John Hughes, whose coming-of-age movies captured an American teenage generation between Elvis Presley and Britney Spears, died Thursday of an apparent heart attack while walking on a Manhattan street.
He was 59.
Hughes, a Michigan native who lived in Illinois, was visiting his family in New York, according to a spokeswoman.
Matthew Broderick, who starred in Hughes’ 1986 hit “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” said he was “truly shocked and saddened by the news about my old friend. … He was a wonderful, very talented guy and my heart goes out to his family.”
Hughes’ 1984 film “Sixteen Candles” established him as the signature teen filmmaker of that decade, and made “John Hughes movie” into shorthand for a sometimes agonizing but ultimately upbeat look at teenage years.
“Sixteen Candles” made a star of Molly Ringwald, and he directed her again in two subsequent films, “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink.”
Ringwald said she was “stunned and incredibly sad” to hear about Hughes’ death.
“He will be missed – by me and by everyone that he has touched,” she said in a statement on People.com.
Some of the actors in his films, including Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson, became known as the Brat Pack.
In contrast to raucous 1980s teen comedies like the “Porky’s” series, Hughes films were sweet, often sentimental. Their heroes and heroines, who started out feeling like misfits, were rewarded for the basic virtues of good hearts and decency.
He kept them from being simply throwbacks to some romanticized earlier age by effective use of realistic teen dialogue.
Hughes was working as an ad copywriter when he broke into showbiz by selling jokes to comedians like Rodney Dangerfield. He went to work for the National Lampoon and scored his breakthrough by writing the screenplay for the 1983 hit film “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” which starred Chevy Chase.
That film showcased Hughes’ ear for droll absurdity. When the dimwitted brother-in-law of Chase’s character is grilling dinner and says he’s using Hamburger Helper, Chase mutters that yeah, that’s good with a little meat. The brother-in-law says, “You add meat?”
His high school movies centered on the girl who doesn’t feel pretty enough, the guy who feels like an idiot, the arrogant bullies who pick on them, and the awkward moments they endure before it all works out.
Hughes’ movies also featured lavish and smart use of music.
Hughes did a few more teen movies, including “Weird Science” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” then scored with “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” in 1987 and even bigger with “Home Alone” in 1990.
After that, however, he headed for the exits. The last film he directed was “Curly Sue,” in 1991. In 1994, he retired from both the film business and the public eye – which he had never enjoyed.
His last public project was writing an independent film, “Reach the Rock,” in 1999.
Hughes is survived by his wife, Nancy, to whom he was married for 39 years, and two sons, James and John.
Wow, it really is a terrible year for celebrities. I think I speak for all the brains, the athletes, the basket cases, the princesses, and the criminals when I say that he’ll be sorely missed.