Early reports are trickling out that reclusive writer/director John Hughes died today of a heart attack in New York City, while taking a morning walk. Hughes migrated from advertising to the National Lampoon circle of writers, where his work on the screenplay for National Lampoon's Vacation earned him his first crack at directing one of his own scripts: 1984's Sixteen Candles. In an era of teen sexploitation and horror movies, Hughes' light comedies about teen angst—with their alt-rock-filled soundtracks and restless visual invention—were a breath of fresh air, and films like Pretty In Pink, Some Kind Of Wonderful, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off all became staples of VCRs in wood-paneled dens across America. Whether Hughes was writing, producing or directing, his movies had a look and sound that was unmistakable.
Later, Hughes tried to adapt that look and sound to less teen-friendly fare like Planes, Trains & Automobiles and She's Having A Baby, with mixed success. So Hughes rolled back his target audience even further, scoring huge hits in the '90s with the Beethoven and Home Alone series. Since the mid-'90s Hughes had stayed fairly silent, his name only appearing on the occasional script. (He hadn't directed a movie since 1991's Curly Sue.) Had Hughes stuck it out, he could've been this generation's Frank Capra or Preston Sturges or Frank Tashlin. At their best—and the best was all-too-rare, given what Hughes was capable of—his films were noteworthy for their quotable lines, eye-popping style and thick streak of sentiment. Not for nothing has the phrase "like something out of a John Hughes movie" become something that any reasonably pop-literate person will understand. His work will continue to be enjoyed for a good long while.