Goodbye, Mr. Hughes

John Hughes died today. The director of Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, and Planes Trains & Automobiles was only 59.

My acting career high point occurred courtesy John Hughes, in Planes Trains & Automobiles. I played John Candy's wife, Marie. You never do see Marie, only her photo. Del carries the photo around with her; he talks to it. It's sitting on the bedside table when John Candy and Steve Martin are sleepily snuggled in that motel bed, hand between two pillows...
Those aren't pillows!

Actually, This is my favorite line from PT&A
Neal: [riding in back of pickup truck in freezing cold] What do you think the temperature is?
Del: One.

I was 23 and just out of college. I'd earned the trust of a casting office, so they brought me in. They took my Polaroid; the director wanted someone who could pass for really young and innocent. I got the job. I was just going to shoot a series of photos. An early 1960s high school graduation photo (the one you see) but also a string of photos: Del and Marie on vacation, Del and Marie at Christmas, et al. Del would flip these photos out of his wallet and bore Neal (Steve Martin).

Back then I was unafraid and full of ideas. So I started to send "Del" letters to the set on location and signed them Marie. I sent Del cards. I told him to be well as he sold his shower curtains. I guess Mr Hughes liked my creativity. He decided to put me on camera.

I went to the Paramount lot and we filmed improvised scenes, just me and John Candy. Del and Marie at Thanksgiving. We did a couple Thanksgiving dinners. It was at the very end of the shoot. They were so strapped for time they were actually filming scenes with Steve Martin on the other side of the sound stage, so we had to keep it sorta quiet. I spent a lot of time in John Candy's trailer, talking to him about the business. John Candy was a sweetheart. I don't remember much about Steve Martin. But I remember Mr. Hughes. He was a very nice man.

A month before the movie came out I was scheduled to do ADR (automatic dialog replacement) where you redo the audio because the sound wasn't so great. Maybe we were being too quiet for Steve Martin's corner of the sound stage.

They had a special premier at Paramount. I brought a friend. At the very end of the film, Neal is sitting on the train platform and thining back on everything Del has said. Cut to: Del alone. He's thinking back on Thanksgiving with Marie, and then you have the flashback to Del and Marie having Thanksgiving. Cut back to Neal. He realizes Del is alone.

Only, no flashback. Just Del alone, then back to Neal. I was cut from the film. I was crushed. The fundamentalist Nazi church counselor I'd just fired predicted God's judgment would descent upon me for removing her authority in my life. The film editor said it happened all the time, just like Kevin Costner in "The Big Chill." He told me not to worry. My time would come.

Well my time went and never really came. That PT&A photo is my one shot at cinematic immortality (okay and Seinfeld). John Hughes went too. He left Hollywood. Rumor had it he didn't like the way Hollywood treated people: he blamed them for working Candy to death. And he didn't like the way Hollywood was starting to warp his sons' ideas about reality. So moved to Chicago where he hoped his family could live like normal people He occasionally wrote under a pen name. I don't think those scripts were so good.

I hoped he would return to Hollywood some day. My motives were selfish: I wanted him to come back and do a director's cut of Planes Trains & Automobiles and include my scenes.

That hope came to an end today on a Manhattan street. John Hughes collapsed from cardiac arrest and died. He was 59. He was in Manhattan to see family. You see, he had one. He even had grandchildren at age 59. That tells me, he raised his sons right: they were healthy enough to grow up and into adulthood and have their own children; rather than follow Hollywood's directive and extend adolescence up until the time Medicare kicks in.

I just read a blog written by a woman who started corresponding to Mr. Hughes when she was in high school. Mr. Hughes went above and beyond the call of answering fan mail. He became a friend and mentor. Please please please read it. It might restore your faith in humanity. And if you're like me, you will repent of any selfish desire you had for Mr Hughes to go back to La La Land.

My friend Stel posted this video from YouTube. Teenage Wasteland according to Mr. Hughes.

Goodbye sir. Make good movies in heaven. We'll want some entertainment when we get there.


  1. his movies are milestones in my adolescent life... and just recently i put his name on a quiz that asked "favorite director"... and poof... just like that, greatness extinguished. cant wait to see what he is creating in the presence of the creator. thanks for this post, susan.

  2. Susan, I read Alison's post and I see the same kindness in you. Thanks.

    And John Candy was a lucky man!

  3. I feel blessed to have been a teenager when John Hughes was at his peak. It felt like his movies took us seriously. And he gave his characters the best one-liners. My buddies and I still quote them to each other.

  4. Even though those movies were all made either before I was born or when I was a child, I love them all. I can't tell you how many times I've wished my "Jake Ryan" would have sat on a table with a Birthday cake and me. Just kidding. Sorta.

    I knew about Planes, Trains, and Automobiles from your book Susan, and always hoped the same thing you did. The DVD doesn't have deleted scenes? Maybe they will release a 25th anniversary edition on Blue-Ray and you'll get your wish.

    R.I.P. Mr. Hughes.

  5. If any moviemaker had a greater impact on my generation, I don't know who he is. It's sad to see someone die too young, but I'm glad we still have his movies. He left an important legacy in film. Thanks to Susan, we know he left a great legacy outside of film, too.

  6. Wow, Susan. I just read the whole thing that you begged us to read. When I read another story about a spoiled entertainer who wants all the brown M & Ms removed, or insists on bathing in Evian, I'm going to remember John Hughes.

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  8. So lovingly, personally said. I read the pen pal post earlier; it was so moving & hopeful even if it was revealed on a sad day.

    I wrote a post on my blog, too - I was a different kind of selfish in my want for John Hughes' movies. I counted on them to validate me through all the messy difficult stages of life...