Thursday, August 6, 2009

RIP - John Hughes - UPDATED

Sad news out of New York today, as it's being reported that writer/producer/director John Hughes has died following a heart attack. He was 59.

Hughes began his career as writer for Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers before submitting stories to the National Lampoon, joining the staff soon after. His first screenplay was the Lampoon's Class Reunion, which flopped, but subsequent scripts for Mr. Mom and National Lampoon's Vacation, were hits, catapulting him into the top tier of American comedy of the day.

His directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, began the second phase, and most critically successful, phase of his career, that of one of the greatest writer-directors of films about teens. Far from focusing on the broad and base sexual high jinks that were teen films of the day, Hughes chose to examine the life of teenagers in a far more realistic, serious and complex way, while still retaining a comedic tone. Although a commercial filmmaker, it must be said that all of his films represent a clear and artistic vision.

After Sixteen Candles, he would write and direct the teen classics The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He would write, but not direct, teen films as well, including Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful.

In 1987, he began to step away from the teen genre with Planes, Trains and Automobiles and She's Having a Baby, attempts at writing and directing more adult oriented comedies. Uncle Buck proved to be hybrid of the three types of films Hughes specialized in; teen, adult and kid comedy.

In 1990, Hughes wrote the screenplay for and produced Home Alone, directed by his protege Chris Columbus. The film was the story of a child left behind by his parents when his large family goes on holiday, only to be menaced by two inept burglars. It was a massive hit, becoming the top grossing live-action comedy of all time and launching the career of child star Macaulay Culkin.

Hughes would only direct one more film, 1991's flop Curly Sue. He would continue writing, but aside from a final teen film (Career Opportunities), he would focus almost entirely on children's films. In 1994, he retired from the public eye almost entirely, rarely giving interviews or granting photographs to the media. He would continue to produce children films like Baby's Day Out and Dennis the Menace, as well as continue to write, but he would never again match the critical success of the teen films, or the commercial success of Home Alone.

In a list of the best writer/directors of the 1980s, Hughes is rarely mentioned, but upon review, he must be regarded as one of the great talents in American film of the decade, leaving behind a handful of films that have become staples of adolescent angst, and beloved films for a generation of film goers, including myself. He will be missed.

Quite often when someone famous passes on, a lot of focus is paid to their work, and very little to their life as a human being. We all know about John Hughes the artist and talent, but what about his life as a man?
Well, I'm linking to a story that will tell you more about John Hughes and aptly demonstrate how unique a fellow he truly was.

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