Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Written by John Hughes
Executive Producer John Hughes
Directed by Howard Deutch
Released February 28, 1986

I know so deeply how much this particular film has meant and will always mean to me. But there are times when I just am unable to believe that this very film, this deceptively simple film, has continued to endure so strongly after all of this time.

For the seventh year, I once again return to my annual tribute which commemorates the life and films of Writer/Producer/Director John Hughes who passed away from a sudden heart attack at the young age of 59 while on a morning stroll during a visit with his family in Manhattan on August 6, 2009, As I have always attested, I firmly believe that if it were not for Hughes, my life as a writer may not have occurred, or at least in the ways that is has grown and developed over much of my life since my adolescence. This, certainly, is not designed to denigrate or remotely downplay the writers whose work has also massively influenced me, either around the same period as John Hughes or even long afterwards, like Lawrence Kasdan, Cameron Crowe and John Irving to name just three. But John Hughes is the one whose work struck me to my very core. Like the finest and most powerful of lightning bolts, it found me, made a direct hit and altered my life forever in every conceivably positive way, influencing and inspiring me to degrees that I am still discovering.

If only I could thank him...

For this year's tribute, I turn my attention to Hughes' "Pretty In Pink," which he wrote exclusively for star Molly Ringwald, executive produced as the directorial debut of Howard Deutch, and is also a film that officially reached its 30th anniversary earlier this year! 30 years!! Amazing. In so many ways, I do find it incredible that the legacy of "Pretty In Pink" has remained intact for such a long period of time primarily due to its ages old plot line of a poor girl literally from the wrong side of the tracks who falls in love with a rich boy from the right side and desires to go to the school prom with him. In truth, the continuing legacy of the film has seemed to even strike all of the participants involved with the same level of bemused surprise as the simplicity of the story feels to be so easy.

But, this is precisely why John Hughes, at his very best, was so powerfully effective, enormously entertaining and undeniably moving. He distinctly knew and believed in what he was doing within his stories and characters, even if everyone else around him didn't quite see the fullness of his vision as these films were being made. His films were deeply heartfelt odes not only to the teenage years but to a certain rite of passage and the very personal transformations we all experience at any age. With "Pretty In Pink," just as he accomplished with his beloved "The Breakfast Club" (1985) and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986), was to create a multi-layered experience that simultaneously had Hughes' adolescent nerve endings fully exposed but also armed his adult perspective as this film was made when Hughes was in his mid 30's. Maintaining that level of artistic and emotional balance is no small feat and John Hughes handled the experience with a brilliance and bittersweetness that has ensured that the resonance of "Pretty In Pink" has not solely endured. It has even become even more lovingly rendered than I had ever felt it to be.

John Hughes, Howard Deutch, Jon Cryer
and Molly Ringwald on the set of "Pretty In Pink" circa 1985

I first saw "Pretty In Pink" at the age of 17 at an advance sneak preview in Chicago and alongside my cousin's Adam and Susan, who were kind enough to take me as my entire family by this time had been more than aware of my devotion and obsessions with all things John Hughes by this point. To provide you with an accurate picture, at this stage, Hughes previous three writing and directorial efforts, "Sixteen Candles" (1984), "Weird Science" (1985) and the aforementioned "The Breakfast Club" has essentially been playing on a continuous loop in my household on the family VCR located in the basement, which had then become my primary domain, aside from doing homework in my actual bedroom upstairs. While Hughes had very quickly become a hero to me and friends at school had certainly seen those films, enjoyed them and laughed about them, endlessly quoting key lines of dialogue to each other in the school hallways, it still felt as if Hughes was mine, that he had reached me in a much more profound way than anyone else. Little did I know how much of an impact he was having across the nations teenage population.

During those years, John Hughes remarked occasionally that what he was trying to do with his films during this period was the innovative practice of building an audience for his work. That when one film was playing in theaters, the next one was being made and the previous one would be available on home video--much like what Disney is currently performing with the Marvel Comics movies.

I followed the Chicago newspapers, plus film and entertainment magazines for any and all information I could find on upcoming Hughes projects. When news of "Pretty In Pink" first arrived, I believe it was within the Chicago Tribune "Inc." gossip columns from writer Michael Sneed, who first gave an official "Open Casting Call" announcement for young men between certain ages interested in playing what was being advertised as "Molly Ringwald's best friend" for a future John Hughes feature. Although I knew that I would never had a chance (although why couldn't Molly have a Black best friend?) and I wasn't interested in acting anyway (I just wanted the chance to meet Hughes), I found my most recent high school class photo, since I knew nothing about head shots and sent it into the address listed in the article.

I heard absolutely nothing in response. But, a high school upperclassman acquaintance of mine supposedly did.

By now, you can all guess that the role in question was for the part of Philip F. Dale, otherwise and forever known as Duckie, the lifelong best friend of Ringwald's character, who achingly nurses an unrequited crush for her--a dilemma of which I possessed vast personal experience if anyone in Hollywood had wished to know about it. This role in particular was up for grabs as Hughes veteran Anthony Michael Hall, for whom the part was originally written, actually turned the part down for fear of being typecast and also desiring to try other projects, a decision made to Hughes' severe disappointment as the two never spoke again, notably to Hall's confusion.

At any rate, news traveled around my  high school hallways that one of our own had been called and did try out for the part of Duckie. His name is Chris Csikszentmihalyi--yes, it really is! I remember the two of us being smaller kids and inauspiciously meeting on one of the school's playgrounds with him asking me to guess his name and its spelling. Since I didn't know him at the time, I had no response or guess to give to him. So, he proceeded to write his last name in the dirt with a stick, to my disbelief and his insistence that it was indeed his last name. Anyhow, I found Chris and asked him if he had tried out to which he said, "Yes." I asked if he had met John Hughes to which he said, "No." But, if memory serves me well, he did seem to be more than a bit tickled to have tried out and even moreso, as he was supposedly (according the the high school hallway rumor mill) called back several times before Paramount Pictures (Hughes' production home base after leaving Universal) forced the production (as well as Hughes and his family) to move and be filmed in Los Angeles instead of Hughes' native Chicago, thus opening the door for Jon Cryer to receive the coveted role and leaving any young Chicago acting hopefuls--including Mr. Csikszentmihalyi--out of the running entirely.  

By the time "Pretty In Pink" was gearing up for its release, I tried to anticipate when television commercials promoting the film might air and absolutely rejoicing when I was finally able to see snippets of what the final product would look like. It was also around this time when I realized that Hughes himself would not be directing the film, a decision that confused me as I had read interviews and stories about his tribulations with other directors not serving his material in ways that he had wished to preserve the story as he had originally conceived. I had no idea of who Howard Deutch was, especially as he was a first time director. But since Hughes was the Executive Producer and his name was above the film's title, I hoped that his influence and creative voice would remain evident.

Finally, the advance screenings were set for one night only at a round of Chicago movie theaters and again, according to Sneed, John Hughes himself was planning to possibly attend one of the screenings as he enjoyed watching how his films worked with actual paying audiences. Certainly, as I lived on the Southwest side of Chicago, worlds away from the wealthy Northern suburbs where Hughes himself resided, I still held out some hope that I would catch a glimpse of his owl framed spectacles, shaggy brown hair, denim jacket I had seen in interviews coupled with the unlaced gym shoes that I had read about, and somehow find the courage to try and speak to him, forging a long wished for connection even for a fleeting moment. Of course, that moment never happened but even so...

The first amazing sight of the evening actually occurred before I saw even one frame of the finished film. If memory serves, the night featured a sold out audience, the largest audience that I had yet seen a John Hughes film. It was obvious that  Hughes' business plan of building an audience had succeeded swimmingly as this night, it felt as if John Hughes had fully arrived, that he had built his brand over the course of three films, gained the trust of his targeted teenage audience and now that he had us, we all flooded the theaters in support. In fact, all of the articles that I had been scouring in the newspapers and magazines, articles that I imagined existing as secret coded messages for my eyes only, were in actuality being read by everyone else in the movie theater as I overheard other kids also pondering if John Hughes himself would make a covert appearance. Regardless, the night carried the unmistakable vibe of the most highly anticipated rock concert and we were all ready! Adam, Susan and I took or seats, had our snacks and I anxiously awaited for the opening moments of the new John Hughes Production.

Vibrantly announcing itself with The Psychedelic Furs' re-recorded song from which the film was named, "Pretty In Pink" opens on a late Spring morning in the working class poor home of high school Senior Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald). After readying herself for school, fully adorned outwardly with her thrift store wardrobe and self-created fashion designs, Andie prepares breakfast and coffee as she wakes her loving yet unemployed and brokenhearted Father, Jack Walsh (Harry Dean Stanton), still paralyzed by the emotional wounds left behind by Andie's Mother who walked out on the family years ago.

At the wealthy public high school in her community, life is no less stressful for Andie as aside from the standard trials and tribulations of adolescence, she is ceaselessly taunted by her white collar classmates,  most notably by the serpentine Steff McKee (James Spader), in an environment divided into two camps, the "richies" (the wealthy) and the "zoids" (the poor), where aside from classes, never the 'twain they shall meet.

Until the day, the wealthy Blane McDonough (Andrew McCarthy) makes his move.

Blane, who has long held a secret attraction towards Andie, finally strikes up the courage to break ranks with his social group and approach her, first inside of Trax!, the trendy record store where Andie holds an afterschool job under the employ of the internally wayward and wandering Iona (Annie Potts) and secondly through the school's computer system via some fancy pre-social network cleverness.

After the two begin to strike up nervous, flirtatious conversations, Blane finally asks Andie out for a date, which sends shockwaves through the hallways, especially through the respective best friends of both hopeful romantics, Steff on Blane's side and the gregarious and heartsick Duckie (Jon Cryer), Andie's best friend since childhood who has long held an unrequited love towards her.

As social pressures build for the star crossed lovers, everything reaches its climax as Blane asks Andie to the prom, forcing all of the characters to question their own allegiances to their social groups as well as to their own struggles with independence, strength, individuality, class warfare, respect, dignity, personal successes and failures all the while negotiating and experiencing the lows and highs of falling in love.

John Hughes and Howard Deutch's "Pretty In Pink," in my heart as well as in the movie theater audience that surrounded me, made a direct hit and seemed to be destined for box office glory. That packed night held riotous laughter, cheers, screams, audible tears and rapturous applause over and again and as for myself, whatever trepidacious feelings I had over Deutch handling the directorial reins instead of Hughes completely evaporated. While he did not posses  Hughes' consistently innovative directorial gifts, Deutch confirmed that he was easily was able to handle the larger moments (Duckie's romantic outpouring via his record store dance to Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness" was, and remains, the roof raising crowd pleaser) and most importantly, the quieter, more interior moments absolutely beautifully. Howard Deutch demonstrated that he was a patient director, one who was especially observant, who allowed silences to play, having unspoken moments to reveal deeper emotional textures and nuances tat have actually grown to be more stirring and satisfying over these 30 years.

To the best of my knowledge, I may have been the first kid in my school to see it, and as was my wont, I pestered everyone about it, telling my friends how much I loved it but that it was a slightly different kind of John Hughes experience. It felt to be a tad more traditional, with the drama taking a larger role than in films past, and that included "The Breakfast Club," which still feels like an independent art film along the lines of Louis Malle's "My Dinner With Andre" (1981). And while the film did indeed become a box office hit, I do think that the earnestness of "Pretty In Pink" was somewhat lost on my friends, who possibly preferred something that was not perhaps so overly romantic or at least so seemingly old fashioned or even melodramatic. But, for me, and whatever my views on romance happened to be during those years, John Hughes made my heart ache and soar all over again, filling my teenage dreams of love with hope and possibility.

Director Of Photography Tak Fujimoto, John Hughes and Howard Deutch

And now, we arrive 30 years later and the film is more prevalent than I feel it has ever been. Certainly, it serves as a source of nostalgia for my generation but it is a film that despite its obvious aesthetic ties to the 1980's, is a film that has truthfully becomes timeless as its characters and themes have transcended any sense of cliche and have resonated richly for several generations since its original release. The film is still widely seen upon cable television channels and a few years ago, when I had the pleasure of meeting Molly Ringwald at a book signing, I had the opportunity to viewing teenage girls and women of a variety of ages and backgrounds, all eager to have a moment to express their affection and gratitude, especially for "Pretty In Pink," which played in a loop on a large screen television in the auditorium. Unquestionably, the film has held up over time powerfully.

Honestly, dear readers, if "Pretty In Pink" was solely a film about which boy would Molly choose, then it would not be worth giving a second thought, no matter who was behind the scenes, John Hughes or otherwise. As I have previously stated, the film is deceptively simple and for me, "Pretty In Pink" is a film that actually spirals off from "The Breakfast Club" to be an experience that explores and understands peer pressure to a meticulous and fully empathetic degrees, illustrating how we have the ability to hurt and damage others as well as ourselves through actions that are typically designed for self-preservation. Hughes and Deutch honored that specific dilemma, showcasing how this kind of pressure is one that permeates all ages and backgrounds, making for a story that is ultimately about human nature, not just Hughes' richies and zoids.

I felt that it was perfect to explore peer pressure through the filter of a love story, and one that does indeed extended beyond its "Romeo And Juliet" framework. "Pretty In Pink" is not just about Andie and Blane. In fact, it is a love story that goes beyond the love triangle once you include the unrequited Duckie. Hughes and Deutch have given us a film where Andie is pursued by three suitors: Blane, Duckie and Steff McKee.

Howard Deutch, James Spader and John Hughes

Steff McKee, as played to slithering perfection by James Spader, feels to function as Hughes' strong insight into male behavior (and for that matter, White male privilege) a type that may be the closest link to the cruelty within The Psychedelic Furs' song ("the first in the line is the last to remember her name") as Steff represents the type of young man who makes a habit of using women as toys and possessions to ultimately be discarded. Yet, when Andie firmly rebuffs his advances near the opening of the film, Steff's response is to openly call her a "bitch," and then spend the remainder of the film covertly attempting to destroy her and Blane. And even still, Hughes delves deeper to illustrate Steff's overall callous relationship with his parents, his family's wealth and his jaded view of life itself.

I still love that terrific scene set in his family's home library, as he almost absentmindedly rolls a joint while quietly threatening Blane with social exclusion should he continue to pursue his romance with what Steff refers to as Blane's "little piece of low grade ass." This scene remains a stunning moment of blatant human disregard where the only gains are in power, control and having that front row seat in viewing the losses of others, in this case Blane's sense of self-respect as he is soon to fully crumble. The teenaged Steff McKee is certainly in the running to become a full fledged Tea Party Republican in his future unless a scrappy school hallway beating courtesy of Duckie and a final dressing down by Blane at the prom are unable to restore any sense of heart, soul and decency within him.

As awful as Steff is, Hughes and Deutch wisely do not let Blane off of the hook either. While he is the one who first courts Andie and his intentions are pure, that pesky wealthy White male privilege rears its ugly head here and there as Blane consistently misses social cues and makes serious mistakes to which Andie always rights his wrongs, which to his credit he always obliges, withstands and even seems to appreciate with bemused, self-deprecating humor.

The mid-film date between Blane and Andie is an extremely painful section of "Pretty In Pink" as their respective social classes are in conflict despite their individual mutual attractions to each other, leading to a series of misunderstandings that are indeed mostly Blane's fault. Assuming Andie needs to return home to get dressed for their date when she is fully ready. Overestimating the tolerance of his wealthy social class by taking Andie to Steff's final weekend high school blow out  house party, where she is routinely insulted and humiliated, most notably by Steff's girlfriend, the especially nasty Benny Hanson (Kate Vernon). When Blane, ashamed of himself with his errors at one point asks Andie if she wishes to hit him and is met with a powerfully tact "Yes," he recovers with humor while acknowledging his mistakes.

Moments like these pepper the building relationship between Andie and Blane before he fully succumbs to peer pressure, backing out of his own invitation to the prom with the lamest of lame excuses, the culmination of his worst impulses despite his good nature and honest feelings towards Andie. It is only when Andie tearfully screams and throttles him by the lockers in the high school hallway does Blane McDonough finally realize that Andie Walsh is stronger and better than he could ever truly be if he really wanted to fully win her hand. He is broken by the fact that he has hurt Andie definitely, but I think that his realization that he is ultimately undone by his own weakness is what shakes Blane to his core. That he is not the person he thought he was. Not as above the prejudices he thought that he was. And if he isn't, then he is just as horrible as all of the people around him that he calls friends and family. This is Blane's existential "benchmark moment" as he is now forced to ask of himself, "Who am I? What have I become? Is this who I am destined to be?"

Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer

But of course, what just may be the most painful relationship in the film is the one between best friends Andie Walsh and Duckie Dale, as with "Pretty In Pink," John Hughes has written a tender portrait of friendships on the precipice of life altering transitions, a theme he further explored in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Some Kind Of Wonderful" (1987), and to a extent within "She's Having A Baby" (1988).

It has been expressed in interviews that Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer actually did not get along that swimmingly on set, as Cryer described her as being somewhat aloof and therefore, resistant to his more gregarious and excitable nature (especially how thrilled he was to be working on a John Hughes production). even so, that real life tension worked tremendously well for their characters as we are witnessing two life long friends who are indeed drifting apart in the final weeks of high school. Andie, much more serious minded and academically strong than Duckie's class clown, who just might be deliberately failing his classes due to his fear of the inevitable future, is at a stage where she just does not have the time to deal with all of Duckie's antics, no matter how much she loves him. And as for Duckie, all he wishes is that Andie could possibly love him in the way that he has been so desperately in love with her for far too long. For if she did, perhaps this would be one aspect of his life that would not have to change after graduation and Andie unquestionably heads off to college.

Here is the aspect of Duckie that is markedly different than Andie: Duckie is friendless. Throughout the film, we see Andie with other high school friends, from the caustic Jena Hoeman (the late Alexa Kenin) and Simon (Dweezil Zappa), either in classes or within the teen nightclub where Duckie is constantly denied entrance, and aside from scenes where he and Andie are together, Duckie is essentially all alone. Even mentions of family are present within the film for many of the characters except for Duckie, whose sad home life we witness is one of somber solitude set to music by The Smiths.

The "crying clown" would be nothing more than a cliche if not for the sensitivity of Hughes writing, Deutch's direction and most certainly, Jon Cryer's wonderful, hysterical and heartbreaking performance. His gregariousness and humor are the only shields he has in a world that turns a blind eye to him, and that includes Andie Walsh, whose friendship and love is gradually turning to irritation, sometimes to a surprisingly harsh degree ("You ever have one of these?" she coldly asks Iona after Duckie's unleashes his record store dance). Duckie is the kid who just tries a little too hard and is therefore an outcast within his own group of outcasts. The only people who are remotely patient with him, aside from Andie (and even her's is waning), are the adults in his life, from Iona, Andie's Father (in a very lovely scene the two share) and Andrew "Dice" Clay's nightclub bouncer, as they seem to recognize his predicament in ways his peers simply cannot. Yet, again, where are Duckie's parents? They are never seen nor are they mentioned even one time.

Duckie Dale exists as one of John Hughes' several isolated loner characters from Alison Reynolds and John Bender from "The Breakfast Club," to Cameron Frye in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," to Watts the Drummer Girl in "Some Kind Of Wonderful" to even the gregarious and grieving travelling salesman Del  Griffith in "Planes, Trains And Automobiles" (1987). Duckie is one more Hughes hero cut off a bit from the mainstream, a lonely figure on the fringes but one who may be most deserving of attention, respect and love due to the fact he rarely receives it. And yet, even so, he is one of the strongest as his perseverance is steadfast despite any obstacles thrown in his direction, especially those that are self-made.

The key to Duckie is the greatness of his loyalty and dedication, even after his heart has been shattered on the night Andie has her date with Blane. He defends her honor not once but twice after their "breakup" and yet, he makes his most crucial decision on prom night when he finally acknowledges the truth of his relationship with Andie and lets her go to be with Blane--a decision where he begins to ultimately let go of his past to make significant first steps into the future he is undoubtedly fearing.

Prom night is the night where Duckie begins to build his newfound sense of maturity.

There can be no exploration about "Pretty In Pink" without delving into the film's leading protagonist, Andie Walsh and the film's star Molly Ringwald, again for whom this film was specifically written.

The collaboration between John Hughes and Molly Ringwald was truly a magical one for me. While she was not one that I had ever housed any sort of a crush, I deeply admired her, looked up to her, all the while realizing that there was simply no one else who looked or sounded quite like her and displayed a certain sense of intelligence and conviction that was just unheard of within the 1980's teen film genre (and for that matter, has there really been anyone else like her since?). With "Pretty In Pink," her final collaboration with Hughes, Molly Ringwald was graced with a character that allowed her to rise to the fullest of her powers at that time as Andie Walsh truly is a cinematic rarity as well as a character of undeniable strength and tenacity.

It would not be hard pressed to describe "Pretty In Pink" as being a film of empowerment. Yes, the "Cinderella" framework of the poor, put-upon girl being courted by the young handsome prince to go to the ball is more than evident, as John Hughes was certainly the master of the teen fantasy. But, it was within that fantasy that Hughes gave his characters and story some truthful realities to give the film weight and gravity, ensuring the fantasy did not just fly off into the ether but resonated and reverberated powerfully and honestly. It is a dance that Hughes, along with Howard Deutch, handled richly as they never wallowed in the darkness but also never gave the film's tougher elements short shrift either. Everything was doled out in just the right amounts where the comedy, drama, reality and fantasy all worked together in perfect tandem.

As with so many elements in our own real lives, everything begins within the home and for Andie Walsh, that could not be more prevalent. "Pretty In Pink" gives us a window into the world of an 18 year old girl forced to play the role of parent to her own Father, dilapidated, depressed and possibly alcoholic fr three full years after her Mother and his wife abandoned them. Andie's strength and tenacity stems from their combined loss. Where Jack falls apart and with no sense of repair remotely in sight, Andie finds her resolve to not only keep her family afloat. Just think, her record store job is most likely ensuring there is food in the house and that bills are paid as Jack's part time employment could not possibly cover all of those costs. Her fashion sense and creativity has allowed her to be frugal and only spend on the necessities. And still, er eye in on her future as she as also resigned herself to not become as lost as her Father as college and potential scholarships are in her direct sights. As she informs Jena during gym class wen asked why she studies so much, Andie briskly replies, "I don't want to work in a record store my whole life."

To that end, Andie is essentially surrounded by figures who are all within some state of feeling emotionally stunted or lost entirely. Duckie is lost in love as well as being lost in his fears of the future. Blane is lost in his insecurities and failings. Even Iona, who functions as Andie's surrogate Mother/big sister figure as well her employer is lost in nostalgia and her own identity crisis. Only Andie knows what she wants and is determined enough to do whatever she is able to do to achieve her goals, if only to not fall into the traps that everyone she loves has fallen into.

This quality doesn't make Andie a perfect individual by any means. She loses her temper, falls into her own insecurities and even feels ore than resentful at times that she just can't always depend upon her Father to just be her at her, leaving her to be the child for once. Take the gentle scene between Andie and Jack after her first date with Blane. While Jack tenderly offers his advice to a confused Andie regarding the class differences between herself, Blane, their respective social groups and whatever consequences a potential romance may hold, he just as painfully turns the tables when he essentially needs Andie to console him because he is the one she is forced to confide in now that Mom has exited their lives. Not even for one night can Andie solely exist as the daughter and Jack as the Father and the responsibility and pressure is exhausting and eventually explodes in what I feel to be the film's most difficult and emotionally raw sequence where Andie forces her Father to accept that Mom is gone and will never come back.

Over these 30 years, it has become more and more apparent to me that Andie Walsh functions as the John Hughes surrogate--possibly serving as the best of himself (or how he wished he could have been) as he navigated through Hollywood. "If someone doesn't believe in me, I can't believe in them," Andie shares with Blane. More and more, that sentiment feels like a personal John Hughes mantra considering the sensitivity of his heart and emotions when dealing with his creations and the relationships he formed with individuals bringing them into three dimensional life.

Another Andie Walsh-ism, "I wanted them to know that they didn't break me," has proven itself to be even more powerful. Molly Ringwald has expressed that when people, mostly women, have approached her over these past 30 years, they have mentioned this one line of dialogue in particular as having a significant personal effect on their respective lives. As far as John Hughes is concerned, perhaps a statement like that one was Hughes himself offering a window into his inner world to the audience, especially as the demands of Hollywood surrounded him and his family when all he really wanted to do was to just write, create and film his stories with as little interference as possible. Yet, of course, he always had to be influenced by suggestions, alternations and compromises...most notably, filming "Pretty In Pink" in California instead of Chicago and unquestionably, changing the ending to his own film, an alteration which I do firmly believe was indeed for the better.

I think that it is quite telling that Howard Deutch desired to make this film his directorial debut. Much has been said or slightly questioned as to John Hughes' ultimate involvement with the film as he was not credited as director but the idea has been floated that he "ghost directed" the film. Well, both Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer have each expressed that Hughes himself was not on set terribly much. Yet through every production photo that I have seen, plus behind the scenes footage, John Hughes is right on set and actively involved in discussions with Deutch and the cast.

According to Deutch's own wonderful DVD commentary, he expressed how Hughes' availability was paramount to his own work, making their collaboration a true partnership. Deutch explained that Hughes was on set for some crucial scenes, practically standing over his shoulder, guiding Deutch and the cast, telling him that he hasn't hit the right moment or tone just yet and try another take. Two sequences in particular Deutch expressed their difficulty in discovering the correct emotional pitch: The scene where Andie confesses to Blane that she doesn't want him to see where she lives and the aforementioned confrontation between Andie and Jack.

Howard Deutch explained that when John Hughes first approached him to direct one of his screenplays, that he was presented with two different scripts. One was entitled "The New Kid," and was a broad comedy centered around a transfer student from Arizona trying to find his way in a Chicago high school. The other was "Pretty In Pink." Deutch chose "Pretty  Pink" simply because he said it made him cry. He chose Jon Cryer because he saw such vulnerability in him that he just couldn't bear to see this kid getting emotionally hurt. It is that very sensibility which fuels "Pretty In Pink" and gives it its tender eggshell core and again, those nuanced silences that speak volumes.

Hughes and Deutch became a tremendously effective pairing as Hughes helped and assisted whenever needed yet when it came down to making that major change in the film's finale, Deutch was instrumental in having the right alterations made yet keeping the integrity of the project fully intact.

Yes, dear readers, I am in full possession of the novelization as well as the 5th draft version of Hughes' original screenplay and in both, Andie and Duckie prevail against the "richies" at the prom as they dance together, swirling around and around and implying that Andie will at long last reciprocate Duckie's feelings. Howard Deutch has said the test audiences were with the film completely until that ending, because practically, the audiences wanted Molly to "get the boy." Deutch knew that for the full success of the film, the ending had to be changed. Upon having further conversations with an understandably upset Hughes who did not wish for his material to be that significantly tampered with, it was also noted that Hughes was indeed questioned with the following concept should the ending not be changed: Did he really wish to make a movie that tells the audience that people from different backgrounds could not and should not be together?

Ah...yes...and so, Hughes went back to write and decided that Blane would arrive at the prom...all alone.

The masterstroke of Blane not only arriving at prom alone but being there solely with the hopes that Andie would also arrive and he could just tell her that he was wrong, that he was sorry and that he truly loved her, regardless of whether she accepted him or not was wonderful and fully deserving of everything that had come before during the course of the film. This essence was possibly a message Hughes may have had to the young men in his audience about what it takes to be a man. To be sensitive, to own up to your mistakes and wrongful decision if any had been made, to understand that perhaps sometimes to love a women, one has to even walk away in order for both to grow (just as Duckie realized as well). And so, with this climactic prom sequence, Andie Walsh retains the fullness of her integrity and empowerment while Blane finds redemption and forgiveness, Duckie finds maturity and Steff's meets his comeuppance as all four of them take their first steps into their respective post-high school futures.

And to think, all of this from a movie about a girl who wishes to go to the prom.

John Hughes' "Pretty In Pink," as directed by Howard Deutch, is a gift of art and entertainment, a work of great populism and the intensely personal, crowd pleasing comedy and heartfelt drama and containing a nuance and texture in the ways of friendships, family, love and romance that remains a rarity in too many Hollywood features. It is a testament to the full cast and crew for their commitment to ensuring that the underlying qualities of this deceptively simple story were prevalent rather than the fashion, the innovative soundtrack and even the endlessly quotable Hughes dialogue. "Pretty In Pink" had to be emotionally true to the elegant pains and pleasures of love and loss, the dance contained in all relationships of some intimacy, and the feelings inherent within personal successes and failures.
Howard Deutch circa 1985

In an interview published in the March 24, 2016 edition of the online publication Milk, from writer Rachel Hodin, Howard Deutch offered his impressions of why "Pretty In Pink" has withstood the test of time so beautifully.

"I think it's a case-by-case writer situation. I mean, the teen movie, or any movie--the values of that script are based on what the writer's pint of view is. John had a great female voice...He had a great ability to write for women, and young women, when others didn't. So, if you look at 'Sixteen Candles,' and you look at Molly's character, and also her point of view on the different obstacles she had to overcome, you see the story of the journey of a girl (becoming a) woman. It's (a journey) that all girls and all boys have to take. And, that's something an audience and the rest of us can identify with and relate to and get invested in, because it's like our own lives.

In those stories--and (it's) the same (for) 'Pretty In Pink'--I think you, as an audience, not only are entertained, but you're identifying with that character. And if you're a woman, it becomes a much more empowering story when you see the decisions that John wanted that character to make. In the end, these characters discover that they can stand on their own, or that they're worthy of love, or whatever (the story) is thematically about. But, he was unusual in that way. He could write for both men and women, and there aren't a lot, in my opinion, who had that talent...He was an acutely sensitive, empathetic, super raw-nerved, exposed individual. And also, frozen in time, in that high school era. He always, I think, identified with the underdog--always felt underappreciated or looked over. All of the things most of us feel in high school, I think those things stayed with him."

And to various degrees, for each and every individual viewer who has ever embraced this film, perhaps all of those feelings have stayed with us too. I know for certain they have with myself. And somehow, someway, it was John Hughes who captured and harnessed those emotions so uniquely over and again, in order to tell stories rooted within their specific time but are unabashedly timeless.

John, as always, I miss you and for forever, I thank you.

John Hughes
February 18, 1950-August 6, 2009
with Dweezil Zappa, Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy and Jon Cryer

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