John Hughes, the director, producer, and writer whose insightful and heartfelt teen comedies defined an era, died Thursday of cardiac arrest. He was 59 years old.
Hughes became synonymous with teen comedy in the 1980s, and his films from that era — most notably Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off — explored adolescent identity, class and clique conflict, and generational unease with a delicacy and sensitivity seldom seen in mainstream cinema. Several of the actors who starred in Hughes’ movies — including Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, and Ally Sheedy – were members of the “Brat Pack,” a group of young actors that came of age during the 1980s.
Hughes’ first major success was as the screenwriter for National Lampoon’s Vacation (he would later write and produce Christmas Vacation as well). After the critical and commercial success of his high school comedies, Hughes wrote and directed Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, starring Steve Martin and longtime collaborator John Candy. It was with Home Alone, however, that Hughes had his greatest popular success; the film was a huge winner at the box office (though not with critics) and made Macaulay Culkin a star.
[rtimage]MapID=10011617&MapTypeID=2&photo=22&legacy=1[/rtimage]Hughes’ prolific, prodigious output slowed in the early 1990s; after 1991’s Curly Sue, he never directed again, though he scripted a number of family films, including the Beethoven series and Flubber. His last credit was as a writer on Drillbit Taylor, the producer of which, Judd Apatow, has often garnered comparisons to Hughes.
[rtimage]MapID=10011617&MapTypeID=2&photo=11&legacy=1[/rtimage]Hughes grew up in Northbrook, IL, and many of his films were set or filmed in his hometown or nearby Chicago (for example, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off provided an informal tour of the Windy City). Media reports indicate that Hughes suffered a heart attack while taking a morning walk through Manhattan, where he was visiting family. Hughes is survived by his wife Nancy, as well as two sons, John and James.