John Hughes, leader of the Brat Pack, dies from heart attack at 59

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Famed teen-film director John Hughes, the man behind coming-of-age classics such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club, has died of a heart attack, aged 59. A spokeswoman confirmed he collapsed during a morning walk in Manhattan, where he was visiting family.

He grew up in Northbrook, Illinois, a small town in the Chicago suburbs, an area that would come to feature heavily in his movies. After starting his career as a copywriter at a Chicago advertising agency, he began selling jokes to well known performers of the time, such as Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. Eventually he wrote a short story based on family trips as a child that landed him a job on the staff of National Lampoon magazine, the iconic 70s comedy publication, where he worked alongside the likes of P. J. O'Rourke and Michael O'Donoghue.

But it was his gift for the indignities and anxieties of teenage life that would see him emerge as Hollywood's youth impresario of the 1980s and '90s. Judd Apatow, the Emmy-Award winning writer-producer-director behind films like Anchorman and the 40-Year-Old Virgin, said "John Hughes wrote some of the great outsider characters of all time."

With films such as 16 Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off he gave breaks to some of Hollywood's biggest young stars. A role in a Hughes' film is seen as a precondition for membership of The Brat Pack, the nickname given to a group of young actors such as Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Emilio Estevez, who starred in the teen-friendly coming-of-age movies of the mid 80's.

He also scripted The 1990 Christmas movie Home Alone, in which a then unknown 10-year old Macauley Culkin fends off hapless burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern when his parents accidentally leave him behind when they take the family away for Christmas vacation. The film became the highest earner at the box office that year and made Culkin an albeit temporary international superstar.

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").

He directed established movie stars too, notably Steve Martin and the late John Candy in slapstick comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the latter he and Macauley Culkin teamed up with again in 1989 film Uncle Buck.

As Hughes advanced into middle age, his commercial touch faded and he increasingly withdrew from public life. His last directing credit was in 1991, for "Curly Sue."

Though he wrote just a handful of scripts over the past decade, amongst them was Maid in Manhattan, the 2002 romantic comedy starring Ralph Fiennes and Jennifer Lopez. He was rarely interviewed or photographed. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Nancy, and his two children John and James.