His genius,visions, passions and mystique.

The Cons-His Flaws

No one is perfect and a person has  both a good and a bad side. So it is best to start with the downside of Howard Hughes’s character which he is best known for.


Veteran political journalist Mr.Doug Ireland calls (and so many would agree), Howard Hughes an exaggerated nationalist, a rabid anti-communist, a political briber an anti-semite, a paranoid madman and a major drug addict.


Howard was sadly linked to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) headed by Sen.Joseph McCarthy in the 50s. The committee was nothing more than a “Communist witch hunter” who destroyed the lives of many people who refused to testify before it (including Hollywood directors, producers, screenwriters and actors). Howard hired Paul Jarrico to write the screenplay for his RKO film “The Las Vegas Story”. As soon as he heard Jarrico was being called to testify, he immediately fired him and refused to include his name in the credits of the film. Howard also suppressed the film “Salt of the Earth” which was financed by the left –led Mine, Mill and Smithers Workers Union).

According to Mr.Ireland, Howard surrounded himself only with “pure” Mormons because of his anti-semitism. Likewise, he was involved with the Watergate Scandal by loaning out money to then President Nixon’s brother. He was involved in the Mafia backed assassination plot of Fidel Castro and his offshore islands were used as training bases for the CIA raids into Cuba. He was a front man and a help mate of the CIA for years.


Howard Hughes had a  bias against blacks, thus making him a racist.

Authors Donald L.Barlett and James B.Steele in their book “Howard Hughes-His Life and Madness” ,recount how Howard was influenced by a race riot which convulsed Houston on August 23, 1917. On that night, a contingent of black soldiers who were part of the national guard unit camped outside the city and rioted over the way the Houston police earlier manhandled a black fellow soldiers. With revolvers and rifles, these black soldiers marched towards downtown indiscriminately shooting whites who tried to stop them. Before police could halt their advance, 17 people were dead and 13 black soldiers were executed. The riot made an indelible impression on Howard. Fifty years later, he would site that same riot of 1917 as the reason his Las Vegas casinos should never give into pressures from blacks for more jobs.


William Fadiman , RKO Executive Story Director saw the hard side of Hughes when he was asked by his boss (Hughes) to cut his staff of 40 by 25 per cent. When Fadiman protested, Hughes told him that “you’re going to tell me, probably, that you know someone who has cancer or someone just got married or just had a baby and that you can’t do that to those people.” When Fadiman said yes he'd say something like that ,Hughes replied, “Don’t tell me that, Bill, and I ‘ll tell you why. Learn immediately Bill. A CORPORATION HAS NO SOUL. I can’t know those things and be a corporation”. Then insisted that his order by followed. Fadiman remembered this incident well and said that Howard Hughes was a businessman first, then a human being.


Howard Hughes was shrewd and cunning when it came to business. He once told actress Joyce Taylor, “ I play chess with people. In a chess game, you see how long you can keep a person in a certain move”.


No one will ever argue the statement that Howard Hughes was no saint. During his lifetime ,he was not known for his religious inclinations (in fact he displayed none) nor his good nature (he was a private man who kept his private life to himself).


Who the real Howard Hughes was , no one would probably ever know. But he remains an enigma that still baffles us today. He is also still talked about ,either in glorious tones or in sharp and harsh criticism, years after his death in 1976 (and probably years and years thereafter).


The Pros- His Compassionate Side

Howard Hughes was not known for his compassionate nature, but he did have one .He was not a man to boast of his good deeds. He was a very private person who hardly talked about himself .Most of the things people read and hear about him are concentrated towards the end of his life when he was a miserable sick old man who was afflicted with OCD and hopelessly addicted to drugs.


He would support actor Robert Mitchum when he was arrested for the possession of marijuana. During those days, in Hollywood, a scandal can literally kill an actor’s career.But Hughes saw to it that Mitchum was well provided for in terms of legal and cash assistance.He personally told the actor that his contract will be kept and that he will continue to work for RKO despite the arrest. Ingrid Bergman who’s affair with the very married director Roberto Rosellini affected her career that no other studio would hire her, except Howard Hughes.She made the film Stromboli directed by Rosellini for RKO Productions.


Actress Phyllis Applegate was privy to Hughes’s compassion when she saw him take care of medical bills for so many people.She said, he would read about them in the newspaper or hear about them in Hollywood.He would get tears in his eyes and he would make arrangements for them (and pay their bills).Phyllis said Hughes loved to do things like that. Hughes even sent Applegate’s younger sister to the best physicians and facilities for lifelong problems that resulted from a fall. Her mother never forgot what he did for them.


William Fadiman, RKO’s Executive Story Director whom Hughes quoted his famous words, “A Corporation has no soul”, saw the softer side of Hughes as he helped a great many people, in private. Fadiman said Hughes did so many wonderful things.


Even though Hughes was a consummate playboy, he showed an endearing side to Terry Moore. Moore said she had a lot of loving but not a lot of lovers. “And Howard was the best. He was gentle and kind”, according to Terry.


Howard’s interest in some of the starlets was purely platonic, as if he was acquiring the sisters or daughters he never had.


He is accused of being a racist and yet, in the only will that he signed (dated 1925) before marrying Ella Rice, he provided for a monthly pension for two black persons in his household employ. Howard indeed had strange ways.


Gordon Gilmore, who headed TWA’s public relations department during the turbulent  Hughes era, tells of a phone call he received from Hughes at 2:39 am in July of 1956 in his motel room. Hughes personally express his concern and sympathy for the TWA crews and passengers who lost their lives in the tragic accident of TWA flight 2 , and asked that his regards be extended to TWA people who were working on the scene. He was very concerned and listened very carefully as Gilmore reported to him in great detail all that were being done for the victims of the accident. Hughes even asked about religious services . Gilmore acknowledged that Hughes could show compassion- although some said he never did-but he had his own ideas of how he wanted things to be done.


One thing about Howard Hughes is that he knew how to give credit where credit is due. He refused to attend the ticker tape parade in his honor in 1938 for his successful around the world test flight unless all his 4 crew men go with him. Initially,the parade was for Howard's honor alone.But he said, if his crewmen are not with him, then forget it. He also always told reporters that he just flew the plane-the people who built the plane are the heroes and any ordinary person can do it with proper planning and the right staff.


Jack Real, who replaced Hughes aide-de-camp Noah Dietrich when he left in 1957, warmly reminisces about his friendship with Howard Hughes from 1957 to 1976 in his book, “The Asylum of Howard Hughes”. Jack was with Howard till he died and their friendship blossomed into a relationship of mutual trust and respect (but the Mormon Mafia would try their best to destroy that close friendship). Jack would see Howard go out of his way and cancel a meeting short in 1960 to help an old lady who fell and broke her hip. He sent her the best doctors and took care of her  medical bills anonymously. And the 95 year old lady,Mrs.Jane Daniels, would live to be a hundred because of Howard Hughes. Jack is proud of his association with Hughes and acknowledges the latter’s great contributions to aviation.


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