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Howard Hughes Film Production Records (MS-01036)

Abstract

The Howard Hughes Film Production Records (1912-1992) represent Howard R. Hughes, Jr.'s Hollywood film production achievements through records from companies owned or established by Hughes. The bulk of the records date between 1926 and 1960 and include production and corporate materials from sixteen films, as well as materials related to Hughes' organizations outside of film development. Materials include documents, photographic prints and negatives, blueprints, line drawings, newspaper clippings, posters, paintings, and artifacts.

Finding Aid - PDF
Date
1912 to 1992
Extent
404.85 Cubic Feet (425 boxes, 123 oversized boxes, 26 rolls, 24 flat files, and 26 unboxed items)
539.44 Linear Feet
Resource Type
Records
Creator/Contributor Links
Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research, with the exception of materials that are restricted to protect personally identifiable information. Restrictions are noted at the file level of this inventory.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection may be protected by copyrights and other rights. See Reproductions and Use on the UNLV Special Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permissions to publish.

Collection Type
Scope and Contents

The Howard Hughes Film Production Records (1912-1992) represent Howard R. Hughes, Jr.'s Hollywood film production achievements through records from companies owned or established by Hughes; the featured companies are The Caddo Company, Incorporated; Multicolor, Limited; Hughes Productions; California Pictures Corporation; and RKO Radio Pictures. The bulk of the records date between 1926 and 1960 and include production and corporate materials from Hughes’ best known films – Hell’s Angels (1930), Scarface (1932), and The Outlaw (1940) – along with thirteen lesser-known films that range from early lost films - Swell Hogan (1926) and The Age for Love (1931) - to The Conqueror (1956) and Jet Pilot (1957), both released after Hughes sold his last film company, RKO, in 1955.

The range of film-related materials in the collection is extensive; broadly, they represent every aspect of the pre-production, production, and post-production phases of film development. Examples of materials include contracts, agreements, story rights acquisitions, screenplays, story boards, special effects, costumes, and soundtrack musical scores. Also included are approximately 6,700 black-and-white and color photographic prints and negatives, as well as artifacts including airplane models, advertising printing plates, drawings, paintings, blueprints, and line drawings. Additional materials include daily set reports, financial records, pressbooks, newspaper clippings and advertising, and movie posters.

Also represented are corporate records that relate more specifically to the legal and financial aspects of film production and distribution. Examples of materials in this category include correspondence, unproduced works, operational and administrative documents, film title registrations, lawsuits, distribution and rental agreements, revenue reports, contract analyses and settlement statements and film rights research. A significant amount of these materials are categorized as part of the Hughes Tool Company, the umbrella organization that stood at the head of all of Hughes' varied business interests.

There are also materials related to Howard Hughes' organizations outside of film development, including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Hughes Aircraft Company, and Summa Corporation.

Biographical / Historical Note

American businessman Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. was born September 24, 1905 in Houston, Texas, the only child of Howard R. Hughes, Sr. and Elaine Gano Hughes. The younger Hughes' business career began when he gained control of Hughes Tool Company (HTC) in 1924 at the age of nineteen, following his father's death. Later that year, he moved to California where he began his career in film making. After funding Swell Hogan in 1925, Hughes founded The Caddo Company, Incorporated in 1926. Between 1926 and 1932, Hughes directed and produced a number of films including Two Arabian Knights, Hell's Angels, The Front Page, and the controversial but well-received Scarface.

An avid aviation enthusiast, Hughes formed Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932. During the 1930s and 1940s, Hughes developed aircraft for personal and commercial use as well as to fulfill defense contracts during World War II. In 1939, Hughes created Hughes Productions as a division of HTC; The Outlaw was its only known production. Initially released in 1943, The Outlaw provoked a number of censorship demands from the Motion Picture Association of America. Despite campaigns to ban the film, Hughes promoted the film throughout the censorship controversy, increasing public interest in the film. He obtained a distributor for nationwide release and recouped some of his investment.

Hughes and director Preston Sturges co-founded California Pictures Corporation in 1944, which produced The Sin of Harold Diddlebock the last major film to star the silent screen legend Harold Lloyd. The Hughes/Sturges partnership ended in 1946 over disagreements during the filming of Vendetta. In 1948, Hughes acquired controlling interest of RKO Radio Pictures, Incorporated; during his time with the company, Hughes edited and re-released The Sin of Harold Diddlebock as Mad Wednesday and completed and released Vendetta under the RKO label.

In the early 1950s, during a period when Hollywood was investigated for communist affiliations, Hughes enacted strict anti-communist measures and fired 700 RKO employees. During this time, Hughes was the first of the major studio owners to comply with the federal antitrust decision in United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., ending the practice of "block booking" that allowed film studios to exercise near-monopoly control over movie theatres. Stockholders filed lawsuits accusing Hughes of mismanaging RKO and, in response, Hughes purchased the remaining stock shares in 1954 to gain full control of the company. Hughes sold RKO in 1955; as a result, the only two Hughes-produced RKO films The Conqueror and Jet Pilot, were released after his departure.

In 1953, during his leadership at RKO, Hughes established the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and made Hughes Aircraft Company a subsidiary of the organization. In 1966, he took up residence on the top floor of the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, purchased extensive land and property in the state, and contemplated relocating his aircraft company headquarters from California to Nevada. In 1972, he established the Summa Corporation as a real estate development and holding company. After Hughes' death on April 5, 1976, the Summa Corporation managed his remaining holdings, including assets from his film production years. The corporation also developed and managed Hughes' real estate holdings in California and Nevada, including the Summerlin community in Las Vegas and the creation of the Playa Vista community in Los Angeles, California.

Sources:

Dietrich, Noah and Bob Thomas. Howard: The Amazing Mr. Hughes. Connecticut: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1972.

Hack, Richard. Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters. California: Phoenix Books and Audio Inc., 2007.

Howard Hughes Film Production Records, 1912-1992. MS-01036. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Thomas L. Morgan Real Estate Development Records, 1971-1996. MS-01091. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Arrangement

This collection is organized into six series:

Series I. The Caddo Company, Incorporated, 1922-1965;

Series II. Hughes Productions, 1920-1992;

Series III. California Pictures Corporation, 1919-1965;

Series IV. RKO Radio Pictures, Incorporated, 1930-1974;

Series V. Hughes Tool Company, 1912-1990;

Series VI. Affiliated and subsidiary companies, 1930-1975.

Related Materials

The following resources may provide additional information related to the materials in this collection:

Howard Hughes Professional and Aeronautical Photographs, 1916-1997. PH-00321. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Howard Hughes Public Relations Photograph Collection, 1930-1950. PH-00373. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Howard Hughes Public Relations Reference Files, 1931-1997. MS-00380. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

David Rea Collection of Howard Hughes Publicity Photographs, 1940s-1980. PH-00400. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Hughes Electronics Corporation Records, 1935-2003. MS-00485. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Robert Maheu oral history interview, 1999 April 19. OH-01181. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Thomas L. Morgan Real Estate Development Records, 1971-1996. MS-01091. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Preferred Citation

Howard Hughes Film Production Records, 1912-1992. MS-01036. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

EAD ID
US::NvLN::MS01036
Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials were transferred to UNLV Special Collections and Archives from the College of Fine Arts in 2020; accession number 2020-090.

Processing Information

Between 2020 and 2022, as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant-funded project "Inventing Hollywood: Preserving and Providing Access to the Papers of Renegade Genius Howard Hughes," Jimmy Chang, Ryan DiPaolo, and Melise Leech processed, arranged, and described the materials. Conservation of materials was conducted by Celene Chavez, Quinlan Craig, Kyle Gagnon, and Hannah Tran.

Separated Materials

Some material in this acquisition were removed from the collection and transferred to the Margaret Herrick Library Academy Film Archive in November 2014 and placed in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Foundation-Howard R. Hughes Collection.

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