John Hughes (filmmaker)

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John Hughes
John Hughes
Born John Wilden Hughes, Jr.
(1950-02-18)February 18, 1950
Lansing, Michigan, U.S.
Died August 6, 2009(2009-08-06) (aged 59)
New York City, U.S.
Resting place Lake Forest Cemetery
Other names Edmond Dantes
Occupation Director, producer, writer
Years active 1970–2009
Spouse(s) Nancy Ludwig (m. 1970)[1]
Children John Hughes III[1]
James Hughes[1]

John Wilden Hughes Jr.[2] (February 18, 1950 – August 6, 2009) was an American writer, director, and producer. Beginning as an author of humorous essays and stories for National Lampoon, he went on to write and direct some of the most successful comedy films of the 1980s and early 90s, including National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), and the sequels, National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985), and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989), which were based on two of his short stories for the magazine, and Mr. Mom (1983).

His work includes pioneering entries in the teen movie genre like Sixteen Candles (1984), Weird Science (1985), The Breakfast Club (1985), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), Pretty in Pink (1986), and Some Kind of Wonderful (1987). He is perhaps most famous today for his coming-of-age teen comedies, which often combined magic realism with honest depictions of small-town teenage life. Many of his most enduring characters from these years were written for Molly Ringwald, who was Hughes' muse.

Following this phase of his career he went on to make the adult comedies Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) and She's Having a Baby (1988), before moving into family films with Uncle Buck (1989), Baby's Day Out (1994), and two popular franchises: Beethoven (co-written under a pseudonym with Amy Holden-Jones) and Home Alone (first three written and produced by him). His work in this mode has often been criticised for being cliched and lazy, not up to the standard of his previous films.[3] Most have been popular with audiences, however; even Baby's Day Out, a box office bomb in the US, was a hit in South Asian countries, inspiring a franchise made for those markets.

While out on a walk one summer morning in New York, Hughes suffered a fatal heart attack and was pronounced dead at the hospital.[1] His legacy after his death was honored by many, and he was even honored at the 2010 Oscars by actors with whom he had worked, like Matthew Broderick, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Macaulay Culkin, and several others.[4][5] Actors whose careers Hughes helped launch include Michael Keaton, Anthony Michael Hall, Bill Paxton, Matthew Broderick, Macaulay Culkin, and the members of the Brat Pack.

Early life[edit]

Hughes was born in Lansing, Michigan on February 18, 1950, the son of Marion Joyce (Crawford), who volunteered in charity work, and John Hughes Sr., who worked in sales.[6][7] He spent the first twelve years of his life in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.[1] Hughes described himself as "kind of quiet" as a kid.[8]

"I grew up in a neighborhood that was mostly girls and old people. There weren't any boys my age, so I spent a lot of time by myself, imagining things. And every time we would get established somewhere, we would move. Life just started to get good in seventh grade, and then we moved to Chicago. I ended up in a really big high school, and I didn't know anybody. But then The Beatles came along (and) changed my whole life. And then Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home came out and really changed me. Thursday I was one person, and Friday I was another. My heroes were Dylan, John Lennon and Picasso, because they each moved their particular medium forward, and when they got to the point where they were comfortable, they always moved on."

In 1963, Hughes's family moved to Northbrook, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. This is where Hughes's father found work selling roofing materials.[1] There Hughes attended Glenbrook North High School, which gave him inspiration for the films that made his reputation in later years.[9] While he was homecoming painting murals at Glenbrook North,[1] he met Nancy Ludwig, who was a cheerleader.[10]


After dropping out of the University of Arizona,[11] Hughes began selling jokes to well-established performers such as Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers.[12] Hughes used his jokes to get an entry-level job at Needham, Harper & Steers as an advertising copywriter in Chicago in 1970[13] and later in 1974 at Leo Burnett Worldwide. During this time, he created what became the famous Edge "Credit Card Shaving Test" ad campaign.

Hughes' work on the Virginia Slims account frequently took him to the Philip Morris headquarters in New York City. This gave him the opportunity to spend time at the offices of the National Lampoon magazine.[1] Hughes subsequently penned a story, inspired by his family trips as a child, that was to become his calling card and entry onto the staff of the magazine.[12] The piece, "Vacation '58", later became the basis for the film National Lampoon's Vacation. Among his other contributions to the Lampoon, the April Fools' Day stories "My Penis" and "My Vagina" gave an early indication of Hughes's ear for the particular rhythm of teenage dialogue, as well as for the various indignities of teen life in general.

His first credited screenplay, Class Reunion, was written while still on staff at the magazine. The resulting film became the second disastrous attempt by the flagship to duplicate the runaway success of Animal House. It was Hughes's next screenplay for the imprint, National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), that would prove to be a major hit, putting the Lampoon back on the map. This, along with ‘European Vacation’, ‘Christmas Vacation’, and another Hughes script entitled Mr. Mom, earned Hughes a three-movie deal with Universal Studios.[14]

Hughes's directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, won almost unanimous praise when it was released in 1984, due in no small part to its more honest depiction of upper middle class high school life, in stark contrast to the Porky's-inspired comedies made at the time. It was the first in a string of efforts set in or around high school, including The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off (see also Brat Pack) and Some Kind of Wonderful.

To avoid being pigeonholed as a maker of teen comedies, Hughes branched out in 1987, directing the smash hit Planes, Trains and Automobiles starring Steve Martin and John Candy. His later output would not be so critically well received, though films like Uncle Buck proved popular. Hughes's greatest commercial success came with Home Alone, a film he wrote and produced about a child accidentally left behind when his family goes away for Christmas, forcing him to protect himself and his house from a pair of inept burglars. Home Alone was the top-grossing film of 1990, and remains the most successful live-action comedy of all time. He also wrote the sequels, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Home Alone 3. His last film as a director was 1991's Curly Sue.

He also wrote screenplays under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes (or Dantès), after the protagonist of Alexandre Dumas's novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Screenplays submitted under this pseudonym were Maid in Manhattan, Drillbit Taylor, and the Beethoven franchise.[12]

Collaboration with John Candy[edit]

Hughes collaborated with the actor John Candy in a number of movies, most of these were films that Candy starred in and Hughes had written. Candy had a role in National Lampoon's Vacation which Hughes had written, and that launched his own career. Hughes eventually directed Candy in the highly successful Planes, Trains & Automobiles and Uncle Buck. Candy also appeared in movies such as The Great Outdoors and Home Alone which Hughes had written and produced. Hughes produced Only the Lonely with Candy in the lead role. The two became close friends. Hughes was considerably shaken by John Candy's sudden death of a heart attack in 1994. "He talked a lot about how much he loved Candy—if Candy had lived longer, I think John would have made more films as a director," says Vince Vaughn, a friend of Hughes.[1]

Unproduced screenplays[edit]

  • Jaws 3: People 0 – a parody sequel to the popular series.[15] 1979
  • The History of Ohio From The Beginning of Time to the End of the Universe a.k.a. National Lampoon's Dacron, Ohio (with P. J. O'Rourke)[16] 1980
  • The Joy of Sex: A Dirty Love Story (some drafts with Dan Greenburg)[17] 1982
  • Debs – a satire on Texas debutantes (Aaron Spelling Productions) 1983[18]
  • The New Kid [19] 1986
  • Bartholomew Vs. Neff – a vehicle that would have starred Sylvester Stallone and John Candy as feuding neighbors.[20] 1991
  • Oil and Vinegar – A soon-to-be-married man and a hitchhiking girl end up talking about their lives during the length of the car ride.[21] 1987
  • Black Cat Bone: The Return of Huckleberry Finn[19] 1991
  • The Nanny[22] 1991
  • The Bugster[22] 1991
  • Ball 'n' Chain[22] 1991
  • Live-action Peanuts MovieWarner Bros. Pictures acquired a film rights to make a live-action Charlie Brown movie, with Hughes both producing and writing.[19] 1993
  • The Bee – a feature length Disney film that actor Daniel Stern was attached to direct.[23] 1994
  • Tickets – Teens wait overnight for free tickets to a farewell concert.[24] 1996
  • Grisbys Go Broke – a wealthy family loses their fortune, forcing them to move to the other side of the tracks during Christmas.[25] 2003
  • Sequels to Sixteen Candles,[26][27] The Breakfast Club,[19] and Ferris Bueller's Day Off [19]

Personal life[edit]

Hughes was married to Nancy Ludwig in 1970, when he was 20 and she was 19. They had two kids, John Hughes III (born 1976) and James Hughes (born 1979). After Hughes left the spotlight, he began to keep more than 300 moleskin notebooks and recorded daily observations and other ideas. He had a grandson, whom he was visiting the night before he died.[1] In 1994, Hughes retired from the public eye and moved back to the Chicago area. In the years following, Hughes rarely granted interviews to the media save a select few in 1999 to promote the soundtrack album to Reach the Rock, an independent film he wrote.[28] The album was compiled by Hughes's son, John Hughes III, and released on his son's Chicago-based record label, Hefty Records.[29] He also recorded an audio commentary for the 1999 DVD release of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.


On August 5, 2009, Hughes and Ludwig flew to New York City to visit James's newly born son.[1] James said that Hughes appeared to be in good health that night, and that the family had made plans for the next day.[1] On the morning of August 6, Hughes was taking a walk near his hotel, on West 55th Street in Manhattan, when he suffered a heart attack.[1] He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. He was 59 years old.[30] Hughes's funeral was held on August 11 in Chicago; he was buried at Lake Forest Cemetery.[31]


The pilot episode of the NBC comedy Community, broadcast on September 17, 2009, was dedicated to Hughes.[32] The episode included several references to The Breakfast Club and ended with a cover of "Don't You (Forget About Me)".[33] The One Tree Hill episode titled "Don't You Forget About Me", broadcast on February 1, 2010, ended with a scene similar to the ending scene of Sixteen Candles and included some other references to his movies such as Home Alone. The 2011 Bob's Burgers episode Sheesh! Cab, Bob? also paid homage to Sixteen Candles.

After Hughes' death, many of those who knew him commented on the impact Hughes had on them and on the film industry. Judd Apatow said "Basically, my stuff is just John Hughes films with four-letter words. I feel like a part of my childhood has died. Nobody made me laugh harder or more often than John Hughes."[12] Molly Ringwald said, "I was stunned and incredibly sad to hear about the death of John Hughes. He was and will always be such an important part of my life.... He will be missed – by me and by everyone that he has touched. My heart and all my thoughts are with his family now."[34] Matthew Broderick also released his own statement, saying, "I am truly shocked and saddened by the news about my old friend John Hughes. He was a wonderful, very talented guy and my heart goes out to his family."[34]

The 82nd Academy Awards (2010) included a tribute to Hughes' work. A retrospective of clips from Hughes' films was followed by cast members from several of them, including Molly Ringwald, Matthew Broderick, Macaulay Culkin, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall and Jon Cryer,[4] gathering on stage to commemorate the man and his contributions to the film industry.[35]

Movies with scenes taking place in fictional high schools named after Hughes include: the 2001 satire Not Another Teen Movie, the 2010–2013 Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up, and the 2016 Hallmark movie Date With Love.

Hughes' work has also influenced a new generation of millennial filmmakers,[36] including M. H. Murray of Teenagers fame, who has cited Hughes as one of his main influences in interviews,[37][38] once stating: “I loved how John Hughes wrote teens ... They were flawed in this genuine sort of way.”[39] Kelly Fremon Craig, who wrote and directed The Edge of Seventeen, also cited Hughes as an influence.[40][41]



Year Title Director (Executive)
Writer Other Note
1982 National Lampoon's Class Reunion
Actor: 'Girl' with paper bag on head (uncredited)
1983 Mr. Mom
National Lampoon's Vacation
Also lyricist for "Walley World National Anthem"
Nate and Hayes
1984 Sixteen Candles
1985 The Breakfast Club
Actor: Brian's dad (uncredited)
European Vacation
Weird Science
1986 Pretty in Pink
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Actor: Man running between cabs (uncredited)
1987 Some Kind of Wonderful
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Also lyricist for "I Can Take Anything"
1988 She's Having a Baby
The Great Outdoors
1989 Uncle Buck
Christmas Vacation
1990 Home Alone
1991 Career Opportunities
Only the Lonely
Curly Sue
1992 Beethoven
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
1993 Dennis the Menace
Beethoven's 2nd
Based on characters created by Edmond Dantés
1994 Baby's Day Out
Miracle on 34th Street
1995 Mallrats
Special thanks
1996 101 Dalmatians
1997 Flubber
Home Alone 3
1998 Reach the Rock
2000 Beethoven's 3rd
Based on characters created by Edmond Dantés
2001 Just Visiting
New Port South
2002 Maid in Manhattan
2003 Home Alone 4
Based on characters created by Hughes
2008 Drillbit Taylor


Year Title Writer Other Note
1979 Delta House
Wrote 5 episodes
1983 At Ease
Creator; creative consultant for 1 episode
1990-1991 Ferris Bueller
Left uncredited; based on the film
Uncle Buck
Uncredited; based on the film
1994-1998 Weird Science
Based on the film
1994 Hal Roach: Hollywood's King of Laughter
Himself: TV documentary
1995 Biography
Himself: To John with Love: A Tribute to John Candy
2000 American Adventure
Based on characters by Hughes
2001 E! True Hollywood Story
Himself: Sixteen Candles

Posthumous credits[edit]

Year Title Credit Note
2009 Community In memorial Episode: Pilot
Spud In memory of Short
Big Tingz
Don't You Forget About Me Documentary
Teen Spirit: Teenagers and Hollywood Archive footage TV documentary
2010 82nd Academy Awards Special memorial tribute
Hotel Hell Vacation Based on original characters created by Hughes Short
Jelly In memory of
One Tree Hill Episode: Don't You Forget About Me
Don't You Forget About Me Short
Darren and Abby
2011 Hughes The Force Thanks: thank you for inspiring generations of people Short
Beethoven's Christmas Adventure Based on original characters Direct-to-video film
2012 ParaNorman Dedicatee
Home Alone: The Holiday Heist Based on original characters - uncredited TV movie
Special Collector's Edition In memory of Episode: Blu-ray: Las vacaciones europeas de una chiflada familia americana
Jobriath A.D. Special thanks Documentary
2013 A Place to Call His Own Inspiration
First Period Special thanks
2014 The Greatest 80s Movies Archive footage TV documentary
Tagträumer: Mein Herz Special thanks Short
Out of Print The director would like to thank Documentary
The Truth About You Very special thanks
Beethoven's Treasure Tails Based on characters created by Edmond Dantés
2015 Vacation Based on characters created by Hughes
The Goldbergs Dedicated to Episode: Barry Goldberg's Day Off
DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: The Story of the National Lampoon Archive footage Documentary
2016 Uncle Buck Based on Uncle Buck by Hughes Second television incarnation based on the film
Entertainment Tonight Archive footage 3 episodes
2017 Pizza Special thanks Short
Studio Bagel Episode: Flashback Museum
The Insider Archive footage Episode: Episode #13.204

Don't You Forget About Me[edit]

Don't You Forget About Me is a documentary about four Canadian filmmakers who go in search of Hughes after his drop out of the spotlight in 1994, featuring interviews with actors from preceding Hughes films, notably missing Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, and Matthew Broderick. The movie is named after the Simple Minds song of the same name, which was the theme song for the film The Breakfast Club which Hughes produced, wrote, and directed.

Don't You Forget About Me is also the name of an anthology of contemporary writers writing about the films of John Hughes, edited by Jaime Clarke, with a foreword by Ally Sheedy, published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment. Writers include Steve Almond, Julianna Baggott, Lisa Borders, Ryan Boudinot, T Cooper, Quinn Dalton, Emily Franklin, Lisa Gabriele, Tod Goldberg, Nina de Gramont, Tara Ison, Allison Lynn, John McNally, Dan Pope, Lewis Robinson, Ben Schrank, Elizabeth Searle, Mary Sullivan, Rebecca Wolff, and Moon Unit Zappa.



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  2. ^ Goodman, Dean (August 6, 2009). ""Brat Pack" Director John Hughes Dies of Heart Attack". Reuters. Retrieved October 15, 2010. 
  3. ^ RedLetterMedia review of Baby's Day Out,
  4. ^ a b BuzzSugar (March 7, 2010). "Video Tribute to John Hughes at the 2010 Oscars". Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
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  6. ^ "John Hughes Biography (1950–)". 
  7. ^ "John W. HUGHES's Obituary on Arizona Daily Star". Arizona Daily Star. 
  8. ^ "Molly Ringwald Interviews John Hughes". Seventeen Magazine. Spring 1986. Archived from the original on August 9, 2009. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  9. ^ Michael Joseph Gross (May 9, 2004). "When the Losers Ruled in Teenage Movies". The New York Times. p. 4. Retrieved July 21, 2010. 
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  13. ^ McLellan, Dennis (August 7, 2009). "John Hughes dies at 59; writer-director of '80s teen films". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  14. ^ Brady, Celia (August 1990). "Big Baby". Spy: 66–77. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  15. ^ "More Than Meets the Mogwai: Jaws 3/People 0 – Script Review". Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  16. ^ "National Lampoon's The History of Ohio from the Dawn of Time Until the End of the Universe a.k.a. National Lampoon's Dacron, OH (1980)". Retrieved May 26, 2016. 
  17. ^ "06 – NATIONAL LAMPOON'S THE JOY OF SEX (PART TWO 1981–1982)". Retrieved Jan 24, 2016. 
  18. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk (2015). John Hughes: A Life in Film. p. 41. 
  19. ^ a b c d e Evans, Bradford (July 12, 2012). "The Lost Projects of John Hughes". Splitsider. Retrieved Oct 6, 2014. 
  20. ^ Carter, Bill (August 4, 1991). "Him Alone". New York Times. Retrieved March 3, 2009. 
  21. ^ Sciretta, Peter (February 18, 2010). "Details About One of John Hughes Unproduced Screenplays". /Film. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  22. ^ a b c "20th Previews Foxy Lineup". Variety. February 10, 1991. Retrieved Oct 7, 2014. 
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  26. ^ Miles Bradford (2010). "Molly Ringwald not a fan of remaking one of her classic 80's movies". KABC-TV. Retrieved 2017-08-20. 
  27. ^ William Keck (June 5, 2005). "MTV awards honor actors". USA Today. Retrieved August 20, 2017. 
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  30. ^ "Tracking down the place where we lost John Hughes". August 13, 2009. Retrieved August 6, 2009. 
  31. ^ Kori Rumore (September 7, 2017). "Buried in Chicago: Where the famous rest in peace". Chicago Tribune. 
  32. ^ "NBC's 'Community' dedicates its pilot to the late John Hughes". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on May 1, 2015. 
  33. ^ "NBC web site for ''Community''". July 18, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2011. [not specific enough to verify]
  34. ^ a b "Eighties Stars Speak About John Hughes". Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  35. ^ "Oscars 2010: John Hughes Remembered at Academy Awards". Archived from the original on July 11, 2011. Retrieved March 7, 2010. 
  36. ^ "How 80's Filmmaker, John Hughes Changed the World | Talent Monthly Magazine". Archived from the original on November 4, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2016. 
  37. ^ "Teenagers - The Canadian Skins - The Daily Spectacle". Retrieved 2016-11-04. 
  38. ^ "Exclusive Interview with Teenagers Creator Mathew Murray". TalkNerdyWithUs. 2016-04-29. Retrieved 2016-11-04. 
  39. ^ News, Mississauga. "Mississauga director's web series a raw take on teenage life". Retrieved 2016-11-04. 
  40. ^ "Hailee Steinfeld Talks Making Coming-of-Age Film 'Edge of Seventeen' at TIFF". Retrieved 2016-11-04. 
  41. ^ "Review: The Edge of Seventeen is a Modern Day Tribute to John Hughes". We Live Entertainment. 2016-09-25. Retrieved 2016-11-04. 

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