John Hughes, the popular and influential Hollywood writer/director best known for 80s charmers such as The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, passed away from a heart attack yesterday. He was 59. Hughes wrote and directed eight features – Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Weird Science (1985), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), She’s Having a Baby (1988), Uncle Buck (1989) and Curley Sue (1991) – but worked on scripts for many more. His best known screenplays, excluding those he directed, include The Great Outdoors (1998), Home Alone (1990), Beethoven (1992) and Flubber (1997). A lot of Hughes’ work, especially in his later years, was drippy and juvenile; it’s his 80s work for which he is rightfully known and loved.
Hughes had a great ear for dialogue and some of the conversations he wrote I never tire of revisiting. He was a big softy who sometimes let mawkish sentimentality invade his films – the ending of The Breakfast Club is a fizzer, though Planes, Trains and Automobiles got away with it – but at his best the banter between characters flowed beautifully. I love the scene in P, T & A when the stuffy killjoy Neal Page (Steve Martin) finally loses it at motor mouth Del Griffith (John Candy). It’s a priceless slab of berating and I monologue I know most of by heart. For your amusement, here it is below. RIP Hughes. See you one day in that big Breakfast Club in the sky.
Neil Page (Steve Martin): Didn’t you notice on the plane when you started talking, eventually I started reading the vomit bag? Didn’t that give you some sort of clue, like maybe this guy is not enjoying it? You know everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You’re a miracle! Your stories have none of that! They’re not even amusing accidently! “Honey, I’d like you to meet Del Griffith, he’s got some amusing anecdotes for you. Oh and here’s a gun so you can blow your brains out -you’ll thank me for it!” I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They’d say, “how can you stand it?” I’d say, “’cause I’ve been with Del Griffith. I can take anything.” You know what they’d say? They’d say, “I know what you mean. The shower curtain ring guy. Woah.” It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back – you would! Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh! And by the way, you know, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea – have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!