This Month in Film History – May 15, 1948: Howard Hughes Completes Purchase of RKO Film Studio

Howard Hughes was, in a way. the Donald Trump of his day. He was rich, powerful, persuasive, an eye for beautiful women, and a fascination with film. Whereas Donald Trump never met a business he couldn’t bankrupt, Howard Hughes, rarely, failed at anything he did. A successful tool company, Hughes Tool Company, provided Hughes with a strong financial base for his entire life and would be the homebase for Hughes’ transactions. Howard Hughes would use this resource this month of May – May 15, 1948 – to help finance his purchase of RKO Studios.

Howard Hughes had already dabbled in filmmaking. Though not credited, he produced, financed and aided in the filming of the aerial scenes for the 1927 film Wings. Starring Clara Bow, whom Hughes allegedly had a sexual relationship with, and Charles Rogers, Wings was Hughes’ way into Hollywood. He toyed around for a while, seemingly losing interest in making movies for a little while; aviation rivalled the movie for Hughes attention.

Still, Hughes never gave up his penchant for actresses and returned to the film world. Most famous of them all was 1940s buxom brunette Jane Russell. With a script entitled The Outlaw in hand, Hughes’ mind quickly fixated on one aspect, he felt the entire film should revolve around – Jane Russell’s breasts.

Though still deeply mired in the stiffling production code era, where on screen displays of sexuality were not too keenly frowned upon, Hughes made sure that Russell’s breasts were prominent focal point of attention for the viewer. – even making an attempt to redesign Russell’s bra.