Friday, August 7, 2009

Noted former ad copywriter passes


I join Ferris Bueller, Sloan Peterson and Cameron, along with Farmer Ted the Geek, Uncle Buck, Kevin McCallister and others in mourning the sudden passing of John Hughes yesterday.

Obviously best known as the writer and sometimes director of such hits as "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Home Alone" and others, he began (as many Hollywood writers have) working in advertising. As a copywriter in a Chicago agency, Hughes is said to have created the memorable "credit card test" commercial for Edge shaving cream (i.e., the softer sound of credit card scraping the stubble on the side of your face shaved with Edge demonstrated a closer, smoother shave).

By all accounts, Hughes was a very fast and intuitive writer, and it tended to show in his work. He had an uncanny ability to connect with this teen/young adult audiences both emotionally and in their interests and vernacular -- but with the exceptions of "Breakfast Club," "Ferris Bueller" and "Home Alone," it was always obvious his drafts could use some additional work and structuring. (Apparently, he hated being rewritten, perhaps another remnant of his days in advertising.)

Yet despite (or maybe because of) this, he managed to crank out an amazingly strong, and enduring body of work in less than 10 years.*

In addition to the excellent movies above, I'd say the strengths of "Sixteen Candles" and "Uncle Buck" vastly outweigh their faults (and they do have faults). And I can wholeheartedly recommend his more "mature" (for him) films, "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" and his (at least somewhat autobiographical) "She's Having A Baby."

You've probably already read one of his obituaries by now. An interesting profile of Hughes, circa 1988 that ran in Premiere magazine is here.

*This in spite of his seemingly endless (and sometimes annoying) willingness to recycle plots and characters, i.e., "Sixteen Candles" = "Pretty In Pink" = "Some Kind of Wonderful"; "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" = "The Great Outdoors"; "Uncle Buck" = "Dutch,"; and all the movies he did featuring bumbling crooks and slapsticky violence, including "Home Alone" (and its sequels), "Dennis The Menace," "Baby's Day Out," and "101 Dalmatians"; and the movies too numerous to mention that turned on class warfare with snobby suburban teens and adults.

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