Thursday, August 6, 2009

John Hughes, 1950-2009. R.I.P.

John Hughes, writer/producer/director, died suddenly today while jogging in New York's Central Park. He was only 59 years old.

Hughes is best known as a director even though he only directed eight films. But if you grew up in the 1980s, chances are you saw films like Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985) Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) and Uncle Buck (1989). Those last two movies starred John Candy, another comic genius who died too young.

Hughes also produced a number of films including Some Kind of Wonderful (1987), Home Alone (1990) and Only The Lonely (1991), another movie that starred Candy. He also had a small role in Home Alone.

Home Alone resonated with me when it came out for this simple reason. When my family moved from Thunder Bay to Victoria, British Columbia (and back) and did so by car I had this fear that I would be left behind and forgotten at one of our stops. Of course, such a fear was irrational. But isn't most fear? Yet moving causes uncertainty especially if you don't know where you stand in the grand scheme of things. Home Alone tapped into those feelings in a humorous yet poignant way. After watching that movie I knew that I wasn't the first child to experience that anxiety and that I wouldn't be the last.

John Hughes made people into household names. Ben Stein would have had a brilliant career as a lawyer, economist, academic and political speechwriter. But he would not have been a household name had he not been cast as a monotone high school economics teacher in Ferris Bueller. To be candid, I was never a fan of that movie but Stein was the best part of it. Stein had an opportunity to pay tribute to Hughes in an interview he did over the phone with Neil Cavuto. Stein described Hughes "as the poet of the youth of post-war America, he was to them what Shakespeare was to the Elizabethean age." Now that is a tribute.

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