John Hughes has been given God like status by hordes of Gen X 30-somethings like me. His movies spoke to teenagers, not at them, in a way that had never been done before or since.
In her completely engrossing study of Hughes and the actors that surrounded him, Susannah Gora has managed to turn a researcher’s eye to a topic that few would have bothered to tackle. In doing so, we get a warts and all look at an extremely talented, though often petulant writer/filmmaker.
Gora’s book stretches back to Hughes’ childhood in Suburban Chicago (the setting for most of his movies) and his time as a copy writer for an ad firm up through his almost Salinger-like self isolation in those same suburbs where he lived at the end of his life. It’s the time in between, when he served as the voice for a generation of teenagers, that Gora devotes the bulk of the book.
There is no denying that Hughes had a gift for dialogue and story-telling, from drama (Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club) to comedy (Vacation, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), but he also had a much darker side that many tended to ignore because of his talent. One professional after another (from actors to producers) tell of how petty and spoiled the writer/director could be if he didn’t get his way, or God forbid someone wanted to do a movies other than one he was working on. Anthony Michael Hall, who did a slew of Hughes movies back-to-back, was just one of many who Hughes ultimately turned on.
Along with plenty of great behind the scenes stories (like actors who were considered for the now iconic teenage roles Hughes created), Gora also takes a few chapters to discuss Hughes’ contemporaries like Cameron Crowe. But the focus always comes back to Hughes… as I guess it should.
You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried by Susannah Gora /Crown /367 pages.