John Hughes is an iconic director. One of the most prominent filmmakers of the 1980s and ’90s, he directed many classics such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club, which are now cherished as definitive flicks of their era, transporting us back to those heady and exciting days where anything seemed possible.
Born in Lansing, Michigan in 1950, Hughes grew up in an area where there were few kids his age. Consequently, he spent the majority of his time on his own, using his vivid imagination to sate the solitude. This theme of childhood isolation would become an important topic in some of his most celebrated titles, including Sixteen Candles and Uncle Buck. Added to the seclusion Hughes felt growing up, his family frequently moved from town to town, intensifying his feeling of exile.
He made his feature-length debut in 1984 with Sixteen Candles, and overnight, it established the blueprint for the genre that we saw ubiquitous over the rest of the decade, the 1990s and ’00s. Everything from Clueless to Mean Girls and the American Pie franchise owe a lot to the film, indicative of Hughes’ impact.
Outings such as Pretty in Pink, Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains & Automobiles, confirmed Hughes’ status as one of the best directors of the period, but it was with the release of 1990’s Home Alone, when he truly cemented his name amongst the greats of cinema. In fact, we could speak about Home Alone‘s cultural potency for an age.
Another notable point of Hughes’ films is the reliance on music. The most unforgettable example of this has to be in The Breakfast Club and the iconic use of The Simple Minds’ ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’. There were many other brilliant moments too. Two of the most enduring are the hilarious use of The Beatles’ ‘Twist and Shout’ in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Brenda Lee’s ‘Rocking Around The Christmas Tree’ in Home Alone.
Accordingly, it won’t come as a surprise to find out that John Hughes was a lifelong lover of music. It was through music and the arts that he was able to cure the repressive feeling of his childhood isolation. Music, in particular, exposed him to unlimited possibilities, and as an adult, it would imbue his work that considerable sense of hope that we all love so much.
Given that The Beatles appear in one of Hughes’ most unforgettable scenes in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s only right that he was a huge fan of Liverpool’s favourite sons. During a 1986 interview in Seventeen with frequent collaborator Molly Ringwald, Hughes explained that The Beatles changed his life.
He recalled: “I grew up in a neighbourhood that was mostly girls and old people. There weren’t any boys my age, so I spent a lot of time by myself, imagining things. And every time we would get established somewhere, we would move. Life just started to get good in seventh grade, and then we moved to Chicago. I ended up in a really big high school, and I didn’t know anybody. But then The Beatles came along (and) changed my whole life.”
It’s interesting to heed that The Beatles changed John Hughes’ life and it makes a lot of sense. He wasn’t a sporty kid in school, but he took solace in the music of John Lennon and Co., and like with so many other kids of his age, they helped to light a creative fire in their bellies, showing that the future that their parent’s generation had set out for them wasn’t absolute.