×

Biography: Howard Hughes

Adisappointingly routine account of the life and achievements of Howard Hughes does little to enlighten viewers but does elicit anecdotes from Ginger Rogers, Terry Moore and Jane Russell about the billionaire aviator-producer-inventor. Marred by errors and omissions, docu skims over the life of a legend.

With:
Host-narrator: Peter Graves.

Adisappointingly routine account of the life and achievements of Howard Hughes does little to enlighten viewers but does elicit anecdotes from Ginger Rogers, Terry Moore and Jane Russell about the billionaire aviator-producer-inventor. Marred by errors and omissions, docu skims over the life of a legend.

An after-the-facts psychologist and two Hughes co-biographers offer surmises such as the cause of Hughes’s latter-day fear of germs — docu lays it on the Houston-born Hughes’ frail mother — with no mention of Hughes’ ardently bacillophobic Missouri grandparents.

Though there are attempts to explain away the central figure’s adult breakdown, the coincidences of his illnesses at approximate ages of his parents’ deaths go unremarked.

His father had interests in L.A. and young Howard was schooled at Thatcher, where he shone, and tutored at Caltech; his real instructors were his own inventiveness and experience. Program notes that he inherited Hughes Tool Co. in Houston before he was 21 and married a Houston socialite, who divorced him a few years later.

The biospec lists the silent “Everybody’s Acting” as his first film project, but the first was actually the unreleased “Swell Hogan’s,” made by the unmentioned Caddo Film Co., Hughes Tool subsid. Subsequent pix–particularly “Hell’s Angels,” reshot from silent to sound, and “The Outlaw”–are somewhat explored.

Docu states that 1940’s “The Philadelphia Story” made Katharine Hepburn a star, though she was already an Oscar winner for the far earlier “Morning Glory” and had a string of films through the ’30s, including “Little Women,””Stage Door” (with Rogers) and “Bringing Up Baby,” under her belt.

There are good newsreel clips and a fascinating publicity-film account of Hughes’ flying a troupe of celebs across the country to publicize his new TWA Constellation; also offered is a glimpse of Hughes taking on Maine’s Sen. Owen (called “Ralph” in the profile) Brewster over TWA rights.

And program does mention many of his feats — the record-breaking flights, among them an around-the-world race against time, the extraordinary Spruce Goose–and brings up his marriage to Jean Peters and the firing of his chief adviser, Noah Dietrich, but doesn’t delve.

Concerning his control of RKO and Vegas, the accounts are necessarily truncated thanks to time limitations, but the hour dwells, with colored drawings , on the ailing, aging Hughes, including a tasteless, unnecessary mention of needles.

As for Hughes’ genius, his industry and his triumphs, they remain to be explored in more detail than one hour can provide. The whole Romaine Street headquarters experience, the part played over the years by his private (and unremarked) secretary-confidante Nadine Henley (who wrote out his will), the countless stories revealing aspects of the man need more space, time, interviews and accurate research than this venture offers.

His distinguished uncle, author-screenwriter Rupert Hughes, observed at one point, “To me, he is a the poet and the artist, and poets and artists succeed by working like hell.” His nephew, an authentic American hero, deserves far more than the superficial account given here.

Biography: Howard Hughes

(Tues. (2), 9-10 p.m., A&E)

Production: Taped by CEL Communications Inc. in association with A&E. Exec producers, Martin L. Waldman, Linda Waldman; producer-director, Vincent Kralyevich; writer, Laurence Sheehan.

Cast: Host-narrator: Peter Graves.

More TV

  • Gabrielle Carteris

    SAG-AFTRA Signs Netflix Deal With Expanded Coverage

    SAG-AFTRA and streaming giant Netflix have agreed to a new three-year contract with expanded coverage for union performers. Netflix has previously employed SAG-AFTRA members under the union’s standard master contracts for television and film and had been signing on a production by production basis. The union announced Saturday that the new deal recognizes performance capture as covered work [...]

  • Cara Delevingne'Carnival Row' TV show photocall,

    Cara Delevingne Says Her 'Carnival Row' Character Is Pansexual, Explains Defending Taylor Swift Against Justin Bieber

    Cara Delevingne and Orlando Bloom’s love affair may be at the center of the upcoming Amazon Prime Video series “Carnival Row,” but the British actress doesn’t want viewers to assume her faerie character is heterosexual. “I’m a pansexual faerie,” Delevingne told Variety during an exclusive one-on-one interview at Comic-Con adding that there are other queer [...]

  • 'Russian Doll' Star Charlie Barnett Joins

    'Russian Doll' Star Charlie Barnett Joins 'Arrow' Final Season

    “Russian Doll” standout Charlie Barnett is joining the “Arrowverse.” Barnett, who is having a busy year having also appeared in Netflix’s “Tales of the City,” comes on board in the series regular role of John Diggle, Jr., son of David Ramsey’s character. News of his casting was announced at the show’s farewell Comic-Con panel where things [...]

  • THE ORVILLE Fox

    'The Orville' to Move From Fox to Hulu for Season 3

    Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville” is on the move. MacFarlane announced Saturday at the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel that Season 3 of the sci-fi series will air exclusively on Hulu rather than on Fox as it has for its first two seasons. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, MacFarlane’s current workload and [...]

  • Westworld Season 3 Trailer

    Aaron Paul, Showrunners Unveil 'Westworld' Season 3 Trailer (Watch)

    Season 3 of “Westworld” is going to new worlds altogether. Unveiled during the show’s Comic-Con panel, the trailer teases Thandie Newton’s character Maeve entering a new world of hosts set during World War II. Meanwhile, in the human world, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her fellow hosts who escaped “Westworld” in season 2 are being [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    Dish Faces Multiple Outages as Carriage Contracts Come Due

    Satellite-broadcaster Dish is known in the media industry as a hard bargainer when carriage contracts come up for renewal. HBO hasn’t been available on the service since November. Now, other TV networks face a similar prospect. Unless Dish and certain content suppliers reach new terms by Monday evening, subscribers who use several cable networks currently [...]

  • Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard of

    'Star Trek: Picard' to Feature Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Jeri Ryan

    “Star Trek: Picard” is bringing back some familiar faces. During the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel on Saturday, it was revealed that Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Jeri Ryan would reprising their roles from “Next Generation” and “Voyager” in Ryan’s case. Jonathan Del Arco will also appear, likely reprising his role as the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content