Thursday, August 6, 2009

John Hughes


If you were a teen ager in the 80s, you are feeling the loss of Hughes, who chronicled post-adolescent angst in a string of successful films. I was (ahem) not a teen-ager in the 80s, so I saw only one or two of his hits. He was responsible for boosting the careers of several "Brat Packers" in films such as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink.

John was originally a writer, and it was his work with the satirical magazine National Lampoon which lead to his film career. He provided the screenplays for several of the Lampoon films, including ...Vacation and ...Christmas Vacation, before stepping behind the camera with his teen comedies. Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off , in addition to his Molly Ringwald trilogy mentioned above, cemented his reputation as a writer who could recreate the rhythm and language of the Gen X teen-ager. Here's a fun clip which perhaps I should have saved for the Weekly Dance Party, but what the hell. I might consider this a John Hughes Signature Clip, as music and dance were always central elements of his teen flicks:

Hughes had some success writing for grown-ups too, providing Steve Martin and John Candy with Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, and working with Candy again in Uncle Buck.

Home Alone, which he wrote and produced, dwarfed his previous successes and is his biggest commercial hit. In his later career, he occasionally wrote under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes (a name he swiped from French literature: Dantes is the fictional hero known better as The Count of Monte Cristo); he provided the stories for Beethoven and Maid in Manhattan under that moniker. He wrote other familiar film scripts such as Mr. Mom, Dennis the Menace, and the remakes of 101 Dalmatians and Flubber.

Hughes has largely absented himself from the public eye since 1994. He died today from a heart attack at the age of 59.

Budd Schulberg


He was born into what he described as "Hollywood Royalty" (his father headed Paramount, his mother was a member of the Jaffe family of agents, producers, and actors), but that didn't help Schulberg get along with his minions. He raised the ire of Hollywood several times over a long career, beginning with his first published novel, What Makes Sammy Run?. It was the tale of an unscrupulous young firebrand who back-stabbed his way into becoming a film producer, and hit such an uncomfortable chord in Hollywood that all attempts to film the story have failed. Ben Stiller reportedly has a new screenplay adaptation ready to go, but even he is having trouble financing the story, originally written back in 1941 but still too close to home for Hollywood types today. There were two television adaptations broadcast in TV's early days, including one starring Jose Ferrer in the 40s, and another more famous version (right) starring John Forsythe, Barbara Rush, Dina Merrill, and Larry Blyden in the late 50s (this one is out on DVD).

Schulberg provided the book to a musical version of the story in the mid-60s, which ran about a year on Broadway and starred Steve Lawrence (above).

More recently, Schulberg has complained that the once-incendiary novel became a "handbook for yuppies."

Budd pissed off Hollywood even further when he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and named names. He was a frequent collaborator with that other squealer, Elia Kazan, on several high profile films, including On the Waterfront, for which he won an Oscar, and A Face in the Crowd. As a young man, he collaborated with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and wrote a play about the experience, The Disenchanted, for which Jason Robards won a Tony.

Schulberg also wrote short stories and non-fiction, and was the first Boxing Editor for Sports Illustrated. His memoir reflects the exalted position he believed he held in the Hollywood establishment; it is called Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince.

Whatever one may think of his decision to implicate others in his attempt to escape the Commie witch hunts of the early 50s, he must be congratulated for providing one of Hollywood's all-time greatest lines of dialogue:

"I coulda been a contender."
Budd Schulberg died this week at the age of 95.