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Howard Hughes – The Film Maker
The life of Howard Hughes is most unusual, he has a mysterious aurora about him, he is mainly known as an aviator, he maintained a keen interest in planes and air travel, breaking flight speed records and travelled across the world in record times, breaking the boundaries of what was though possible in flight. Several have documented the life of Howard Hughes, speculating on his erratic lifestyle and extravagant career.
Even the world of motion pictures has tried its hand at illustrating the life of Howard Hughes, through his beginnings as the head of a tool company, following from the legacy of his father, to his widely publicised relationships with many of Hollywood’s best known actresses. However, although he was part of the limelight for the first 40 years of his life, he regularly disappeared from public view thereafter, controlling his empire in a screen room and in later life, the Desert Inn in Las Vegas.
A Brief Look…
This first article will address the first 30 years of his life, when Howard Hughes was a young businessman investing millions into his films with never before seen aviation footage. Hughes never really paid much attention to his oil tool family business, in fact he hired someone strictly for that process and rarely ever questioned the specifics of the business, all that was taken care of, all he cared about was the money that flowed out of it so he could fund his many endeavours. He lived a life of a star, being involved in several high profile relationships with famous actresses such as Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis and Ava Gardner. His father’s company would finance his movies and aviation projects therefore risking his entire financial situation to push the boundaries in the film and aviation industry.
Howard Hughes Jr. was born into a privileged family, his father was a successful inventor and businessman who capitalised on his patented invention, the two cone roller bit for rotary drilling which allowed the drilling for petroleum in previously inaccessible places. This decision eventually led to the beginnings of the Hughes Tool Company which was founded in 1909. This became the foundation for Hughes’ Jr. business empire, and would fund his early movie making and aviation interests. Hughes developed an early interest in the fields of science and technology, already showing signs of his aptitude for engineering.
Most notably in his early years he developed Houston’s first radio transmitter at only 11 years of age and also Houston’s first ”motorized” bicycle which he built himself. He enjoyed mathematics, flying and things mechanical, therefore his early interests would produce the foundation for his following choices in later life, establishing himself as a visionary and innovative engineer.
By the time Hughes’ was 18, both his parents had died, his mother Allene Hughes in 1922 and his father, Howard Hughes Sr. in 1924. Hughes Jr., therefore inherited 75 per cent of the family fortune. Hughes was declared an emancipated minor and in effect of this he was given full control of his legacy. The factors given clearly illustrated the path Hughes would undertake, his ownership of his father’s tool company would become the funding for his projects so he could produce his own films, most notably the production of Hell’s Angels.
Hughes the Film Maker
Hughes’ tool company would serve as the principal holding company for his business ventures and investments which allowed him to pour money into his aviation and most notably his decision to enter the entertainment industry. Films that can be credited back to Hughes are ones such as Hell’s Angels (1930), Scarface (1932) and the Outlaw (1943), to name but a few these were his most famous because of the production issues faced. Hells Angel’s experienced long and complicated production issues with Hughes’ perfectionist attitude being the main backbone to these problems. Scarface’s production was delayed due to censors’ concerns over the excessive violence and the Outlaw received considerable attention from industry censors over Jane Russell’s revealing costumes. I will briefly talk about the first of those films.
Probably one of Howard Hughes’ best known films, mainly known for its production issues, its expense and the scale of the operation. Even more controversial was the accidental deaths of several pilots, following that and the postponed release date, the film earned quite a notoriety. The film was originally a silent film but when Hughes witnessed the transformation from silent films to sound after watching the Jazz Singer which incorporated synchronised sound, all was changed mid-production which inflated the budget and lengthened the production process even further.
The fatalities of many of the pilots was because of the flying manoeuvres involved, some were considered too dangerous and Hughes even performed one himself and crashed, leaving himself recuperating in hospital and he underwent facial surgery. Lack of communication and strategic production also led many of the pilots to crash, if were not absolute on what they were meant to be doing then a crash was certain. The notoriety of the film however actually encouraged publicity and although the production costs were around $4 million, the film garnered $8 million, twice its production budget and the film is credited for the authenticity and quality in terms of World War I aviation.
This one of Howard Hughes’ later films, it is credited with being the breakthrough role of Jane Russell, turning her into a Hollywood icon and a sexy symbol and therefore establishing her career. After watching the film it is obvious to see why Russell could be considered a sex symbol because of the emphasis on Russell’s breasts, the films was cut considerably on the scenes which they deemed inappropriate. The film was actually finished early in 1941 but was not released until 1943. Funnily enough Howard Hughes managed to get the film released by stirring publicity to get the film banned which in turn actually ensured the film would end up becoming a box office because of the increased notoriety of the film. This established Hughes as an ever resourceful and cunning businessman, traits which allowed him to capitalise even more on his wealth
It can then be argued that due to the nature of the production issues, Hughes can generally be taken as a man that likes pushing the boundaries, as in the same respect to aviation, a visionary and innovative creator who wanted to explore and stretch what thought possible at the time. His time in Hollywood meant he was popular among the stars becoming involved in many high profile relationships. It is also worth mentioning that Hughes’ mental stability was at its peak, although he always had issues such as impaired hearing and OCD specifics, these were relatively controlled and limited, it wasn’t really until 1946 when he crashed his XF-11 that his symptoms were beginning to become alarming.
This post will experience some changes as this is not the finish product, any criticism is welcome, thank you. 🙂