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Hughes Hollywood

Hughes in Hollywood

Howard Hughes breezed into Hollywood in 1925, a quiet tall gangly Texan determined to become a motion picture producer director.  He was scoffed at by the Hollywood movie moguls at the time who claimed he would soon be broke and headed back to Texas.  He proved his critics wrong.

His first movie, Swell Hogan was a flop, but never released.  The second was Everybody's Acting, it received modest reviews; however Two Arabian Nights was a box office hit.  Hollywood began to take notice.  Fascinated with aviation, Hughes geared up for the production of Hells Angels.

He purchased 87 bona fide World War I fighter airplanes and hired 137 pilots.  One of the pilots was Glenn “Ode” Odekirk who became his personal aviation confidant and a friendship that continued for 30 years.

Hells Angels, a World War I aviation film epic became the blockbuster movie of its time, and the most costly to produce.  The aerial stunt flying scenes were revolutionary.  Hughes nearly killed himself demonstrating to stunt pilots how a certain maneuver should be performed, crashing and receiving a head concussion.

Upon completing the film, Hughes learned that sound was introduced into the movie production business. Hughes ordered the entire film re-shot.  He spared no expense to achieve the perfection he wanted.  After the final completion, Hughes had shot 2.5 million feet of film; the final version of Hells Angels only had 15,000 feet of film. He employed more than 20,000 people at a record cost of $3.8 million.  It was a huge success.  Hughes never showed up for the Hollywood premier. He didn’t like crowds or accolades.

The renegade producer went on to produced five more pictures: The Age of Love, Cock of the Air, Sky Devils, Front Page and the classic Scarface.  He took a ten year sabbatical from the moviemaking business to embark on an aviation career that made him a legend and a national hero.  Later, he purchased controlling interest in RKO Studios, producing dozens of films, the most famous, The Outlaw starring Jane Russell.

By Bob McCaffery

Howard Hughes receiving congratulations from the California and Hollywood American Legion Post Commanders, 1952, for his highly (self) publicized "war on Hollywood communists." Hughes fired screenwriter Paul Jarrico who had written the screenplay for RKO's forgettable Meet Me in Las Vegas (another vehicle for Jane Russell) after Jarrico was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Commitee. After Jarrico refused to answer the Committee's questions, Hughes had his name removed from the film's credits, which was protested by Jarrico and the Screen Writer's Guild. Hughes answered characteristically with a lawsuit claiming that Jarrico had, by refusing to testify, violated the standard morals clause in his contract with RKO. Although Hughes was acclaimed as a hero by the anti-communists of the day, the incident left Hughes with a bad odor in Hollywood.

Air combat scene from "Hells Angels" The movie was originally shot as a silent movie. The sound and the ingénue starlet Jean Harlowe were added later.

(1) . . . The studio has lost a fortune since he took it over, (2) it makes virtually no pictures at all

Hughes: (2) is pretty rough. We made enough pictures to carry our distribution set up.

White: I think you made the magnificent sum of 5 pictures in one year but I can't remember which year it was.

Hughes: I suppose you didn't count the independent productions. Those should be considered part of the total.

White: Even if you count independent productions - it is far less than was planned at the beginning of the year.

Hughes: The number of releases planned is exaggerated for exhibitors - you know that. Can't you say something to the effect, "However, since taking over RKO the studio has lost money?"

White: I'll compromise with you.

Hughes: I object to "fortune" and "virtually no pictures."

Hated by a large majority of the film colony

Hughes: I think "large majority" is going a little far. I think it is true that you could say "by a substantial number of the film colony."

Gina Lollabrigida and Ursula Theis

Hughes: I think this is very harmful, I wish you would see your way clear to change it. I want to have further discussion with you on this later. I never went out with Ursula Theis in my life, and we may wind up in a lawsuit with Lollobrigida with regard to her contract, so let's not make her madder than she is. Anyway she wouldn't be saying those kind things about me.

White: I will take out Theis and Lollabigida entirely.

Click Images to Enlarge
Blimp promotes "The Outlaw" Hughes directs "The Outlaw" Young Howard Hughes, director
On the set "The Outlaw" On the set "The Outlaw" On the set "The Outlaw"
"The Outlaw" star Jane Russel "Hells Angels" Air Force Stunt pilot instructions
 
"Hells Angels" pilots Hughes crashes stunt plane  

 


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