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Series IV. RKO Radio Pictures, Incorporated, 1930 to 1974

Level of Description




Scope and Contents

The RKO Radio Pictures, Incorporated series (1930-1974) contains material primarily pertaining to development of RKO films during Hughes' ownership of the company. This series primarily features The Conqueror (1956) and Jet Pilot (1957), but also includes material for other films such as His Kind of Woman (1951), and Son of Sinbad (1955). Records include film set and publicity photographs, film advertising and news articles, screenplays, ledgers, and music scores. Corporate materials contain newspaper clippings, copyright documents, administrative correspondence, actor contracts and agreements, and stock information. Also included are scripts, screenplays, and manuscripts collected to draft potential film adaptations. Ledgers contain theatrical screening reports and corporate budgets. Other materials include reports pertaining to the Cold War and film industry blacklisting.


1930 to 1974


42.12 Cubic Feet (50 boxes, 11 oversized boxes, 3 roll, and 5 flat files)
60.82 Linear Feet
To request this item in person:
Collection Number: MS-01036
Collection Name: Howard Hughes Film Production Records
Box/Folder: N/A

Biographical / Historical Note

Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO), more commonly known as the RKO Corporation or RKO Radio Pictures, Incorporated, was formed in 1928 and produced many influential and commercially successful films by the late 1940s. In 1948, Howard Hughes purchased the Atlas Corporation’s controlling interest of RKO for $8,835,500. During his seven years in control of RKO, Hughes enacted strict anti-communist measures, leading to mass firings and a public and drawn-out legal battle with Paul Jarrico over his credit in The Las Vegas Story (1952). Hughes was also the first film studio executive to comply with the United States Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., ending the practice of "block booking." As the first of the "Big Five" film studios to divest RKO's theatre business from film distribution, Hughes signaled the end of the monopoly system that shut out independent film producers for decades. Hughes' actions at RKO led to lawsuits from company stockholders over mismanagement. In response, Hughes acquired complete control of RKO in 1954, purchasing all of the remaining stock shares for $23,500,000. Within two years, he began negotiating with the General Tire and Rubber Company, selling the company in July of 1955.


O'Brian, Jack. "700 'A' Pictures for TV, as Hughes Sells RKO Control." The San Francisco Examiner. July 16, 1955.

Leab, Daniel J. "How Red Was My Valley: Hollywood, the Cold War Film, and I Married a Communist." Journal of Contemporary History. 1984. Accessed September 17, 2020.

“Legacy.” RKO Pictures. 2022. Accessed September 17, 2020.

"Movies Must Sell Interest in Theatres." The San Mateo Times. May 4, 1948.

"RKO Board Okays Hughes Bid to Buy Company; Stockholders Vote Set." The San Francisco Examiner. February 14, 1954.


These records are organized into four sub-series:

IV.A. The Conqueror, 1950-1956;

IV.B. Jet Pilot, 1948-1966;

IV.C. Other RKO films, 1940-1956;

IV.D. Corporate records, 1930-1974.