Howard Hughes: manufacturer, aviator, film producer and recluse. 1905 - 1976
Born in Houston, Texas on 24th September 1905 (or December, according to some sources), he was orphaned at age 17, and studied at the California Institute of Technology and the Rice Institute of Technology before taking over his father's oil equipment company (the Hughes Tool Company), and inheriting around $900,000.
In 1925 he moved to Hollywood, to follow in the footsteps of his uncle (the novelist Robert Hughes), to pursue his dream of producing films, and began a career which spanned over 30 years, introducing such stars as Jean Harlow, Paul Muni and Jane Russell to worldwide filmgoers.
In 1948 he bought a controlling interest in RKO Pictures and bought the whole company in 1954, remaining as chairman of the board until 1957.
- Swell Hogan (1926) unreleased
- Two Arabian Knights (1927) Academy Award winner
- The Mating Call (1928)
- Hell's Angels (1930)
- The Front Page (1931)
- Cock of the Air (1932)
- Sky Devils (1932)
- Scarface (1932)
- The Outlaw (1943)
- The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947)
- Vendetta (1950)
- The Whip Hand (1951)
- Two Tickets to Broadway (1951)
- The Las Vegas Story (1952)
- Second Chance (1953)
- Louisiana Territory (1953)
- The French Line (1954)
- Son of Sinbad (1955)
- Underwater! (1955)
- The Conqueror (1956)
- Jet Pilot (1957)
As is evident from many of his films (for 'Hell's Angels' he created his own air force of 87 vintage Fokkers
and Sopwith Camels
), Hughes had always been keen on aircraft and flying. Having founded the Hughes Aircraft Company
in 1933, he went on to design both aeroplanes and the associated technology, including radio equipment. In 1935
he established a new speed record of 352 mph in one of his own designs, and set a new US coast-to-coast record two years later. His involvement with companies such as Lockheed
also enabled him to pursue his dream of making flying an everyday activity for everyone.
In 1942 he began his affair with the flying boat which came to be known as the Spruce Goose. This eight-engined monstrosity was designed to carry up to 750 passengers, and once built, only ever flew once, with Hughes at the controls.
Following his first nervous breakdown in 1944, he became increasingly reclusive. Never very happy in the public eye, in 1950 he went into complete seclusion, refusing to venture out even to answer antitrust charges in regard to Trans World Airlines (he refused to appear in court and lost control of the organization by default).
After a second breakdown in 1958 he began moving from one place to another (including the Bahamas, Canada, England, Las Vegas and Mexico),taking elaborate precautions to arrive secretly at luxury hotels, and employing only male members of the Mormon church as aides.
His behaviour became increasingly eccentric - his diet was meager, he neglected his personal appearance and was obsessive about hygiene. Working for days at a time, without sleep, in blacked-out rooms, his health suffered as he became emaciated and reliant on drugs. He finally died in an airplane en route to Apapulco to seek medical treatment. He died intestate, many alleged wills being disputed and declared forgeries.