Director John Hughes Dies

John Hughes, the director of 1980s' coming-of-age films like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club has died in Manhattan. He was 59.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

What it was to be a teenager in the 1980s was encapsulated in the work of one man: filmmaker John Hughes. John Hughes died today of a heart attack. He was 59.

He had a long career, but when you talk about a John Hughes movie, you're talking about his films from the '80s, "The Breakfast Club," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Pretty in Pink."

"Pretty in Pink" was about a girl played by Molly Ringwald, trying to fit in at school. In this scene, she talks with her father played by Harry Dean Stanton.

(Soundbite of movie, "Pretty in Pink")

Mr. HARRY DEAN STANTON (Actor): (As Jack Walsh) So, are you in love?

Ms. MOLLY RINGWALD (Actress): (As Andie Walsh) Yeah, I think I am.

Mr. STANTON: (As Jack Walsh) Well, who is this guy?

Ms. RINGWALD: (As Andie Walsh) His name is Blane, and he's a senior. He's so beautiful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. RINGWALD: (As Andie Walsh) He's a richie.

Mr. STANTON: (As Jack Walsh) A what-ie?

Ms. RINGWALD: (As Andie Walsh) A richie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. RINGWALD: (As Andie Walsh) It's kind of stupid. It's just his family has a lot of money.

Mr. STANTON: (As Jack Walsh) Well, is that a problem?

Ms. RINGWALD: (As Andie Walsh) I don't know, it's just weird. You know, his friends have a lot of money and he has a lot of money. He drives a BMW. Just -I don't know. I'm not really sure if they're going to accept me.

BRAND: In the 1990s, John Hughes stopped directing and focused on writing and producing. He shunned Hollywood and didn't do many interviews.

Our film critic Bob Mondello joins us now.

Hi, Bob.

BOB MONDELLO: Hey. Good to be here.

BRAND: Tell us, what did a John Hughes film capture about teenagers?

MONDELLO: Well, it made teenagers seem real. I - that was the most salient thing. If you think back to the 1980s and what kind of pictures were out then about young people, they were the "Animal House" type pictures, "Porky's," those kinds of things. And those pictures weren't about the kinds of traumas that are kids seem to be going through during adolescence. They were just about broad comedy.

What he did was he took all the things that were sort of difficult about being a teenager: the insecurities, the difficulties of adolescence, the things that you bottle up inside, and he made them things that you shared with millions of people in a movie theater. He made high school seem the way most of us remembered high school.

BRAND: And it wasn't just that. It was also funny. I mean, his movies were funny and the characters were endearing.

MONDELLO: Oh, of course, they were. And I mean, you know, listen.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: There's nothing quite like being able to laugh to somebody's awkwardness who is not you, you know? It's just - it just makes a lot easier.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: They were amazingly successful comedies. I mean, actually, "Home Alone," I think, remains the most watched live/action comedy ever from Hollywood. So he made a lot of pictures like that. And they were very successful, very humorous, but also human. They were very much about the difficulties of being adolescent.

BRAND: And sort of like Judd Apatow does now, John Hughes worked with the same actors over and over again: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, John Candy. Why did he do that?

MONDELLO: Well, I think he was comfortable working with the same people because they - I mean, listen, he brought up wonderful performances. And I'm thinking of Ally Sheedy. She was a glorious young creature. Just a discovery when he came upon her. Molly Ringwald, he turned into this - it's almost as if he wouldn't have been able to talk to her in high school, so there was a place where he could talk to her, you know? It gave you that sensation when you are watching the picture.

I think he worked with these people over and over again because he felt, you know, more comfortable working with them. He was, you know, he was sort of a recluse, apparently, in real life.

BRAND: And these kids were recluses, too. They were outsiders.

MONDELLO: Yeah, that's right. I mean, if you think about the pictures, like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," or "The Breakfast Club," which was actually set in detention - I mean, these are the kids who don't get along, who are kind of out of synch with everybody else.

He - I read somewhere that his high school tried to honor him one time and he turned them down because he didn't have a very good time in high school. I mean, he turned that being an awkward kid, the kids who were the most awkward into the stars of his films. He made them the heroes.

(Soundbite of song, "Don't You (Forget About Me)")

SIMPLE MINDS: (Singing) Don't you forget about me.

BRAND: That was NPR's Bob Mondello on the death of filmmaker John Hughes. He was responsible for hits like "Sixteen Candles," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Home Alone," and many more. John Hughes died today. He was 59.

(Soundbite of song, "Don't You (Forget About Me)"

SIMPLE MINDS: (Singing) …above me. Look my way, never love me. Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling down.

BRAND: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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