Born as John Wilden Hughes Jr. in Lansing, Michigan (USA) on 18 February 1950. After dropping out of the University of Arizona, Hughes began selling jokes to well-established performers such as Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. Hughes used his jokes to get an entry-level job at Needham, Harper & Steers as an advertising copywriter in Chicago in 1970 and later in 1974 at Leo Burnett Worldwide. During this time, he created what became the famous Edge “Credit Card Shaving Test” ad campaign.
Hughes’ work on the Virginia Slims account frequently took him to the Philip Morris headquarters in New York City. This gave him the opportunity to hang around the offices of the National Lampoon magazine. Hughes subsequently penned a story, inspired by his family trips as a child, that was to become his calling card and entry onto the staff of the magazine. That piece, ‘Vacation ’58’, later became the basis for the film ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’. That film’s success, along with the success of another of Hughes’ scripts, ‘Mr. Mom’, earned Hughes a three-movie deal with Universal Studios.
Hughes’s directorial debut, ‘Sixteen Candles’, won almost unanimous praise when it was released in 1984. It was the first in a string of efforts set in or around high school, including ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Pretty in Pink’, ‘Weird Science’, ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’.
To avoid being pigeonholed as a maker of teen comedies, Hughes branched out, directing the smash hit ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ (1987), featuring Steve Martin and John Candy, and the film She’s Having A Baby (1988), for which Kate composed the song This Woman’s Work. Hughes’s greatest commercial success came with Home Alone. Home Alone was the top-grossing film of 1990, and remains the most successful live-action comedy of all time. His last film as a director was 1991’s Curly Sue.
In 1994, Hughes retired from the public eye and moved back to the Chicago area. Hughes was considerably shaken by John Candy’s sudden death of a heart attack that same year. On the morning of August 6, 2009, Hughes suffered a severe heart attack. He was survived by his wife Nancy and two sons, four grandchildren, his three sisters and his mother and father.