Writer-director John Hughes, Hollywood's youth impresario of the 1980s and '90s who captured and cornered the teen and preteen market with such favorites as "Home Alone," "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," died Thursday, a spokeswoman said. He was 59.
Hughes died of a heart attack during a morning walk in Manhattan, Michelle Bega said. He was in New York to visit family.
A native of Lansing, Mich., who later moved to suburban Chicago and set much of his work there, Hughes rose from ad writer to comedy writer to silver screen champ with his affectionate and idealized portraits of teens, whether the romantic and sexual insecurity of "Sixteen Candles," or the J.D. Salinger-esque rebellion against conformity in "The Breakfast Club."
Hughes' ensemble comedies helped make stars out of Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy and many other young performers.
He also scripted the phenomenally popular "Home Alone," which made little-known Macaulay Culkin a sensation as the 8-year-old accidentally abandoned by his vacationing family, and wrote or directed such hits as "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Pretty in Pink," "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" and "Uncle Buck."
Other actors who got early breaks from Hughes included John Cusack ("Sixteen Candles"), Judd Nelson ("The Breakfast Club"), Steve Carell ("Curly Sue") and Lili Taylor ("She's Having a Baby").
Devin Ratray, best known for playing Buzz McCallister in the "Home Alone" films, said he remained close to Hughes over the years.
"He changed my life forever," Ratray said. "Nineteen years later, people from all over the world contact me telling me how much 'Home Alone' meant to them, their families, and their children."
Actor Matthew Broderick worked with Hughes in 1986 when he played the title character in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
"I am truly shocked and saddened by the news about my old friend John Hughes. He was a wonderful, very talented guy and my heart goes out to his family," Broderick said.
As Hughes advanced into middle age, his commercial touch faded and, in Salinger style, he increasingly withdrew from public life.
His last directing credit was in 1991, for "Curly Sue," and he wrote just a handful of scripts over the past decade. He was rarely interviewed or photographed.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)