06 August 2009

John Hughes, writer/director and the voice of 80's teens, dies

As a writer and director, John Hughes, who died today at the age of 59 from a heart attack, found an ability to communicate to teens in the 1980s. His sharp-eyed look into their lives was a rarity in the age of Porky's and other somewhat nefarious teen comedies that proliferated the 80s like stale perfume. With such films as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Some Kind of Wonderful, he gave new insights into their lives rarely, if ever explored, and offered looks into their social habits.

Other great films included Pretty in Pink, National Lampoon's Vacation, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the Thanksgiving classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles and the Home Alone franchise.

"He was such a great writer who created so many enduring characters for film, both as a director and a writer. His real gift was in creating these identifiable characters," actor, writer and comedian Steve Martin, who starred in Planes with John Candy, told CNN. "The script for 'Planes, Trains, and Automobiles' was the best script I had ever read," Martin added. "I asked John how long it took to write it, he said, 'I wrote it over the weekend.' The weekend. That shows you what he was able to do."

Like most prolific writers, he turned out some duds, such as Curly Sue and She's Having a Baby, but he could still save them somewhat with his sharp dialogue and great catch phrases. Even the uneven, heavy FX movie such as Weird Science (a personal favorite) still had some great lines in it.

He also did wonders for my home town of Chicago, were most of his films we set and filmed. Who cannot forget the parade sequence in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, with star Matthew Broderick singing Twist & Shout?

Hollywood did not make films for teens like he did before the 1980s and they've not done such a great job since he stepped back - he was spending more time with his family, maintaining a functioning farm in northern Illinois city of Harvard, where he supported independent arts.

He was a writer who understood the written word and how to make it work in a film, but he was also an important voice for teens and young adults during a decade that altered how young and old interact.

A sad passing indeed.

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