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Howard Hughes: From Houston to Hollywood

Test Pilot. Moviemaker. Engineer. Philanthropist. Addict. Recluse.

He had so many interests that the above barely describe Howard Robard Hughes. By 19, the Houstonian had lost his parents and inherited most of their money. His life's work—entertainment and aviation—sprang from their cash and his daring.

In Hollywood Hughes was a ladies' man, and the list of his love interests—Ava Gardner, Katharine Hepburn, and Bette Davis among them—is longer than his movie credits. Even so, a few of the films he produced were nominated for Academy Awards. The director, Lewis Milestone, of Hughes's 1927 Two Arabian Knights, a silent picture, took home an Oscar for Best Director of a Comedy Picture.

Hughes lasting success was as an aviation pioneer. His genius in this arena built a fortune and earned him a number of awards, including a Congressional Gold Medal that President Truman had to mail to Hughes when he declined to pick it up.

Hughes's end was no less Hollywoodesque than his life. Crippled by drugs and an obsessive-compulsive disorder, he hid from the world until his death in 1976.

—Lisa Miller

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