Lessons From the "Real" Ferris Bueller


In the wake of John Hughes' death, a lot of material is circulating about his 1986 masterpiece, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, a teen classic in which the title character skips school and espouses a sort of do-what-you-feel philosophy, breaking various laws while cavorting through Chicago and avoiding the pesky Dean of Students.

Anyway, one of the best articles to come from this recent Bueller retrospective is entitled A Mirror Up To the Original Ferris Bueller by Edward McNally, published in today's Washington Post. McNally is considered by some so be Hughes's inspiration for Ferris, as he actually did versions of some of the hijinks depicted in the movie, back when he (McNally) and Hughes were growing up together in Illinois. (Note that McNally, in the article, denies being the sole inspiration for Bueller, but seems to suggest that Bueller is a pastiche of various members of the Hughes friend circle.) Here are a few snippets from the article:

For one of those Chicago adventures, we secretly borrowed a car almost as ridiculously conspicuous as the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT in the movie: my dad's purple Cadillac El Dorado (yes, purple). Put an extra 113 miles on the odometer. Hoping to erase that telltale mileage, we raised the back on a pair of jacks and ran the car in reverse. The Caddy did not fly backward into a ravine, as in the film. What it did do is quickly take off a clean 10,000 miles. Oops. (Yes, you bet he noticed.)

In creating his everyman heroes, Hughes makes clear his ultimate faith in youth. In "The Breakfast Club" his other iconic dean, the drill sergeant-like Richard Vernon, fears: "Someday these kids are gonna be running the country. This is the thought that wakes me up in the middle of the night." Mr. Vernon was wrong. Today those kids are doing a brilliant job. And many of them also remember the lessons of Ferris Bueller and John Hughes. ...

Read the rest for a smart look back at what the "real" Ferris Bueller thinks about life, and growing up. My favorite quote from the article: "Hughes had Ferris talk directly to the camera. To us. He says, deal with your fear. Believe in yourself. Make sick days count. And: Do you realize that if we played by the rules, right now we'd be in gym?"

(And while we're at it, read Sincerely, John Hughes, the story of a girl who wrote to John Hughes after watching one of his movies and subsequently became his pen-pal for decades.)