Howard Hughes

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Howard Hughes : biography

24 December 1905 – 5 April 1976

Awards

  • Congressional Gold Medal (presented August 7, 1939).

Estate

Approximately three weeks after Hughes’ death, a handwritten will was found on the desk of an official of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. The so-called "Mormon Will" gave US$1.56 billion to various charitable organizations (including US$625 million to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute); nearly US$470 million to the upper management in Hughes’ companies and to his aides; US$156 million to first cousin William Lummis; and US$156 million split equally between his two ex-wives Ella Rice and Jean Peters.

A further US$156 million was endowed to a gas-station owner named Melvin Dummar. Dummar told reporters that late one evening in December 1967, he found a disheveled and dirty man lying along U.S. Highway 95, north of Las Vegas. The man asked for a ride to Las Vegas. Dropping him off at the Sands Hotel, Dummar said the man told him he was Hughes. Dummar then claimed that days after Hughes’ death, a "mysterious man" appeared at his gas station, leaving an envelope containing the will on his desk. Unsure if the will was genuine, and unsure of what to do, Dummar left the will at the LDS Church office. In a trial lasting seven months, the Mormon Will was eventually rejected by the Nevada court in June 1978 as a forgery. The court declared that Hughes had died intestate.

Hughes’ US$2.5 billion estate was eventually split in 1983 among 22 cousins, including William Lummis who serves as a trustee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dummar was largely discounted by the public as a phony and an opportunist. Jonathan Demme’s film Melvin and Howard (starring Jason Robards and Paul Le Mat), was based on Dummar’s tale.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hughes Aircraft was owned by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which sold it to General Motors in 1985 for US$5.2 billion. Suits brought by the states of California and Texas claiming they were owed inheritance tax were both rejected by the court. In 1984, Hughes’ estate paid an undisclosed amount to Terry Moore, who claimed to have been secretly married to Hughes on a yacht in international waters off Mexico in 1949 and never divorced. Although Moore never produced proof of a marriage, her book, The Beauty and the Billionaire, became a bestseller.

Popular culture

Howard Hughes has now emerged as one of the 20th century’s most iconic business and aviation figures spawning a wide range of cultural references.

Audio

  • "Russian Heart" by The Church, from their 1990 album Gold Afternoon Fix.
  • "Howard Hughes" by Rasputina, from their 1996 album Thanks for the Ether.
  • "Howard" by Bayside, from their 2008 album Shudder.
  • "Howard Hughes" by Ride, from their 1992 album Going Blank Again
  • "Castle on The Hill" by Ride, from their 1996 album Tarantula. Song Meanings. Retrieved: June 30, 2013.
  • "Howard Hughes" by [Lead Belly].
  • "Nancy From Now On" by [Father John Misty]from his album Fear Fun.
  • "Me and Howard Hughes" by The Boomtown Rats, from their 1978 album, "A Tonic for the Troops".

Film

(Chronological)

  • Willard Whyte, a billionaire from the 1971 James Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever, is based on Howard Hughes. Hughes, a friend of producer Albert Broccoli, allowed his hotel and casino to be used in the filming.
  • The Amazing Howard Hughes (1977), directed by William A. Graham. Tommy Lee Jones stars as Howard Hughes.
  • Melvin and Howard (1980), directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jason Robards (a distant cousin) as Howard Hughes and Paul Le Mat as Melvin Dummar. The film won Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Mary Steenburgen). The film focuses on Melvin Dummar’s claims of meeting Hughes in the Nevada desert and subsequent estate battles over his inclusion in Hughes’s will. Critic Pauline Kael called the film "an almost flawless act of sympathetic imagination."Shannon, Jeff. RopeofSilicon, 2008. Retrieved: August 5, 2008.
  • Portrayed by Dean Stockwell in Tucker (1988).
  • Hughes was portrayed by Terry O’Quinn in Disney’s The Rocketeer (1991), substituting for the "mystery inventor" (Doc Savage) in the original comic book version.
  • "Howard Hughes Documentary", broadcast in 1992 as an episode of the Time Machine documentary series, was introduced by Peter Graves, later released by A&E Home Video. Amazon. Retrieved: August 22, 2011.
  • Before The Aviator (2004), there were several attempts to create a biopic based on the life of Hughes. For years, director-actor Warren Beatty wanted to play Hughes and direct a big-screen film of the mogul. It was to be released alongside Beatty’s film Reds, but owing to the lack of the right script, the project was abandoned. In the 1990s, producers with Touchstone Pictures wanted to do it with John Malkovich, Edward Norton, or Johnny Depp as Hughes, but because of climbing costs that venture was abandoned. Castle Rock Entertainment also tried to develop a biopic called Mr. Hughes with Jim Carrey starring and with Christopher Nolan directing and re-writing a script originated by David Koepp and Brian De Palma. When The Aviator began production, the idea was scrapped, and Nolan went on to direct Batman Begins. Some of the details of Hughes as an adult were confirmed in A. Scott Berg’s memoir of Katharine Hepburn, Kate Remembered.
  • The Aviator (2004), directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and winning five, the acclaimed film focuses primarily on Hughes’ achievements in aviation and in the movies and on the increasing handicaps imposed on him by his obsessiveā€“compulsive behavior, and ends shortly after the successful flight of the Hercules in 1947.
  • Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator documentary was broadcast in 2004, and went on to win the Grand Festival Award for Best Documentary at the 2004 Berkeley Video & Film Festival. Amazon. Retrieved: August 22, 2011.
  • The American Aviator: The Howard Hughes Story was broadcast in 2006 on the Biography Channel. It was later released to home media as a DVD with a copy of the full length film The Outlaw starring Jane Russell. Vision Films. Retrieved: August 22, 2011.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), as a plot-related prequel to Iron Man 2 (2010), in which Howard Stark (played by Dominic Cooper), father of Tony Stark (Iron Man), showed his inventions of future technology, clearly picturing Hughes’ persona and enthusiasm.