On February 18th, what would have marked John Hughes’ sixty-sixth birthday, it is significant to appreciate not just the shaper of 80s culture’s date of nascence, but also the fact that he shares it with his muse, Molly Ringwald. The duo’s collaborations on what fans reverently call the Molly Ringwald trilogy are among some of the most defining in cinema history.
A year after Hughes’ passing, Ringwald would write a touching opinion piece about the auteur and how she shaped her life, noting, “John saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself. He had complete confidence in me as an actor, which was an extraordinary and heady sensation for anyone, let alone a 16-year-old girl.” It was Hughes’ faith in an unlikely spokesperson for a previously unacknowledged sect of society–the teenager–that made Ringwald come across as the genuine, approachable character actress she would become.
The trust built between Hughes and Ringwald grew more evident with each film they worked on together, a rare form of give and take that perhaps only a few other directors have had the good fortune of possessing (Scorsese and De Niro come to mind). Ringwald, like so many of her age at the time, saw Hughes as a personal hero, one of the only “grown ups” in the world who looked at teens as people, not as worthless, invisible human beings. Ringwald rightly asserted, “Before I made movies with John, whenever people thought of teen movies, they thought of Animal House and Porky’s. John was doing something very different. He wasn’t creating slapstick. His pictures were from a teenager’s point of view.” By making teens the relatable, sensitive creatures they actually were (though don’t seem to be anymore) on celluloid, Hughes and Ringwald became the combined voice of a generation.
The shared experience of breaking down the cinematic barriers previously presented by an untapped genre–the teen movie–that no one would touch (Rebel Without A Cause was about the only option a person could turn to before the 80s) permanently bound Hughes and Ringwald together. Their shared birthday is thus merely a natural cosmic connection.