Thursday, August 6, 2009

John Hughes is gone

John Hughes, writer, director and producer of some of the most memorable, beloved and influential films ever, has died today at the age of 59 from a heart attack.

Hughes was known as the "King of 80s Teen Comedies," with films such as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but he also created for adults with Planes, Trains and Automobiles, National Lampoon's Vacation and Uncle Buck, and for children with Home Alone and Beethoven (yes, the one with the St. Bernard).

One constant among his work was whether he was writing about little Kevin being left home alone, Neal Page and Del Griffith running afoul at every transportation turn trying to get home for Thanksgiving, Ferris taking a day off to help his best friend get out of his life's funk, or everyone in Sam's family forgetting her sixteenth birthday, it was always about character. You remember the characters because Hughes made them real; it wasn't just goofy situations and crude dialogue like so many of his imitators generate. You understood what his characters were going through, and you felt for them.

Another thing common to a John Hughes movie is the memorable and often quotable dialogue, fitting for a man who worked as an advertising agency copy writer before being a filmmaker:

"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

"I think you're all fucked in the head. We're ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I'll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. It's a quest for fun. I'm gonna have fun and you're gonna have fun. We're all gonna have so much fucking fun we'll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles. You'll be whistling 'Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah' out of you're assholes! I gotta be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!"

"Marcie Dahlgren-Frost. Dahlgren is my maiden name, Frost is my married name. I'm single again, but I never bothered to remove the Frost. And I get compliments on the hyphen."

"Captain Hayes."

"Stop hitting people with your Rex Harrison hat!"

"You know everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You're a miracle! Your stories have NONE of that. They're not even amusing ACCIDENTALLY! "Honey, I'd like you to meet Del Griffith, he's got some amusing anecdotes for you. Oh and here's a gun so you can blow your brains out. You'll thank me for it." I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They'd say, "How can you stand it?" I'd say, "Cause I've been with Del Griffith. I can take ANYTHING.""

John Hughes had a voice and vision unequalled in Hollywood. Many have tried to imitate his success. None have come close. He will be missed, but we will always have his movies.

(The quoted films in order from the top were Ferris Bueller's Day Off, National Lampoon's Vacation, Uncle Buck, Nate & Hayes, Weird Science, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Quotes obtained from

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