cover image Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood

Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood

Karina Longworth. Custom House, $29.99 (544) ISBN 978-0-06-244051-8

Longworth (Meryl Streep: Anatomy of an Actor), creator and host of the Hollywood history podcast You Must Remember This, centers this deeply researched look at Howard Hughes around the famed aviator and film producer’s exploitative treatment of women. She relates that Hughes was born rich in 1905 to the Hughes Tools family and died at 70 in 1976, even richer but isolated and afflicted by physical and mental health issues. Longworth ably summarizes Hughes’s film career and notable productions, such as Hell’s Angels, Scarface, and, most pertinently, his scandalously risqué western The Outlaw. Most vividly, she anatomizes his obsession with “collecting” and controlling the women in his life and his films. In addition to his well-publicized romances with established stars, including Katherine Hepburn, Ida Lupino, and Ginger Rogers, Hughes was also given to signing unknown young actresses to contracts, installing them in bungalows with guards posted outside, and then stalling on putting them in his RKO films. Unfortunately, the narrative is weighed down by digressions into Hughes’s family, associates, planes, and erratic business sense, and by Longworth’s apparent determination to use every single item from her research. This lack of focus dilutes the effectiveness of what could have been a sharp and timely study of film industry misogyny. (Nov.)