In the 1980s and 1990s, John Hughes was one of Hollywood's most reliable hitmakers, churning out beloved teen comedies and family films such as The Breakfast Club and Home Alone, respectively. But was he an artist? Hughes, an adamantly commercial filmmaker who was dismissed by critics, might have laughed at the question. Since his death in 2009, though, he has been memorialized on Oscar night as a key voice of his time. Now the critics lionize him as a stylistic original.
Holly Chard traces Hughes's evolution from entertainer to auteur. Studios recognized Hughes's distinctiveness and responded by nurturing his brand. He is therefore a case study in Hollywood's production not only of movies but also of genre and of authorship itself. The films of John Hughes, Chard shows, also owed their success to the marketers who sold them and the audiences who watched. Careful readings of Hughes's cinema reveal both the sources of his iconic status and the imprint on his films of the social, political, economic, and media contexts in which he operated.
The first serious treatment of Hughes, Mainstream Maverick elucidates the priorities of the American movie industry in the New Hollywood era and explores how artists not only create but are themselves created.