Archive for Howard Hughes

The Aviator

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Houston, 1913, nine-year-old Howard Hughes is warned by his mother of the diseases to which she is afraid he will succumb. Fourteen years later, he begins to direct the movie Hell’s Angels. However, after the release of The Jazz Singer, the first partially talking film, Hughes becomes obsessed with shooting his film realistically, and decides to convert the movie to a sound film. Despite the film being a hit, Hughes remains unsatisfied with the end result and orders the film to be re-cut after its Hollywood premiere. He becomes romantically involved with actress Katharine Hepburn, who helps to ease the symptoms of his worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

In 1935, Hughes test flies the H-1 Racer, pushing it to a new speed record, and three years later, breaks the world record by flying around the world in four days. He purchases majority interest in Transcontinental & Western Air, the predecessor to Trans World Airlines, aggravating company rival, Juan Trippe, chairman of the board for Pan American World Airways (Pan Am). Trippe gets his friend, Senator Owen Brewster, to introduce the Community Airline Bill, which would give Pan Am exclusivity on international air travel. As Hughes’ fame grows, he is linked to various starlets, provoking Hepburn’s jealousy, later causing them to break up following her announcement that she has fallen in love with fellow actor Spencer Tracy. Hughes quickly finds a new love interest with 15-year-old Faith Domergue, and later actress Ava Gardner.

Hughes secures a contract with the Army Air Forces for two projects: a spy aircraft and a troop transport unit. In 1946, with the “Spruce Goose” flying boat still in construction, Hughes finishes the XF-11 reconnaissance aircraft and takes it for a test flight. With one of the engines malfunctioning mid-flight, he crashes the aircraft in Beverly Hills, getting severely injured. With the end of WWII, the army cancels its order for the H-4 Hercules, although Hughes still continues the development with his own money. When he is discharged, he is told that he has to choose between funding the airlines or his ‘flying boat’, in which he then orders Dietrich to mortgage the TWA assets so he can continue the development.

Hughes grows increasingly paranoid, planting microphones and tapping Gardner’s phone lines to keep track of her. His home is searched by the FBI for incriminating evidence of war profiteering, provoking a powerful psychological trauma on Hughes, with the men searching his possessions and tracking dirt through his house. Privately, Brewster offers to drop the charges if Hughes will sell TWA to Trippe, an offer he rejects. With Hughes in a deep depression, Trippe has Brewster summon him for a Senate investigation, as they’re confident that he’ll not show up. Hughes has been shut away for nearly three months when Gardner visits him and personally grooms and dresses him in preparation for the hearing.

Hughes defends himself against Brewster’s charges and accuses Trippe of bribing the senator. Hughes concludes by announcing that he has committed to completing the H-4 aircraft, and that he will leave the country if he cannot get it to fly. He successfully test flies H-4 aircraft, and after the flight, talks to Dietrich and his engineer, Glenn Odekirk, about a new jetliner for TWA. The sight of men in germ-resistant suits causes Hughes to have a mental breakdown. As Odekirk hides him in a restroom while Dietrich fetches a doctor, Hughes begins to have flashbacks of his childhood, his obsession for aviation, and his ambition for success, while repeating the phrase, “the way of the future”.


Growing up an Air Force brat, there are two things one is bound to do. That is move around a lot and foster a love and/or respect for airplanes. While I am scared of flying, I love airplanes, especially the old ones from the WWII era. Many of the innovations of those planes forward are the brainchild of one Howard Hughes, the subject of The Aviator. Does this biopic give us a look into the man or just another fabrication of events meant for our entertainment?

What is this about?

Leonardo DiCaprio portrays eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes, who turned a small fortune into a massive one by producing Hollywood classics such as Scarface. He simultaneously branched into and transformed industry after industry — including aviation.

What did I like?

Leonardo leads. Today, Leonardo DiCaprio is hailed as one of the best actors working today. He is constantly up for Oscar every year and turns out critically acclaimed performance year in and year out. As Howard Hughes, he did much the same, bringing to life the eccentric billionaire moviemaker and aviator to audiences that knew little to nothing about him. His shining moment, though had to have been when he is locked away in that room as a way to escape from everyone. It is a powerful scene that shows Leo’s talents and Hughes’ OCD in all their glory.

Classic Hollywood. What film set during this era about a Hollywood filmmaker would be complete without some of Hollywood’s brightest, such as Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Errol Flynn, and I think I saw Cary Grant on set. Obviously, these aren’t the real thing, but I give kudos to the filmmakers for finding those that respected these great thespians (I can use that term for these actors, because they actually studied their craft rather than spend their time posing for magazine covers). In some instances, I thought that perhaps I was looking at the real thing!

Hercules! Hercules! Howard Hughes may be best known for his giant airboat, the H-4 Hercules, better known as the “Spruce Goose”. Hard to believe that an aviation fan such as a myself has never seen this thing, but it is true. When I saw the parts driving down the road, I got a lump in my throat and was hoping that they would show the competed aircraft. Lo and behold they did, and it was splendiferous! Everything I had wished to see, short of viewing the real thing (which is in Oregon, btw). No matter what I think of the rest of this film, that construct was worth the 3 hrs I just spent watching this!

What didn’t I like?

Katharine or Tilda? Cate Blanchett plays Katharine Hepburn and I must say she pulls it off quite nicely. Her mannerisms, way of speaking and the generic look are all there. What I couldn’t get past, though, was how much Blanchett resembled a more feminine Tilda Swinton in this getup. I can’t speak for anyone else, but it was a major distraction for me. Realizing that she is the best actress for the job, I really shouldn’t complain, but I can’t leave that alone. Surely, they could have done something more with her, right?

Still a boy. In 2004, DiCaprio still had a bit a boyish look to him. When he was wearing a suit, he looked like he borrowed his dad or big brother’s so that he could go to the prom. If not for his stellar job at acting, I wonder how much of a career he would have had because his young look took away from his performance as Hughes. I can’t look at the face of a 17yr old and think he is the genius multibillionaire moviemaker and aviator. It just doesn’t work that way! I wonder if this is the problem Selena Gomez and her ilk, that look years younger than they actually seem to be, are running into.

Aftermath. The film ends a couple of years following the Senate Hearing. That isn’t a spoiler, just an idea of the timeline. What’s the big deal about that? Well, this is supposed to be a film about the life of Howard Hughes, yet we don’t get any of the stuff that happened after the film ends. The man lived until 1976, so there are at least 20 something years left to go through. At the very least, we could have had some reading material pop up on the screen right before the credits rolled, instead of the abrupt ending we were treated to.

In the end, The Aviator shows that DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are magic together, capable of bringing out the best in each other and delivering a powerful, yet entertaining film about a historical figure not many people know much about, short of the tall tales. Truth be told, the most many know about Hughes is that he built the “Spruce Goose” and occasionally someone has played him in movies, such as The Rocketeer. With all the hub-bub this film seemed to put into The Outlaw rating, you would think they’d have cast someone as Jane Russell or spent some time making that film, but I guess not. Oh well! So, what did I ultimately think of the film? Is it worth watching? Yes, I very highly recommend it! Most of the complaints I have about this picture are personal issues. I will warn you, though. Get used to hearing Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare”.

5 out of 5 stars


The Rocketeer

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2009 by Mystery Man


In 1938 Los Angeles, California, a rocket pack designed by Howard Hughes is stolen from his factory by a mobster duo working for crime boss Eddie Valentine. The driver of the getaway car, chased by FBI agents into a hangar, hides the rocket in an aging biplane and deceives the FBI agents with a vacuum cleaner he finds in the hangar. The driver is injured in the shoot-out, arrested and removed in an ambulance; the FBI agents find the ruined vacuum in the burned-out car. They believe the ruined device is the actual rocket and telephone Hughes, who decides its destruction is for the best, and burns its blueprints. Meanwhile, struggling stunt pilot Cliff Secord and mechanic A. “Peevy” Peabody find the mysterious rocket inside the biplane. Cliff experiments with it but Peevy persuades him to leave the rocket alone until he can understand its design and fine-tune it. Meanwhile, Valentine argues with movie star Neville Sinclair, who hired his gang to obtain the rocket from Hughes. Sinclair negotiates a new deal and dispatches the mobsters to search for the missing device. However, Sinclair secretly sends his right-hand man, the monstrous Lothar, to kill the injured mobster in police custody.

Shortly afterwards, at an airshow, Cliff uses the rocket (with Peevy’s newly-designed, face-hiding helmet) to heroically rescue his elderly friend Malcolm piloting a malfunctioned aircraft. Having been seen by the audience, a media sensation ensues and Cliff, as the anonymous hero, is dubbed “the Rocketeer”. However, Cliff and his aspiring actress girlfriend, Jenny Blake, begin to have relationship issues after Cliff visits her on-set of a film and inadvertently causes an accident in which a lead actor is mysteriously injured. Jenny is fired over Cliff’s accident; however, Sinclair, who is portraying the lead role of the production, overhears Cliff’s conversation with Jenny. After Cliff leaves, Sinclair makes up to Jenny and gets a dinner date with her at the famed South Seas Club. Sinclair then sends Lothar to search the airfield for Cliff.

That evening FBI agents find Bigelow dead, while Cliff consults with Peevy in their shared home. Lothar attacks and seizes detailed rocketpack schematics drawn up by Peabody, but is interrupted when the FBI arrives. Cliff and Peevy escape with the rocket, and Lothar also escapes as the house is destroyed by gunfire. Cliff and Peevy arrive at the local diner but are trapped by a team of mobsters who are searching for Cliff, but don’t recognize him. Overhearing them consult with Valentine over the diner’s phone, Cliff learns of Jenny’s date with Sinclair and the latter’s involvement with the crime. Cliff decides to confront Sinclair and Peabody provisionally patches the rocket’s sudden leaking fuel tank with Cliff’s chewing gum. Cliff infiltrates the South Seas Club but is nearly trapped by Valentine’s gang, and in the ensuing melée, Jenny is kidnapped by Sinclair.

Sinclair tries to seduce Jenny at his villa, but she knocks him out and, trying to escape, finds that he is a Nazi spy. Sinclair recaptures her with Lothar’s aid and leaves a message for Cliff; bring the rocketpack to the Griffith Observatory that very night or Jenny dies. Cliff hides the rocket just before he is arrested by the FBI, who take him to Hughes. Hughes reveals that the rocket was a prototype similar to one Nazi scientists were unsuccessfully developing to invade the United States. The FBI agents mention that they are tracking a Nazi spy in Hollywood, whom Cliff obviously realizes to be Sinclair. When Hughes demands the return of the rocket, Cliff explains that he needs it to rescue Jenny and, seizing a large wooden model of the “Spruce Goose” flying boat, glides out of Hughes’ hangar headquarters.

Recostumed as the Rocketeer, Cliff flies to the rendezvous where Sinclair, Lothar and the Valentine gang are waiting. When Sinclair demands the rocket, Cliff divulges to the gang that the actor is a Nazi spy. Valentine is a career criminal but draws the line at treason; he turns on Sinclair. Sinclair unexpectedly summons Nazi SA commandos hidden nearby and the gang are held at gunpoint as a Nazi Zeppelin touring America in a “gesture of friendship” is shown to be secretly assisting the mission, and appears overhead. A dispute ensues between the Nazis and the arrival of FBI agents, but Sinclair and Lothar escape with Jenny aboard the zeppelin. The climax ensues with Cliff and Jenny being rescued by Howard and Peevy in an autogyro. Sinclair takes the rocket, but not before Cliff thumbs off the chewing gum patch. Sinclair is unaware of the device’s oil combust, and he dies crashing down upon the last four giant letters of the “Hollywoodland” sign. Lothar is engulfed in flames as the zeppelin explodes.

Some time afterwards, Hughes presents Secord with a brand-new Gee Bee racing plane. As he drives away, Jenny presents Peabody with the rocket schematics she found in Sinclair’s villa. Peabody decides that with some modifications, he can build an even better one.


This was one of my favorite films growing up, and may very well be the reason I love the era of the 30s and 40s so much. Many years later, I still love it, and have gained a larger respect for the time period it is set in as well as the technical aspects of the film.

Billy Campbell was an unknown when he was cast. For the most part he still is, but it is hard to believe that he eventually went from this to playing Jordan Collier in The 4400.There are some moments when Campbell seems a bit out of place, but for the most part he does a really good job.

Jennifer Connelly is in one of her most attractive roles here. As a matter of fact, and this may be due to the period clothing, she looks like a dark haired Scarlett Johnasson in places. Unfortunately, she doesn’t ignite the screen with her acting. she comes across to me as if she’s just reading the lines. There is no connection there.

Timothy Dalton may best be known for being one of the many men chosen to pay James Bond, but he can also play quite the conniving villain. Maybe it has something to do with the mustache, but he really makes you believe.

The effects here are state of the art for 1991. The flying scenes aren’t as brethtaking as in the Superman films, but that is partially because Cliff doesn’t really fly up in the clouds very often. I like how they address the fact that the helmet looks rather stupid. I think everyone is in agreement on that, but it’s part of the character, and you can’t just go around messing with stuff like that, especially with older comic heroes like this. The climactic scene on board the zeppelin is the kind you expect from those good old action films from yesteryear.

Not many people now about the Rocketeer, myself including, outside of this film, but if superhero films have taught us anything, its that watching these films can arouse our intrigue in characters and encourage us to do some research and learn more about the characters. I know that’s what I’ve done. This isa great action/adventure film, especially for those like me that love films set in the 30s and 40s. The acting isn’t that great, but the effect, if you take into account that this was made in 1991 are spectacular. It is a shame this didn’t do better at the box office. I believe there could have been a slew of sequels. Hopefully you’ll check it out and see if you agree with me.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars