|Born||John Wilden Hughes, Jr.
February 18, 1950
|Died||August 6, 2009 (aged 59)
New York City, New York,
|Occupation||Director, producer, writer|
|Spouse(s)||Nancy Ludwig (1970–2009)|
John Wilden Hughes, Jr. (February 18, 1950 – August 6, 2009) was an American film director, producer and writer. He scripted some of the most successful films of the 1980s and early 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; Career Opportunities ; Home Alone and its sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
Hughes was born in Lansing, Michigan, to a mother who volunteered in charity work and John Hughes, Sr., who worked in sales. He spent the first 12 years of his life in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Hughes described himself as a kid as "kind of quiet."
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. I liked them at a time when I was in a pretty conventional high school, where the measure of your popularity was athletic ability. And I'm not athletic - I've always hated team sports.
While admittedly not an athlete, Hughes was a devoted Detroit Red Wings hockey fan and admired star player Gordie Howe (Hughes later gave tribute to Howe in Ferris Bueller's Day Off). In 1962, Hughes's family moved to Northbrook, Illinois, where Hughes’s father found work selling roofing materials. Graduating from Glenbrook North High School in 1968, Hughes used Northbrook and the adjacent North Shore area for shooting locations and settings in many of his films, though he usually left the name of the town unsaid, or referred to it as "Shermer, Illinois", Shermerville being the original name of Northbrook. In high school, he met Nancy Ludwig, to whom he was married from 1970 until his death. They had two sons, John Hughes III, born in 1976, and James Hughes, born in 1979.
After dropping out of the University of Arizona, he began selling jokes to well-established performers such as Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. Hughes used his jokes to get an entry-level job at Needham, Harper & Steers as an advertising copywriter in Chicago in 1970 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' 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. 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. That piece, "Vacation '58", later became the basis for the film Vacation. Among his other contributions to the Lampoon, the April Fool's 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), however, that would prove to be a major hit, putting the Lampoon back on the map.
His first directorial effort, Sixteen Candles, won almost unanimous praise when it was released in 1984, due in no small part to its more realistic depiction of middle-class high school life, which stood in stark contrast to the Porky's-inspired 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 (See also Brat Pack).
To avoid being pigeonholed as a maker of teen comedies, Hughes branched out in 1987, directing Planes, Trains & Automobiles starring Steve Martin and John Candy. His later output would not be so critically well received, though films like Uncle Buck (one of the first films to display the changeover in a suburban teen's choice of music from rock to rap) 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.
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. 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. The album was compiled by Hughes's son, John Hughes III, and released on his son's Chicago-based record label, Hefty Records. He also recorded an audio commentary for the 1999 DVD release of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. In the later years of his life, he was a farmer in Illinois.
Several director's trademarks can be seen within Hughes's films:
Hughes died of a heart attack on August 6, 2009, while walking in Manhattan, where he was visiting his family. He was 59 years old. On that morning, Hughes was on West 55th Street in Manhattan when he was stricken with chest pains. At 8:55 a.m., 9-1-1 operators summoned paramedics to assist. Hughes was unconscious when they arrived several minutes later. Hughes was raced to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Hughes's funeral took place on August 11 in Chicago. In addition to his wife and two sons, Hughes is survived by four grandchildren.
The pilot episode of the NBC comedy Community, broadcast on September 17, 2009, was dedicated to Hughes. The episode included several references to The Breakfast Club and ended with a cover of Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by rock band The 88. The One Tree Hill episode titled "Don't You Forget About Me", broadcast on February 1st, 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.
On March 7, 2010, the 82nd annual Academy Awards included a tribute to Hughes' life's work. A retrospective of clips from Hughes' films was followed by cast members from several of them gathering on stage to commemorate the man and his contributions to the film industry.
Don't You Forget About Me
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.