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John Hughes Dead of Heart Attack at Age 59

by Anne Thompson
August 6, 2009 8:50 AM
3 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

John Hughes died of a heart attack Thursday while visiting family in Manhattan. He was 59.

Based in Chicago, John Hughes made a huge impact on 80s film culture with a series of teen comedies that had an edge of authenticity; they rang true. The Breakfast Club, especially, will be the film he is most remembered for, starring the so-called Brat Pack, including Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy and Anthony Michael Hall. Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Home Alone and Trains, Planes and Automobiles are other memorable Hughes touchstones. "He was an American genius as directly connected to the culture as anyone I've ever seen," said producer Sean Daniel, who worked closely as a Universal executive with Hughes, but had not seen the filmmaker in a decade. "No one knew as much about music. Knowing John, he was probably writing. The John I knew could never stop writing."

As a producer-writer-director, Hughes had unusual control over his films, which were made inside the studio system. Known for being mercurial to work with, Hughes would shoot his scripts and then relied on the studio to help him edit the often unwieldy rough cuts into final form. "He had the ability to enter the minds of teens and understand their language and gestalt," said press agent Fredell Pogodin, who came to respect the ex-advertising exec's marketing smarts when she promoted his films at Universal. "Like a lot of creative people, he didn't think in a linear fashion."

But Hughes' output only lasted for a short time. The last film he directed, Curly Sue, starring John Candy, was released eighteen years ago. The writer-director had withdrawn from Hollywood to his Illinois farm, staying in touch with his Hollywood lawyer, Jake Bloom, former agent Jack Rapke, and producers Michelle Manning and Ned Tanen, who died in January. "They're together in a story meeting," said Daniel.

Here's Matthew Broderick's direct address to the camera (unusual in its day) in Ferris Bueller's Day Off:

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More: Directors, Video, Stuck In Love, Obit, Screenwriters

3 Comments

  • Alboone | August 7, 2009 1:29 AMReply

    Every teen movie you see now tries and mostly fails to live up to what Huges did in the 80's. There's a reason why members of my generation hold these films dear. And it's quite simple really. We can relate on a fundamental level. I remember when House Party starring Kid n'Play came out in 1990(another classic in my opinion) and the director of that film, Reginald Huddlin, out right said that he was mining John Hughes as an inspiration. Man, the industry lost a giant. RIP Mr. Hughes. We will never forget you.

  • Ryan Sartor | August 6, 2009 11:07 AMReply

    This is really sad because with the release of any teen comedy, family comedy, or just comedy in general, I was always secretly hoping Hughes would come back and show them how it's done. He did great work. RIP.

  • Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! | August 6, 2009 9:55 AMReply

    What a great loss.

    RIP John Hughes... your legacy will always live through your movies.

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