconsin, rarely granting or giving interviews or photographs to the media save a select few interviews. In the later years of his life, he was a farmer in Illinois.

At the news of John Hughes demise, his close friends paid tribute to the writer director. Culkin expressed his profound sadness at the news of Hughes' demise, "I was a fan of both his work and a fan of him as a person. The world has lost not only a quintessential filmmaker whose influence will be felt for generations, but a great and decent man."

Molly Ringwald added to the tributes. "I was stunned and incredibly sad to hear about the death of John Hughes," Ringwald said in a statement. "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," she added. "My heart and all my thoughts are with his family now."

Another actor Hughes made famous, Matthew Broderick, who starred in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, also shared his condolences with the director's family. "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."

Much can be said about Hughes, but it is his own writing, or the characters that he created rather, that can speak for him. Take Ferris Bueller for instance. He's the epitome of coolness in a teenager, has good friends, drives a nice car—which isn't his—and an all round decent but clever guy, and he says, "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." And there lies the essence of John Hughes.

John Hughes died suddenly of a heart attack on August 6, 2009, while walking in Manhattan, where he was visiting his family. Hughes is survived by his widow, sons and four grandchildren.

No comments: