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

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

by Karina Longworth


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In this riveting popular history, the creator of You Must Remember This probes the inner workings of Hollywood’s glamorous golden age through the stories of some of the dozens of actresses pursued by Howard Hughes, to reveal how the millionaire mogul’s obsessions with sex, power and publicity trapped, abused, or benefitted women who dreamt of screen stardom.

In recent months, the media has reported on scores of entertainment figures who used their power and money in Hollywood to sexually harass and coerce some of the most talented women in cinema and television. But as Karina Longworth reminds us, long before the Harvey Weinsteins there was Howard Hughes—the Texas millionaire, pilot, and filmmaker whose reputation as a cinematic provocateur was matched only by that as a prolific womanizer.

His supposed conquests between his first divorce in the late 1920s and his marriage to actress Jean Peters in 1957 included many of Hollywood’s most famous actresses, among them Billie Dove, Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and Lana Turner. From promoting bombshells like Jean Harlow and Jane Russell to his contentious battles with the censors, Hughes—perhaps more than any other filmmaker of his era—commoditized male desire as he objectified and sexualized women. Yet there were also numerous women pulled into Hughes’s grasp who never made it to the screen, sometimes virtually imprisoned by an increasingly paranoid and disturbed Hughes, who retained multitudes of private investigators, security personnel, and informers to make certain these actresses would not escape his clutches.

Vivid, perceptive, timely, and ridiculously entertaining, The Seducer is a landmark work that examines women, sex, and male power in Hollywood during its golden age—a legacy that endures nearly a century later.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062440525
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/12/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 205,952
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Karina Longworth is the creator, writer, and host of You Must Remember This, a podcast on the secret and forgotten history of twentieth-century Hollywood. A former film editor of LA Weekly and critic for the Village Voice, she is the author of four previous books, including Hollywood Frame by Frame and Meryl Streep: Anatomy of an Actor. She lives in Los Angeles.

Table of Contents

Cast of Characters ix

Part I Hollywood Before Hell's Angels, 1910-1928

Introduction: The Ambassador Hotel, 1925 3

Chapter 1 Hollywood Babylon 11

Chapter 2 The Many Mrs. Hugheses 24

Chapter 3 No Town for a Lady 43

Part II Billie and Jean, 1928-1936

Chapter 4 The Girl with the Silver Hair 63

Chapter 5 A Body Like a Dustpan 80

Chapter 6 A Cock vs. the Code 95

Chapter 7 "A Bitch in Heat" 116

Chapter 8 The Bombshell Implodes 132

Part III Hepburn and Rogers and Russell, 1932-1940

Chapter 9 The Woman Who Lived Like a Man 145

Chapter 10 Box-Office Poison 162

Chapter 11 A Love Nest in Malibu, a Prison on a Hill 175

Chapter 12 A New Bombshell 188

Part IV Life During Wartime, 1941-1946

Chapter 13 The New Generation 203

Chapter 14 "The Goddamnedest, Unhappiest, Most Miserable Time" 218

Chapter 15 Divorce, Marriage, and Rape Fantasy 232

Chapter 16 Disappearing Act 247

Chapter 17 An American Hero 262

Chapter 18 A Mogul and His Crows 280

Part V Terry, Jean, and RKO, 1948-1956

Chapter 19 Marriage, Howard Hughes-Style 299

Chapter 20 "Mother" and a Male Idol 318

Chapter 21 The Morals Clause 341

Chapter 22 Rivalry at Fox 357

Chapter 23 "A Movie Studio Filled with Beautiful Girls Who Draw Pay but Seldom Work" 378

Chapter 24 Underwater 396

Part VI Hughes After RKO

Chapter 25 Playacting 413

Chapter 26 Prisoner 426

Chapter 27 From Vegas to the Grave 440

Epilogue: Life After Death 453

Notes on Sources and Acknowledgments 469

Bibliography 473

Filmography 489

Notes 493

Index 521

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