Howard Hughes, 70, film showman

Business moigul once owned RKO

April 7, 1976

Howard Hughes, 70, oil tool patent heir, aviation principal and sometimes Hollywood film producer, died April 5 on a chartered airplane with a doctor in attendance en route from Acapulco, Mexico to the Methodist Hospital at Houston, Texas. Death was attributed to a stroke but as with nearly all details concerning Hughes in the past 20-odd years, shrouded in secrecy.

Hughes specialized in hideways, lived in total seclusion in such places as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, the Bahamas, Central America and Mexico. His fortune has been estimated at $1,500,000,000, basically derived from oil drilling tools.

In young years Hughes became a familiar figure in Hollywood, though even then spotted as curiously shy and incurably eccentric. His name was linked in various periods with Billie Dove, Olivia de Haviland, Jean Harlow, Lana Turner. In 1948 Hughes acquired control of RKO for $8,825,000. Later, in 1954, he wrote a check for $23,489,478 to buy up all outstanding stock, thereby becoming the first individual to own a film company lock, stock and barrel. He sold RKO to General Tire a year later. Aviation became his great interest as he dropped away from show business except for later investments in Las Vegas hotels and casinos.

–Based on Variety’s obituary of April 7, 1976

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