Clifford Irving's Hoax
The Determined Man
Shortly after the death of his father, Howard discovered both of his parents' wills. According to Barlett and Steele's book, Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness, he quickly learned that he was to inherit approximately one million dollars in stock in his father's company and a majority of the estate. The remaining money was left to relatives.
Less than a year later, Howard set about obtaining full control of his father's tool company. However he was only eighteen-years-old and legally he was not allowed to assume such a responsibility. Howard was determined to get his way, as always. He petitioned the courts on the day he turned nineteen and won the right to buy out his relatives and take complete control of the company.
Once Howard had his foothold in the family business, he decided it was time to get married. During the 1920's, it was still considered prudent in the upper echelons of society to marry someone from a similar social class and status, regardless of whether they were in love with the person or not. Howard stuck to this traditional value and agreed to an arranged marriage with Houston debutante Ella Rice. The couple eventually exchanged vows in a formal ceremony in June 1925, but the marriage was doomed from the beginning. Howard's ambition and adventurous nature prevented him from settling down for any length of time.
That same year the couple moved to California and into Los Angeles's Ambassador Hotel. The primary motivation behind the move was so that Howard could be in close proximity to the movie studios. He was an avid film buff and he wanted to make his mark in the industry. Howard longed to fulfill his dream by becoming a film producer. He had no idea how difficult it would be.
Howard became obsessed with obtaining as much information as he could about the film industry, from the workings of the cameras to producing and directing. Most of what he learned came from hands on knowledge that was obtained during work on his first film Swell Hogan. The making of the film quickly turned out to be a money pit due to Howard's lack of knowledge.
He hired thirty-six year old accountant Noah Dietrich to assist him with his finances and manage business affairs for the tool company. He also assisted Howard in his many projects. It was a relationship that would span over thirty years.
Howard's first experience as a film producer was a complete failure. Following its release in 1926, the movie bombed. However, he refused to give up and began to work on several more movie projects with the assistance of some of Hollywood's leading director's. Between 1927 and 1929 his determination finally paid off. He produced a series of films, including Two Arabian Nights and Hell's Angels that proved to be enormous successes. In fact, Two Arabian Nights won an Academy Award in 1928.
Howard's film career was to stretch over three decades and result in more than forty films to his credit. Many actors and actresses would go on to star in his movies and eventually be propelled into stardom, including Jean Harlow, John Wayne, Gina Lollabrigida, Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. Many of his films' leading ladies became his mistresses off screen, as well as some of Hollywood's brightest stars that didn't act in his films. Some of his many lovers included Katherine Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Joan Crawford, Betty Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Elizabeth Taylor and Lana Turner.
Howard's inability to remain faithful to his wife during his marriage eventually led to the couple's divorce in December 1929. He would not remarry again until twenty-eight years later. There was no doubt that women and producing films were major pursuits for Howard. However, his true passion lay in quite a different area, that of aviation and airplane engineering. They were obsessions that would continue throughout most of his life.