January 5, 2013

Remembering Howard Hughes

He was thought of by many people of his time as an enigmatic playboy philanthropist that delighted in fast cars, beautiful women and being uncomfortably hygienic. He pioneered the origins of the modern interpretation of films and aviation, and challenged the government countless times with his engineering of the H-4 Hercules — aptly named the ‘Spruce Goose’ by those that didn’t respect him.

Hughes’ childhood was spent in loneliness in regards to both of his parents perishing at a surprising time in his life. He never kept real friends close by, and delighted in tinkering with technology in order to learn. There is one account for example, in which Hughes built his own engine and attached it to his bicycle after his mother bought him a motorcycle.

Indeed, much of his childhood was looked upon with envy. His father, Howard Hughes Sr. ushered in a new advancement for oil drilling by developing an improved drill bit that drillers hadn’t thought of up until that point in time. When he finished the patent and paperwork for its manufacturing, he became an instant millionaire and immortalized his son’s life of riches and wealth.

When his father died, Hughes was left with three quarters of Hughes Drill Company while the other twenty five percent went to his family and relatives. He disagreed with this almost instantly and bought out the shares from family, while at the same time securing his legal ownership of the company. He moved straight to Hollywood with his then wife Ella Rice to spend time with his uncle and fell in love with filmmaking.

Needless to say, you’ve heard about Hughes’ exploits in the movie industry with Hell’s Angels and the 1932 version of Scarface. What you don’t know is that the man who stood in front of the big curtain on stage announcing his many gratitude’s for awards and recognitions was quite the enigmatic man.

A nut, as some of us would like to call him.

No different from any other rich tycoon in his exploits with drugs and excessive alcohol abuse, Howard Hughes’ deterioration was much more apparent in his behavior. He would never shake anyone’s hand without having them scrub extensively with hand soap, and he was always quick to criticize someone on their appearance with attention to detail as sharp as an eagle’s eye.

He preferred a glass of milk on a Saturday afternoon in one of his planes to a night on the town with friends. While you may consider this respectable, I consider it defining of his lack of comfort with other people.

Hughes was also a pioneer of aviation. Apart from his experience with filmmaking, Hughes displayed a clear love and passion for flying and building planes. He was responsible for the development and construction of the D-2 and XF-11, and drew public criticism of his signature aircraft, the H-4 Hercules. The public had grown so weary of his resolve at this point that they resorted to nicknaming it the ‘Spruce Goose’.

Nevertheless the Hercules did fly, although I never understood why people doubted its power in the first place. It is a plane, after all.

Above all, Hughes was a philanthropist and a visionary. Some don’t regard this as title for a man who was known for locking himself inside of a theater room for months; living off of chicken, chocolate and milk, relieving himself into the jars and boxes that his food arrived in. The man behind the plane was indeed very sick and socially troubled, but his intelligence and enthusiasm about aviation and film was legendary and should forever warrant the respect that he so deserves.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Image Credit: Jaguar PS /

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Email