University of Sussex
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Mainstream maverick? John Hughes and new Hollywood cinema

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posted on 2023-06-08, 19:11 authored by Holly Chard
My thesis explores debates on the commercial and textual priorities of New Hollywood cinema through examination of the career of John Hughes. I argue that scrutiny of Hughes’ career and the products associated with him expose the inadequacy of established approaches to cinematic authorship and New Hollywood cinema. By mounting a historically grounded investigation of Hughes’ career, his status within the cinema industry, and his work as a commercially successful and agenda-setting filmmaker, I aim to reevaluate existing perspectives on post-1970s mainstream popular U.S. media. Drawing on an extensive array of previously unexamined primary materials, the thesis focuses on Hughes’ shifting status as a “creative producer” within the U.S. film industry, as well as on the construction of the John Hughes “brand” during the 1980s and 1990s. I explore how Hughes secured considerable industrial power by exploiting opportunities presented by expanding ancillary markets and changing production agendas. I argue that established models for conceptualising industrial trends, such as Justin Wyatt’s “high concept”, fail to capture the complexities of Hollywood’s commercial strategies in this period. I conclude that historical research can challenge previous assumptions and contribute to a more detailed and precise understanding of the operations of the U.S. film industry in this period. By scrutinizing the films that Hughes wrote, produced and/or directed, I consider how Hughes’ films are complexly determined industrial productions that are shaped both by a set of radically fluctuating commercial imperatives, as well as by Hollywood’s standardized formats and frameworks. The production of Hollywood cinema may be a collaborative enterprise, but I argue that certain individuals and institutions can exert greater control over aspects of the process. In conclusion, I suggest that such a historical methodology can illuminate not just the work of one particular filmmaker but can shed new light on the broader operations of Hollywood as a commercial culture industry.


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  • Media and Film Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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