"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

He Don’t Even Have his License, Lisa

John Hughes died yesterday. He was 59.  Hughes wrote and directed a string of wildly popular comedies in the Eighties. They were suburban (filmed outside of Chicago) and white-bred and an indelible part of my childhood.

Hughes’ movies always flattered kids by painting grown ups to be utter morons. There isn’t much point talking about if they were any good or not–we’ll all have different takes on that–but his movies made an impression. They gave us some good laughs–he had a gift for comic timing and for working with actors–and I can easily quote from most of them. They are in regular rotation on TV and I suppose we’ll be seeing The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Uncle Buck for the rest of our lives.  

Sixteen Candles and Weird Science are my favorites.

Update: No matter what you may think of Hughes’ movies, it looks like he was a mensch in real life.

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1 RagingTartabull   ~  Aug 7, 2009 9:20 am

R.I.P. to the man who authored my senior yearbook quote

"It's a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school."

2 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 7, 2009 9:26 am

"Uncle Buck" was a good vehicle for John Candy too. I thought Candy was great in that.

3 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 7, 2009 9:28 am

Hughes only directed eight movies (the five Alex mentions above plus Plains, Trains & Automobiles, She's Having a Baby, and Curly Sue), but he wrote close to 40. The last couple decades he spent on family dreck like the endless string of Home Alone and Beethoven sequels, but if you look at the run of films he wrote from Mr. Mom and National Lampoon's Vacation in 1983 to the first Home Alone in 1990, it's a staggering run of both success and of memorable, enduring '80s comedies. He had at least one hit every year during that stretch and, as Tartabull indicates above, authored some of the most quoted lines of the decade. Mix in the fine song selecting he did for his soundtracks and John Hughes helped shape the popular culture landscape of the 1980s as much as any other individual.

4 matt b   ~  Aug 7, 2009 9:54 am

Hughes started at National Lampoon when that was still something impressive. He could get too heavy on the schmaltz at times, but he definitely changed American cinema by painting teenagers as smart, aware beings rather than shallow morons. He also could write a good joke.

Alex, you are right in that to anyone born from say '68-'75, his movies were a big part of our adolescence.

5 matt b   ~  Aug 7, 2009 10:02 am

I have to think that it helped Hughes that his first big screenplay was for National Lampoon's Vacation which was then directed by Harold Ramis. I have little doubt Hughes learned a thing or two about directing comedy from Ramis.

6 RagingTartabull   ~  Aug 7, 2009 10:05 am

His stuff is flawed, but I agree with Cliff that run he was on up through '90 is unbelievable. It's like for a 6 year period his word processor was on a heavy PED cycle, and the minute he got clean all we were left with was "Dutch" and "Beethoven's 5th".

When I was a kid I just assumed everything cool or funny that happened in life happened in the Chicago suburbs.

Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?

7 Rich   ~  Aug 7, 2009 10:06 am

Hughes's movies chronicled the uncertainties of coming of age in the '80s, and did so with a terrific sense of humor.

8 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 7, 2009 10:07 am

Ferris is a well realized movie, isn't it? Good laughs and a perfect adolescent male fantasy.

9 Paul   ~  Aug 7, 2009 10:19 am

My wife and I were debating the re-watchableness of Ferris and Breakfast. She went with Ferris. I'm down with Breakfast. From my perspective any movie that can keep you interested for two hours without changing the set is a masterpiece.

Neither of us have ever been able to get through Sixteeen.

10 Paul   ~  Aug 7, 2009 10:26 am

By the way, I think it further shows how much of a talent Hughes was with the pen when you consider how few of the actors he worked with, and made stars, did anything with any other words. It's the equivalent of putting together a dynasty without one Hall of Famer.

By contrast, the Coen Bros are great writers but they also know how to get great talent.

11 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 7, 2009 10:39 am

Hughes' prime ('84-'89) coincided with my last year of high school and my first year out of college. I loved everything he did those years, and repeatedly rented all of them. The only one I purchased was "She's Having a Baby." Coming out of college the year that was released, and having been broadsided by life, that movie hit home with me more than any of the others.

For laughs, Weird Science was his best.

Breakfast Club and Beuller were his Annie Hall, and Manhattan. Incredible run. RIP John Hughes, and thanks for all that.

12 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:05 am

I didn't see Breakfast Club until after college and was actually quite turned off by it, but Ferris Bueller I saw in the theater and think is a nearly perfect, if not the perfect teen comedy, endlessly rewatchable and as good today as the day it came out.

13 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:05 am

Breakfast club didn't really have one set. They moved around some in the school. But I get your point. (12 Angry Men is an even better example because that was in one room--with the exception of the Jack Warden scene in the bathroom.)

The reason Breakfast Club works? Two words: Dede Allen.

14 knuckles   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:12 am

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a hugely underrated movie.

My favorite line, courtesy of IMDB:

Neal: What's the flight situation?

Del: Simple. There's no way on earth we're going to get out of here tonight. We'd have more luck playing pickup sticks with our butt-cheeks than we will getting a flight out of here before daybreak.

15 RagingTartabull   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:22 am

I had a film teacher in High School who showed us the car rental scene from "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" as an example of how "profanity can be art."

Best. Class. Ever.

16 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:28 am

The Breakfast Club at least gave the world the Molly Ringwald dance and a great Simple Minds single.

17 Just Fair   ~  Aug 7, 2009 11:54 am

One of the first times i hung out with my future wife (at the tender age of 18) we watched Weird Science b/c we had talked about it being one of our favorites. I would say would we don't go a day without quoting one line from any one of his movies. And for my get off my lawn complaint, his movies are simply a hell of a lot more innocent than mid-90's to current teen flics. American Pie, etc.
RUSS????.......................Right here, dad.

18 RagingTartabull   ~  Aug 7, 2009 12:00 pm

Great piece about Hughes that's been making the rounds:


19 Shaun P.   ~  Aug 7, 2009 12:06 pm

[18] Just about to post a link to that myself. Absolutely incredible.

[14] Here, here! John Candy was a master.

20 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 7, 2009 12:15 pm

18) Props for that link. Sounds like he was a great dude. That's awesome. I just added that to the post above. Good lookin.

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