18 Feb 1950 1
Lansing MI 1
06 Aug 2009 1
New York City NY 1

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Full Name:
John Wilden Hughes Jr 1
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John Hughes 1
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John Hughes 2
18 Feb 1950 1
Lansing MI 1
Male 1
18 Feb 1950 2
06 Aug 2009 1
New York City NY 1
Cause: Heart Attack 1
06 Aug 2009 2
Father: John Wilden Hughes Sr 1
Writer, Director 1
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John Hughes, Who Captured the Lives of Teenagers in the 1980s, Dies at 59

  LOS ANGELES — John Hughes, the once-prolific filmmaker whose sweet and sassy comedies like “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club” plumbed the lives of teenagers in the 1980s, died Thursday on a morning walk while visiting Manhattan. He was 59.

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John Hughes in 1990. More Photos »

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The director John Hughes in 1984.More Photos >

The cause was a heart attack, according to a statement from the publicists Paul Bloch and Michelle Bega.                                                        Mr. Hughes turned out a series of hits that captured audiences and touched popular culture — and then flummoxed both Hollywood and his fans by suddenly fading from the scene in the early 1990s. He surfaced sometimes as a writer, occasionally under his pen name, Edmond Dantès, the real name of the Dumas hero in “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

His seeming disappearance inspired a 2009 documentary, “Don’t You Forget About Me,” by four young filmmakers who went in search of a man who was by then being compared to J. D. Salinger because of his reclusiveness. It became a tribute to Mr. Hughes’s influence on youth culture.

Mr. Hughes, who began his career as an advertising copywriter in Chicago, had been living quietly on a farm in northern Illinois. He is survived by his wife, the former Nancy Ludwig, whom he met in high school; two sons, John and James; and four grandchildren.

John Wilden Hughes Jr. was born on Feb. 18, 1950, in Lansing, Mich. His family moved when he was 13, to the Chicago area. His father worked in sales, and he lived in a middle-class, all-American reality that became the mainstay of his films.

“I didn’t have this tortured childhood,” he told The New York Times in a 1991 interview. “I liked it.”

While visiting New York during his advertising days, Mr. Hughes hung around the offices of National Lampoon magazine and was published when he showed a gift for comedy. Once having begun work as a screenwriter, he pursued the craft relentlessly.

In the 1991 interview, he said: “If I’m on a roll, and I finish a script at 3:00, I’ll start another at 3:02.”

Mr. Hughes’ biggest success, in box-office terms, was the“Home Alone” series, of which he was the writer and a producer. The first film, released by 20th Century Fox in 1990, turned the simple tale of a young boy, played byMacaulay Culkin, who was forgotten by his vacationing family, into a monster hit. The film took in more than $285 million at the domestic box office and spawned two sequels.

He had a reputation for discovering and bringing out the best in young actors. In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Culkin said: “I was a fan of both his work and a fan of him as a person. The world has lost not only a quintessential filmmaker whose influence will be felt for generations, but a great and decent man.”

Mr. Hughes’s greatest professional effect came from a series of teen-oriented films he directed in the 1980s, beginning with “Sixteen Candles” in 1984. It was a whip-smart but tender look at coming of age, with Molly Ringwald as a girl whose 16th birthday is forgotten in the whirlwind of her sister’s wedding; it featured emerging actors like Anthony Michael Hall,John CusackJoan Cusack and Jami Gertz, among others.

“The Breakfast Club” followed in 1985, with “Weird Science,” immediately behind, in the same year. By then, the troupe of young actors who showed up in films by Mr. Hughes and others who worked in the same vein had expanded to include Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy; they were tagged “The Brat Pack.”

Probably no film so completely captured the arch and almost noxious, yet somehow loveable, quality of Mr. Hughes’s characters as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” The movie, released by Paramount Pictures in 1986, starred Matthew Broderick as a ne’er-do-well high-schooler who spends more energy avoiding the classroom than he might have used inside.

“He can lie, manipulate and con people with inspired genius, especially in the service of a noble cause such as playing hooky,” Nina Darnton wrote of the Bueller character in a less-than-admiring New York Times review.

But the movie took in $70 million at the box office, and wound up 20 years later on an Entertainment Weekly list of the 50 best high school movies of all time, alongside others from Mr. Hughes.

If the magic seemed to fade — Mr. Hughes’s last movie as a director, “Curly Sue,” fell flat in 1991 — he continued to write for the screen. As recently as last year, working as Edmond Dantès, he shared a story credit with Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown on “Drillbit Taylor,” in which Owen Wilson played a low-budget bodyguard hired to keep a couple of kids from getting pushed around.

Some in Hollywood surmised that he had stepped away simply because, for all his successes, he did not particularly like the film business and its ways. He was known as a stickler for control who often tangled with executives even as he made their companies a fortune.

Yet Mr. Hughes ultimately marked the business so indelibly that his name has become identified with an entire genre: comedies about disaffected youth.

John Hughes dies at 59; writer-director of '80s teen films Hughes, whose films showed an understanding and respect for adolescents, directed such films as 'Sixteen Candles,' 'The Breakfast Club' and 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off,' and wrote 'Home Alone.'



Jon Cryer, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, MollyRingwald, Macaulay, Judd Nelson, and Matthew Broderick during 2010 John Hughes Tribute at the Oscars

John Hughes, the influential writer-director who captured the humor and angst of the teen experience, 1980s style, in hit movies such as "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," died Thursday. He was 59.

Hughes, who maintained a working farm in Northern Illinois and distanced himself from Hollywood more than a decade ago, died of a heart attack during a morning walk in Manhattan while visiting family in New York, spokeswoman Michelle Bega said.

A onetime ad man and National Lampoon writer, Hughes became a king of comedy in the 1980s as a teen-movie auteur who understood what it meant to be an adolescent with a penchant for outcasts and geeks.

"I am truly shocked and saddened by the news about my old friend John Hughes," actor Matthew Broderick, who played the title role in the 1986 comedy "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," said Thursday. "He was a wonderful, very talented guy and my heart goes out to his family."

Actor Macaulay Culkin, who starred in the 1990 Hughes-written comedy "Home Alone," said, "I was a fan of both his work and a fan of him as a person. The world has lost not only a quintessential filmmaker whose influence will be felt for generations, but a great and decent man."

Hughes already had written the hit comedies "Mr. Mom" and National Lampoon's "Vacation" when he made his debut as a writer-director with "Sixteen Candles," the 1984 film starringMolly Ringwald as a high school girl whose parents forget that it's her 16th birthday.

Ringwald was among the young actors and actresses -- dubbed the Brat Pack -- who gained fame in Hughes' movies, including Anthony Michael HallAlly SheedyJohn Cusack,Emilio EstevezRobert Downey Jr. and Judd Nelson.

Saying she was "stunned and incredibly sad" to hear of Hughes' death, Ringwald said in a statement that 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."

In a 1985 interview with Chicago Tribune movie critic Gene Siskel, Hughes said that many filmmakers "portray teenagers as immoral and ignorant with pursuits that are pretty base. They seem to think that teenagers aren't very bright. But I haven't found that to be the case. I listen to kids. I respect them. I don't discount anything they have to say just because they're only 16 years old."

Although Hughes' films often played teenage travails as both high drama and farce, his characters were emotionally honest and instantly recognizable to audiences.

The young people in his movies were usually painfully self-aware, often sounding more like adults when discussing their social status and the hierarchies of high school, and his unique take on adolescence influenced a generation of writers and directors.

Comedy writer-director Judd Apatow told The Times in 2008: "John Hughes wrote some of the great outsider characters of all time. It's pretty ridiculous to hear people talk about the movies we've been doing, with outrageous humor and sweetness all combined, as if they were an original idea. I mean, it was all there first in John Hughes' films."

Apatow said in a statement Thursday that he felt "like a part of my childhood has died. Nobody made me laugh harder or more often than John Hughes."

In writing about Hughes in 1999, film critic Elvis Mitchell wrote: "No one before him had created a body of work that treated adolescent crisis as if it were a tragedy disrupting the world as the millennium nears.

"His balance of sophistication and cruelty, scored with the smartest use of contemporary music a director has ever brought to his pictures on a consistent basis, played ever so brilliantly to an audience who felt it had never seen its own stories on the screen before."

Hughes' other credits as a writer-director include "Weird Science," "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," "She's Having a Baby," "Uncle Buck" and -- in 1991, his final film as a director -- "Curly Sue."

Among Hughes' credits as a writer are "Pretty in Pink," "Some Kind of Wonderful," "Christmas Vacation," "Dennis the Menace" and "101 Dalmations."

Steve Martin, who starred with John Candy in "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," described Hughes on Thursday as a "great director, but his gift was in screenwriting. He created deep and complex characters, rich in humanity and humor."

Hughes reportedly moved back to the Chicago area in 1995 and has kept a very low profile since then.

"He's our generation's J.D. Salinger," filmmaker Kevin Smith told The Times this year. "He touched a generation and then the dude checked out."

Bruce Berman, chairman and CEO of Village Roadshow who was executive in charge of production at Universal and Warner Bros. when he worked with Hughes, said Hughes "quit because he really didn't like the studio system. All considered, I think he could have stayed as long as he wanted."

But Berman, who last talked to Hughes a year ago, believes that what kept him in Chicago "is that he made enough money that he didn't have to deal with Hollywood any more."

Hughes was born Feb. 18, 1950, in Lansing, Mich. At 13, his family moved to the suburbs of Chicago, where he set many of his movies.

After dropping out of the University of Arizona at age 20, Hughes became an advertising copy writer in Chicago and began writing jokes for Rodney Dangerfield and other comics on the side.

He was a creative director at the Leo Burnett agency when he took a pay cut to accept a job at National Lampoon, where he had been freelancing.

His first screenplay was for National Lampoon's 1982 comedy "Class Reunion."

A complete list of Hughes' surviving family members was not immediately available, but among his survivors are his wife of 39 years, Nancy; his sons, John and James; and four grandchildren.  

Eddie Bracken and John Hughes, Baby's Day Out

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