If you’re between the ages of 35 and 45, chances are that John Hughes (who sadly passed away last week) played a major role in your growth as an adolescent. Films like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club addressed the attitudes and angst of a decade and, I daresay, no other film maker before or since has so empathically connected with his audience. Culturally and intellectually, these movies captured the 80s like snapshots in a yearbook; if you were in high school or college at the time, Hughes’ body of work is as much a part of your memories as was learning to drive or your first kiss. But the two hours that defined my existence was Ferris Bueller’s Day off…
FBDO didn’t toss you around in your seat like a rollercoaster or try to coax tears out of you with oversentimentality; no, this movie had a more basic purpose: it made you happy to be alive. Chances are your face hurt after grinning for 120 minutes and while the film didn’t inspire political change or world peace, it made an entire generation want to throw caution to the four winds and shake as much joie de vivre from the tree of life as possible.
A worthy accomplishement, if you ask me.
HUGHES was clearly warning his audience of adults-to-be not to let the high school and college days of reckless abandon completely give way to the coming years of crushing responsibility. Sure, we all have jobs to keep and bills to pay, but finding a way to let a little irresponsibility seep in through the cracks is essential to a long and happy life. Everyone who walked out of that theater wanted to be Ferris Bueller and I’d wager that if you were to plot a graph of the film’s box office and incidents of sick days, the charts would look the same.
On paper, there’s nothing special about FBDO. As a film, the plot is thin, the structure flimsy and it has characters about as complex as wheat germ. But it all comes together with a purity of spirit and unbridaled joy that wins over any audience willing to smile. If it were possible to bottle and sell it, the sheer fun radiated by this movie could save the world, but until technology catches up, FBDO will have to settle for being John Hughes biggest hit and Matthew Broderick’s eternal alter ego.
IN THE WAKE of his death, a surprising number of media outlets have been unfair to Hughes, generally insinuating that he passed his prime long ago and as a result of his semi-retirement from the biz has failed to live up to his own promise as a film maker. My good friend (and key member of the LA Movie Club) Dave Hargrove found the perfect antidote to all the Hollywood bullshit – a blog post from a woman who was pen pals with Hughes for many years. Through his letters, Alison Fields gleaned some insight into what made him turn his back Tinseltown:
John told me about why he left Hollywood just a few years earlier. He was terrified of the impact it was having on his sons; he was scared it was going to cause them to lose perspective on what was important and what happiness meant. And he told me a sad story about how, a big reason behind his decision to give it all up was that “they” (Hollywood) had “killed” his friend, John Candy, by greedily working him too hard.
After reading this and the rest of the online tributes to Hughes, I think Dave sumed it up best: Here was someone who was one of the most successful writer/producer/directors in Hollywood; someone who had become a victim of his own success, and whose creative spark (as well his soul) was on the verge of being snuffed out. So, rather than become bitter, he decided to focus on something that was more important to him: raising his sons. Even though he died far too soon, I’d like to think that John Hughes found more satisfaction in the years since he left Hollywood than in the years before.
I think the ultimate yardstick by which Hughes himself would judge happiness in life are the words of wisdom he channel through Ferris: Life moves pretty fast – if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. In his 59 years, not only did John Hughes not miss a beat in the look-around of life, I’d say he showed a lot of people the way.
—– ABOUT THE SOUNDTRACK—–
There was never a soundtrack album released for FBDO. The reasons why are open to much speculation, but the fact remained – one of the coolest movies of all time, with quite a bit of memorable music, didn’t have an album!
So I decided to make my own.
I literally spent years hunting down all the tracks from the film (and remember, this is pre-internet, so the only way you found stuff back then was to diligently search record stores). In fact I have to thank John Hughes himself for making my album possible…
One fine late-80s day, while I was rollerblading through the streets of Manhattan, I saw a movie being shot outside FAO Shwartz. Being a wide-eyed film student at the time, I decided to stop and check it out. Someone told me it was a John Hughes movie and they began setting up the camera a few feet away from where I was standing. Well, where the camera goes so goes the director, and I was not going to miss out on a chance to meet one of my idols!
A few minutes later, sure enough, the man with the golden, wavy could be seen heading in my direction. As luck would have it, I just happened to be wearing a FBDO T-shirt and as soon as Mr. Hughes spotted it, he veered off course and walked right up to me. We talked for a few minutes about his movies and, just as I had begun to skate away to let him get on with more pressing matters, I quickly did a u-turn and slid between him and the very expensive Panavision camera. “Mr. Hughes! I need your help!”
I explained that I was trying to make my own soundtrack for FBDO and was having trouble finding a few tracks. Not only was he able to tell me the correct names and artists, he knew exactly where to find them (and thank god, because would you have looked for a song by The Smiths on the B-side of a Dream Academy import 12″ single??). Even more amazingly, Hughes was kind enough to give me his office number and said “if you have any trouble finding those tracks, give me a call and I’ll make sure you get them.”
Now that’s class. Fortunately, I never had to make the call since, armed with my new info, I skated down to the hard-to-find record shops in the Village and found the missing pieces of my puzzle that very day.
There were only two songs recorded specifically for the movie, both of which were unreleased and essentially impossible to find. But, thanks again to Mr. Hughes, they showed up at my door one day in the form of a 45 RPM single, issued for free to members of the John Hughes fan club.
Ten years later, when the DVD was released, I went back in and remastered my soundtrack digitally (the original was on cassette tape), this time adding dialog from the movie and generally giving the whole thing a layer of spit and polish. If you look around online, you’ll find that there are lots of people who have put together their own FBDO soundtracks, but I say with all humility, mine’s the best (with the amount of work I put into it… it has to be).
I’ve only ever given it out to friends in “the real world” and I’m generally iffy on file-sharing, but in honor of John Hughes (and since I can easily imagine Ferris being the guy who invented file sharing) I’m now going to share it with everyone (complete with printable artwork for the CD case):
Rather than post individual tracks, I’m providing the audio as one, long cue because that’s how it’s meant to be listened t0 (I’ve seamlessly mixed it all together – listen and you’ll get it). If you want to split it up for random access, feel free to load the file into the audio program of your choice and add track marks. I’ve done the hard work for you and made the soundtrack!
Finally, here is something else from my archive, a scan from an original 8×10 production still of everyone’s favorite moment in the film (which I have conveniently sized to wallpaper dimensions). It should look especially good if you own a Mac and are into the whole elegant, black & white thing (right-click to save, it’s a big file):
I only ask one thing in return – if you’re going to download and enjoy this soundtrack, do yourself a favor – pay proper respect to John Hughes and listen to it in the car en route to doing something really, really fun.
On a weekday.