August 7, 2009

Ben Stein Remembers John Hughes

Posted: 04:06 PM ET

Note: Ben Stein played the nameless, yet unforgettable, economics teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," which John Hughes wrote and directed.

John Hughes was a stunningly talented director, a wildly funny writer, a great friend, a Republican in a town where being a Republican takes some courage. But most of all, he was a poet. He was to the postwar middle class white kid what John Keats was to the age of upheaval during The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.Ben-Stein

John Hughes had many brilliant insights: his portrayal of the carnage that modern business travel wreaks in men's lives in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" was by far the best evisceration of what deregulation has wrought, and a powerful comment about the loneliness of the life of the working middle aged traveling man.  His understanding of the mind set of the rich preteen child–total paranoia combined with almost Hitlerian fantasies of power and sadism, was made funny in his "Home Alone" movies.  His thought that family is far more of a combined prison and circus than a heaven was brought to hilarious life by his "National Lampoon's Vacation" series.

But the insight that will make him immortal came in his teen movies, "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink", "Sixteen Candles" and my favorite, the one that changed my life, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." This insight was that the modern American white middle class teen combines a Saudi Arabia sized reservoir of self obsession and self pity, with a startling gift for exultation and enjoyment of life. No one had ever thought to note that along with James Dean's sulky self obsession might also come a shriek of happiness at just being alive.

John Hughes–Republican–saw that potential, saw that the individual still had the ability to transcend whatever was weighing him or her down and come out leading a parade down Michigan Avenue.

This insight sized up teens perfectly but also ennobled them, which made them–and all of us–love him. In a way, he was describing modern man of any age.

There is no one else who can lay a glove on this insight or portray it so magnifcently in the young American.

John Hughes was irreplaceable.

Filed under: Ben Stein

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Rachel Hunt   August 7th, 2009 4:39 pm ET

Well said my friend.

Mike Rayl   August 7th, 2009 4:41 pm ET

John Hughes is a brilliant director, writer, gone to soon...

Lori   August 7th, 2009 5:12 pm ET

Thank you for such a wonderful remembrance. He will be missed.

Barb   August 7th, 2009 6:27 pm ET

So many leaving us too soon!
Hughes movies made me laugh and remember what it was like to be a teen.
He will be sorely missed, such a talented man with great insight into teen angst.

Good night John. Bueller – Bueller...

merli ortega   August 7th, 2009 7:29 pm ET

John's movies are so funny i'll miss him.

Suzana J.   August 7th, 2009 9:02 pm ET

My thought exactly, Matt. Stating he was a Republican – twice no less – is completely irrelevant.

Bill Clay   August 8th, 2009 7:02 pm ET

John Hughes was not a politician or a political activist. It's inappropriate for Ben Stein to use Hughes' eulogy to promote the Republican party. It's another example of Mr. Stein's bad judgment.

Cheryl   August 9th, 2009 1:43 am ET

I felt like I'd been socked in the stomach when I read John Hughes was gone. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is one of my favorite movies and the world is a lesser, duller place for the loss of the genius who wrote it.

I'm with those frowing on Mr. Stein for dragging politics into an otherwise well-written tribute. Save it for your GOP gatherings, Ben, because the rest of us do not care and we do not want to hear it. No one other than yourself and a small minority give a flip who John Hughes voted for. Your first reference set my teeth on edge and your second, so totally out of place and disgustingly inappropriate, made me grind them. Shame on you! Until now, I had nothing but the highest respect for you. I thought you were better than this.

Abe Frohman   August 9th, 2009 9:56 am ET

Thanks for the Memories....

Louise Belsley   August 9th, 2009 11:50 am ET

Are we running out of talented people to lose?

paradiso51   August 9th, 2009 5:25 pm ET

Mr. Stein
not a bad tribute after a great loss.

however i liked you better in your ( Dry Eye) commercial !!!

Dan   August 10th, 2009 11:37 am ET

Sorry to hear he was a republican. My high opinion of him just dropped about 5 levels.

Ryan   August 11th, 2009 1:33 am ET

Someone who is such a money like Ben Stein in an ideal world shouldn't have the right to comment on someone with the integrity of John Hughes. Go back to doing your commercials, game shows, "win ben steins money" and take your political propaganda elsewhere.
John Hughes–Republican–saw that potential... lol oh that cracks me up. It's like a campaign ad. What's sad is he isn't here to defend himself against being used for your political gain. John Hughes did not make political movies.

Matt   August 12th, 2009 3:55 am ET

Seems my comment has been censored due to being offensive. This entire post of Ben Stein's was offensive to me, as he's using a man's death to spout partisan rhetoric, but I guess CNN doesn't care what its viewers think about issues.

hayseed aintry   August 13th, 2009 10:04 am ET

Come on you Folks, Mr. Stein is the only one on CNN that keeps CNN on an even keel and from being completely swamped by all of those Liberals that seem to make up the majority roster of CNN's talk-show guests. He possesses one of the most Objective view-points that I have had a chance to witness in a long, long time. When he speaks it is well worth listening to.

Allen   August 13th, 2009 2:34 pm ET

Thank you Ben, for a nice tribute to John Hughes.

I'm also very glad you mentioned that John Hughes was a Republican. It is very important to let those of us who are a minority in the media and Hollywood know that we are not COMPLETELY alone.

I did not know Hughes was a Republican and it's comforting. Hollywood has an unofficial blacklist against conservatives, but liberals never acknowledge it. I can tell you for a fact that all the guilds and unions in Hollywood actively support ONLY Democrats. The rank and file have no say over how their dues money is being spent. Insidious.

And reverse discrimination is rampant. There are support groups within the Hollywood unions that help blacks, hispanics, women and gays and people over 55. That means if you are white, male and straight and under 55, you alone are the new target for discrimination. Become gay and you might have a chance. But remain straight and there's no support for you. And don't dare complain about it. You are the convenient new segment of society that is un-hip and disposable. So get used to it.

With all the talent, you might ask, how come John Hughes wasn't working? Seems that he was fed up with Hollywood. Wonder why.

Matt   August 14th, 2009 4:51 am ET

Hughes was a Republican in the 1980s when Reagan was President and the biggest stars were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis, all Republicans. A decade with hits like Commando, Cobra, Rocky IV and Rambo III. John Hughes made great movies that touched a generation, but to suggest that he had a difficult time as a Hollywood Republican in the 1980s is ridiculous.

Larry   August 14th, 2009 7:49 pm ET

Cheryl, if no one care about the comment Ben made about John Hughes was a Republican, why did you responded ? Obviously you care, otherwise you will not spend your precious time responding to that statement . Why did you lie?

Ryan   August 15th, 2009 3:55 am ET

CNN censored one word I used but left the rest alone. I'm ok with that. I would prefer they put ****** or "censored" for when they do edit someone's words. Otherwise it's secret censorship. Oh and the word I used started with a W, and rhymes with bore.

jonathan   August 19th, 2009 4:15 pm ET

john huges what a great guy he will be missed my favorate movie the breakfest club

Allen   August 22nd, 2009 6:26 pm ET


I didn't suggest that Hughes was fed up with Hollywood in the 80's. Obviously, that was a golden time for him - and for those of us moviegoers fortunate enough to experience his brilliant brand of comedy as an enlightening experience, it was a golden time for us as well. I note that his comedy was "enlightening" as opposed to the raunchy, lowest common denominator, genitalia bouncing trash that describes so much material passing for comedy today.

I'm suggesting he was fed up with Hollywood precisely during the times more recently when he clearly WASN'T working.

Hollywood IS in fact, a very hostile environment for ANYONE opposing or challenging the left leaning establishment. Respect for the free expression of ALL points of view and ideas is vital to a thriving democracy. Denigration of anyone's heartfelt convictions, as well as denigration of ANY segment of society is not only un-American and unproductive, it is the very height of hypocrisy coming from people who espouse the 1st Amendment.

Try pitching one single positive screenplay about a conservative or conservative ideas in Hollywood and see how receptive the powers that be are to you.

The irony is that most conservatives are relatively open to watching movies with a liberal bent. Tolerance for opposing views, however, is not reciprocated by the other side. At least not at present. Perhaps since liberals currently have almost universal control over every aspect of our government today, that might very well change as the fantasy of utopia under Democratic rule gradually diminishes, and stark reality proves that the Democrats of today are just as clueless, foolish, arrogant and stupid as the Republicans of yesterday. Rigid ideology of any kind is just another word for "brain-washed."

Linda   September 3rd, 2009 2:39 pm ET

Well said, Ben Stein...thank favorite John Hughes classic was Home Alone..I hope his films will be immortalized as classics in the same way as The Wizard of Oz. and Peter Pan..Rest in Peace John...

Laura   September 24th, 2009 3:34 am ET

Thanks Prof Stein, People just forget that politics are intertwined in art! Anyway, John Hughes is legend in My house. I have My 10 year old laughing and asking questions through and after his movies. Hughes was brilliant at putting it all on the table for us teens in the 80's. His movies were remarkable at helping My GenXeration cope and not feel so alone. On a side note: My nickname in Highschool was Sloan Peterson and I can't tell you how many teachers said 'Bueller, Bueller' everytime I sat down... Classic!

Nigel Healy   October 14th, 2009 10:43 pm ET

Ben Stein,
How can you belong to the same party as every member of the KKK?
Do you think for a moment, that there are Democratic Klansmen?
You voted against Obama, while disagreeing with your own party.
Thank you for making my point, that Republicans are stupid!
It stikes me as humerous, that anyone considers you intelligent.
Black and Jewish Republicans, clearly don't understand the gist of their party. It is Hate, Greed and War.
You make me laugh... Bueller Bueller Bueller

Nigel Healy   October 14th, 2009 11:11 pm ET

Humorous, my girlfriend broke her Humerus, sorry that I sounded like a Republican for a moment there...
Pull up Republicans, those are mountains ahead.
The Greed wagon is over and done. You will not continue to rob this country in this day and age of information. I am sorry for those Republicans who have been duped and swindled by their fierce leaders, they rely on you, while laughing at your gullibility.
I am a peaceful person, and wish everyone well.
That is the principle that sets me apart from Republicans.
Peace and Love y'all

Ed   October 20th, 2009 7:30 pm ET

Democratic Klansmen? Lets try Senator Byrd – West Virgina

Nigel   October 21st, 2009 10:27 am ET

Ha! Kudos Ed, but no need to drag the Civil War into this. lol.
It took several decades for the old Byrd to see the light, but he sees it!
He was 24 back in 1945 when he was a Klansman.
Cheers for maturing Byrd, it is never too late to grow.
Peace, Nigel

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