Director John Hughes Dies at 59

Hughes turned minutiae of high school life into box office gold in the 1980s.

ByLindsay Goldwert
August 06, 2009, 5:24 PM

Aug. 6, 2009 -- John Hughes, director of iconic films of the 1980s such as "The Breakfast Club," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Pretty in Prink," has died of a heart attack at age 59 while visiting family in Manhattan, according to his spokesman.

Born in 1950, he landed on the Hollywood map as a screenwriter, writing the classic 1983 Chevy Chase family road trip film "National Lampoon's Vacation" and the Michael Keaton dad-at-home comedy "Mr. Mom" the same year.

Hughes's ear for teen speak and for honing in on the minutiae of high school life inspired high critical praise as well as box office gold. In 1984, his first successful film, "Sixteen Candles," honed in on the pubescent humiliations and coming-of-age trials of an offbeat heroine, played by Molly Ringwald, on her 16th birthday.

Hughes, who set most of his films in an upper-middle-class suburb of Chicago, had a keen ear for teenage angst and the social strata of high school life, themes he developed with great success in "The Breakfast Club" (1985), "Weird Science"(1985) and the wildly successful "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986).

He continued to be a prolific screenwriter, writing standout films such as "Some Kind of Wonderful" (1985), "Pretty in Pink" (1986) and the record-smashing "Home Alone" (1990).

He used many of the same actors in his films, launching the careers of members of the teenage "Brat Pack" -- Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Rob Lowe. Later in his writing career, he wrote vehicles for the late comedian John Candy including "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (1987) and "Uncle Buck" (1989).

He continued writing films in the last two decades but took a step back from the spotlight to spend time with his family and work on his farm in northern Illinois. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Nancy, two sons, John and James, and four grandchildren.

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