The Amazing Howard Hughes

The Amazing Howard Hughes is a 1977 American made-for-television biographical film about American aviation pioneer and filmmaker Howard Hughes, based on the book Howard: The Amazing Mr. Hughes by Hughes' business partner Noah Dietrich. The film starred Tommy Lee Jones, Ed Flanders and Tovah Feldshuh. The Amazing Howard Hughes recounts the life and times of Howard Hughes, and was made within a year of Hughes's death in April 1976. It was originally broadcast in two parts on CBS on April 13 and 14, 1977.

The Amazing Howard Hughes
Based onHoward: The Amazing Mr. Hughes by Noah Dietrich
Written byJohn Gay
Directed byWilliam A. Graham
StarringTommy Lee Jones
Ed Flanders
Tovah Feldshuh
Lee Purcell
Music byLaurence Rosenthal
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes2
Executive producer(s)Roger Gimbel
Producer(s)Herbert Hirschman
CinematographyMichael Margulies
Editor(s)Aaron Stell
Running time185 minutes
Production company(s)EMI Television
Roger Gimbel Productions
Original networkCBS
Picture formatColor
Audio formatMono
Original releaseApril 13 
14, 1977


Howard Hughes (Tommy Lee Jones), from early life, is portrayed as an eccentric perfectionist and later, a hypochondriac. He grew up as a wealthy but isolated individual who was able to indulge some of his obsessions. As a Hollywood producer, he was able to create some of the most iconic films of the era, including Hell's Angels (1930), Scarface (1932) and The Outlaw (1943, 1946). His passion as an aviator led to both designing as the head of the Hughes Aircraft Company, as well as flying top-secret aircraft he had built in record-breaking speed and endurance flights (Hughes H-1 Racer).

As well as pouring money into films and projects such as the huge H-4 Hercules aircraft), Hughes is also seen with many of the women in his life, including Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn (Tovah Feldshuh) and Jane Russell (Marla Carlis).

One incident in a 1946 involved a test flight of the XF-11, an experimental aircraft. The test flight culminated in a horrific crash, resulting in a concussion that left Hughes with brain damage and mental dysfunction, going into his old age and eventual death. His final years were spent as a recluse and while aboard a private flight to Mexico, Hughes died.




In 1971 Bob Thomas was contacted by director George Sidney, who had gotten to know the writer while the latter was researching King Cohn, a biography of Harry Cohn. Sidney said Stanley Meyer, the financier, was looking for someone to help write Noah Dietrich's memoirs. Thomas met with Dietrich and wrote a book about Hughes. They struggled to find a publisher due to the fact Clifford Irving had released Hughes' diaries. When it was revealed the diaries were fake, the book found a publisher, Fawcett, the next day.[1]

Fawcett released a million copies but only sold a third of them, which Thomas attributed to Irving's book. On the death of Hughes in 1976, numerous producers announced Hughes projects, including Warren Beatty and David Wolper, the latter based on Irving's book. Thomas' agents succeeded in selling the film rights to Thomas' book to Roger Gimbell who had a deal with EMI Television.[1]

The project was originally developed by Roger Gimbell's production company.[2]


At one stage Gimbel had negotiations with Warren Beatty to play Hughes. But when these broke down the producer decided to go "180 degrees the other way" and cast an unknown. He picked Tommy Lee Jones who had appeared in films such as Jackson County Jail and who Gimbel said "matches the image the public has of Hughes".[3] The Amazing Howard Hughes was a major break-through for Jones.[4]


Filming of The Amazing Howard Hughes took eight weeks.[5] During filming, Gimbel's company was bought out by EMI Television.[2] A large group of aircraft were assembled for the production by Tallmantz Aviation. The aircraft included two Curtiss JN-4 biplanes, Learjet 23, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior, North American AT-6 Texan and Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5. [6]


Film historian Simon D. Beck in The Aircraft-Spotter's Film and Television Companion (2016) described The Amazing Howard Hughes as a "... fascinating account of the life and times of eccentric millionaire, aviation pioneer and filmmaker ..." [6] Other reviews of The Amazing Howard Hughes were, likewise, mainly positive.[7] Part one was the fifth highest-rated show of the week; part two was the highest rated.[8] It was seen by over 60 million people.[9]

Universal agreed to distribute The Amazing Howard Hughes theatrically outside the United States.[10]

The Amazing Howard Hughes was the original release of EMI Television, an off-shoot of EMI Films.[11] [N 1]

See also



  1. Some versions of this DVD are only 123 minutes. The original mini-series was 185 minutes.[6]


  1. Thomas, Bob. "Traveling a tortured route to a Howard Hughes biography." Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1977, p. m3.
  2. Smith, Cecil. "The Taming of Hatter Fox." Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1977, p. g18.
  3. "Actor to play Howard Hughes." Los Angeles Times, November 8, 1976, p. e12.
  4. Smith, Cecil. "An actor named Jones plays a man named Hughes." Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1977, p. k4.
  5. "People." Chicago Tribune, April 8, 1977, p. 18.
  6. Beck 2016, p. 234.
  7. O'Connor, John J. "TV: Howard Hughes saga". The New York Times, April 13, 1977, p. 76.
  8. "Hughes and 'Sexes' give CBS top weekly rating." Los Angeles Times, April 20, 1977, p. e17.
  9. Lochte, Dick. "Book notes: Master chef of the media-mix." Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1977, p. x2.
  10. Kilday, Gregg. "Altman engaged by 'A Wedding'." Los Angeles Times, April 18, 1977, p. e11.
  11. Getze, John. "Recordings: EMI: Hard to pronounce but it's music all over world." Los Angeles Times, March 14, 1977, p. d11.


  • Beck, Simon D. The Aircraft-Spotter's Film and Television Companion. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2016. ISBN 978-1-4766-2293-4.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.