How Music Guided Everything John Hughes Did In His Movies

In the cinematic world, John Hughes will be remembered for a lot of things – from his incredibly accurate portrayal of teen angst to his utilization of the ensemble that would end up being labeled The Brat Pack. His use of music is certainly a candidate for this list as well, as the filmmaker managed to make some brilliant songs remembered for the movies in which the writer/director featured them… but what you may not know is that Hughes’ soundtrack choices had a much deeper impact on his style as a whole - more than just atmospheric additions during post-production.

Pretty In Pink is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016, and in coordination with a special Digital HD release of the film earlier this year, I recently had the chance to hop on the phone with Oscar-nominated costume designer Marilyn Vance. Given that she had the chance to work with John Hughes on not just Pretty In Pink, but also The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I took the opportunity to ask her about most distinct memory working with the director. Vance didn’t miss a beat, immediately pointing to Hughes’ song usage as something wonderfully unique about his process. She explained,

The music. The music he chose, especially for Pretty in Pink. It just altered my whole everything. It just got me into something, and that’s really a lot aside from what he wrote about the character in the script, it just brought it to life. He’d say, ‘Okay, this scene, I’m going to drop this music into there,’ and he’d play it, and it was incredible. It just danced in your head: wow, this means that and it just came together - for the actors as well.

Thinking back on John Hughes work with this in mind, it becomes very clear and highlighted how influential music was on the filmmaker’s work. A tremendous number of his most iconic scenes are truly completed with the influence of music, from Ducky’s lip-sync rendition of Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness," in Pretty In Pink, to Ferris Bueller’s float-based performance of The Beatles’ "Twist and Shout," to John Bender’s triumphant walk-away to the sound of Simple Minds’ "Don’t You (Forget About Me)" at the end of The Breakfast Club. These sequences are all perfect, and it’s because Hughes paid incredible attention to the influence of the soundtrack on his work.

Pretty In Pink, which was written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch, celebrated its 30th birthday this past Sunday, February 28th, but do yourself a favor by getting yourself the new Digital HD release and reliving some of the best teenage cinema the 1980s had to offer.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.