Thursday, August 6, 2009


John Hughes, the writer-director of a memorable string of 1980s teen films — from The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles to Ferris Bueller's Day Off — has died of a heart attack, according to his Los Angeles-based publicists.

Hughes died suddenly during a walk while visiting family in Manhattan, spokeswoman Michelle Bega said. He was 59.

He was born in Michigan but later moved to suburban Chicago. He began his writing career as an advertising copywriter in the Windy City — and set most of his films in the Chicago area.

Much of his work focused on high school antics coupled with teen angst. It was a comic formula that made stars of such actors as Molly Ringwald, Matthew Broderick, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy and Anthony Michael Hall.

Other future stars who made early appearances in Hughes films included John Cusack, Jon Cryer, Lili Taylor and Steve Carell.

He directed just eight films, but as a writer he was behind a larger mixture of box-office hits and cult classics, including Home Alone and the National Lampoon comedy Vacation. Other writing credits: Beethoven, Maid in Manhattan and his final film story credit, for the Owen Wilson comedy Drillbit Taylor.

Hughes began his Hollywood career in the late 1970s as a writer for the short-lived television series Delta House, based on the successful film Animal House.

Then came writing credits for the feature films Class Reunion and Mr. Mom, as well as Vacation.

In 1984, Hughes rocketed to fame with the release of his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, which he also wrote. The film launched the careers of Ringwald and Hall.

Both stars teamed with Hughes again the following year for the quintessential high-school-angst film, The Breakfast Club. The film's group of young stars included Ringwald, Hall, Estevez, Nelson and Sheedy. They became known as the "Brat Pack."

Hughes followed that success with Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, featuring a young Broderick. In later years, he went on to direct Planes, Trains & Automobiles — featuring an adult cast pairing Steve Martin and John Candy — She's Having a Baby and Curly Sue.

As Hughes advanced into middle age, his commercial touch faded and he increasingly withdrew from public life. He wrote just a handful of scripts over the past decade. He was rarely interviewed or photographed.

According to his publicists, Hughes spent much of the last decade maintaining a farm in northern Illinois.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy; sons John and James; and four grandchildren.

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