In Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated drama, DiCaprio was a boyish Hughes; in fact, Cate Blanchett’s Katharine Hepburn looked more like his surrogate mother than his lover. Beatty, on the other hand, will play the older Howard Hughes, though I seriously doubt it that this particular Hughes will look at all like Jason Robards’ in Jonathan Demme’s 1980 gem Melvin and Howard. Barring a Hollywood miracle, Beatty’s Old Hughes will have his hair carefully conditioned and his fingernails neatly clipped.
In The Aviator, Howard Hughes is linked to four actresses: the aforementioned Katharine Hepburn, Jean Harlow, Ava Gardner, and Faith Domergue. (Hughes’ 1920s marriage to socialite Ella Rice is ignored in the film.) In Beatty’s project, Hughes will be involved with a “much younger woman.”
Here’s a partial list of other film stars – several of whom “much younger women” – who were at one point or another linked to the eccentric billionaire: silent film actress Billie Dove (rumor has it that Hughes paid Dove’s husband, director Irvin Willat, $325,000 to divorce her), Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers, sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, Yvonne De Carlo, Gene Tierney, Jane Russell, Jane Greer, Lana Turner, Terry Moore, and Jean Peters.
In 1957, Hughes (openly) married 20th Century Fox leading lady Jean Peters, Marlon Brando’s love interest in Viva Zapata! and best known today for the classic 1953 spy thriller Pickup on South Street. Hughes and Peters, who abruptly quit her film career in the mid-50s, spent most of their married life away from each other until their divorce in 1971.
In a 1972 Newsweek article, Peters remarked, “My life with Howard Hughes was and shall remain a matter on which I will have no comment.” Jean Peters died of leukemia on October 13, 2000.
Terry Moore, nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the 1952 drama Come Back Little Sheba, asserts that she was secretly married to Howard Hughes in the late 1940s. In later years, she wrote a book about her relationship with Hughes, The Beauty and the Billionaire.
Curiously, the Howard Hughes estate considered Moore to be Hughes’ legitimate wife – they apparently were never officially divorced – and the former actress received an undisclosed amount from the estate in 1984, eight years after Hughes’ death.