I think growing up in the 80s was where my love of film steamed from and when it comes to 80s cinema, John Hughes was one of the very best writer/directors of the time. It would have been his birthday today too (18/2).
So this here is going to be my tribute to one of my all time favourite film-makers.
Starting with this “In Memorandum” here and with me also taking a look at some of my own favourite films of his in a retrospective.
Born John Wilden Hughes Jr on February 18 1950 in Lansing, Michigan.
Hughes dropped out of the University of Arizona and started his career by selling jokes to well known performers of the day such as Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. Hughes subsequently penned a story, inspired by his family trips as a child called; Vacation ’58, this story caught the attention of the famed comedy magazine National Lampoon magazine where he was offered a staff job.
His first credited screenplay; Class Reunion, was written while still on staff at the magazine and was eventually turned into the movie; National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982). This was the third film produced by National Lampoon. The first film being; Animal House (1978), which was a success. So National Lampoon wanted to repeat that success and followed it up with; National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982) National Lampoon’s Movie Madness (filmed in 1981 but not released until 1983). The second two films were a disaster and almost closed the movie branch of National Lampoon for good.
Yet Hughes had another film script up his sleeve, one based off his story; Vacation ’58. What we got from that was…
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) was a major hit and put National Lampoon back on the map.
Shorty after, Hughes landed a three movie deal with Universal Studios.
His directorial debut; Sixteen Candles (1984) was another big hit and proved Hughes was a writer/director worth watching. John followed up this success with other big hits like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Not wanting to be pigeon-holed as a writer/director of teen comedies, he decided to go a more ‘adult’ route in 1987 with the amazing; Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
John had a relatively short career as a director with only 8 films to his name between 1982 to 1991 with his last film as a director; Curly Sue (1991).
He was more known for his writing. But despite such a short directing career, he did make some of the most memorable films of that era.
In the 90s, Hughes concentrated more on his writing, with his biggest hit as a writer being; Home Alone (1990).
Many would suggest his writing during the mid 90s got slowly worse and worse with some people claiming that Hughes became lazy and uninspired. That he just began phoning in his work around the mid 90s and was living off the success of one of his bigger hit films of that decade as a writer, Home Alone.
However, I’d like to offer my own personal reason and even explanation as to why John Hughes went ‘off the boil’ in the 90s and never truly recovered.
John Hughes was very close to and best friends with the amazing John Candy, who unexpectedly died in 1994. I quite honestly believe that Hughes lost much more than just a friend with the loss of John Candy.
I believe Hughes lost his whole drive and passion for the industry when John Candy died.
Despite the loss of his close friend, Hughes still maintained a popular writing career when he penned sequels to Home Alone, the Beethoven series, Dennis the Menace, Baby’s Day Out, the live action 101 Dalmatians, Flubber and various other screenplays.
Hughes had an amazing but short directing career in the 80s and he defined and inspired a generation, but despite being a prolific movie writer in the 90s, he would never see that level of success ever again.
John Hughes died August 6, 2009 after suffering a severe heart attack. He was 59.
John Hughes: “Many film makers portray teenagers as immoral and ignorant, with pursuits that are pretty base. But I haven’t found that to be the case, I listen to kids, I respect them. Some of them are as bright as any of the adults I’ve met.”
Thanks for all your work in the 80s John, the decade just wouldn’t have been the same without you. I won’t forget about you.
Also check out my personal retrospective look at my favourite John Hughes films.