Seduction: Sex, Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood
By: Karina Longworth
My interest in classic Hollywood has never extended to Howard Hughes and my previous familiarity with his story came from biographies of Katherine Hepburn and Jane Russell. Yet I have to admit I was more interested in this due to the Me Too movement, the Harvey Weinstein case and (and countless other) Hollywood scandals exposing long standing harassment.
Howard Hughes was a multi-millionaire who wanted to be a film producer. He liked to collect women, didn’t even have to always sleep with them, he just liked to control them and own them. As far as his film producing- well that was mainly finding ways to exploit his actresses bodies and push the censors.
Also he had an obsession with breasts that should could be considered unhealthy.
Karina Longworth does a really good job walking the context line keeping it in both Hughes time and through the lens of our current culture.
But also? Hollywood always had these issues and probably some worse things we don’t even know about under the studio system that covered up everything. Studios had procurers and fixers and the press on the payroll. They protected the illusion at all costs.
It really doesn’t seem like its changed that much as some of the recent cases seem to have been open secrets for years and not just within Hollywood. Hell, gossip websites and bloggers had been whispering about Spacey for years before everything broke.
It was also good to read about the women who didn’t become icons. He and Hepburn for instance seemingly had a pretty good relationship and he helped her become a producer. But Hepburn and Russell were rarities among his relationships with women. That was not true for a lot of other actresses who he kept under contract unwilling to let them work unless he could find ways to control them.
It was as much about ownership as anything else. His obsession with Jane Russell’s body, mainly her breasts, went on for years and the way he sold those things to the public (skywriting boobs in one instance) says something about the way movies were sold and women were seen. Especially because for the most part those films had successful runs.
Hughes is a famous enigma so it’s hard to ever get a real read on him no matter how good Longworth’s research. But the stories about the women and the behind the scenes of movie making from 1930 to the mid-1950s kept me interested throughout. Hughes final years are rather pathetic and probably lost in a haze of drug use but yet he still managed to maintain control of the women in his life.
It could have been edited in places and quiet frankly needed a lot more pictures but I think there’s still plenty for anyone to sink their teeth into with Seduction.