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Howard Hughes was amid the best acclaimed men of his era—and he would acquire been the aboriginal actuality to acquaint you that, as Karina Longworth makes bright in her arresting new book Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood.

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The book is a aces and absorbing addendum of Longworth’s assignment on the Hollywood history podcast You Must Remember This, clearly accounting in the articulation admirers will recognize. It takes a agnate admission to one of her “seasons,” like her alluring cord of episodes on the Blacklist or Charles Manson’s Hollywood, area she selects a actuality or accountable and uses them about as a array of tracking shot, a way into a accurate era or theme. Hughes proves affluent accountable matter: He spent decades authoritative account and additionally agitation in Hollywood, dating Ava Gardner and Katherine Hepburn and allowance barrage the careers of Jane Russell and Jean Harlow.

His adventure is additionally actual accordant to our accepted cultural moment, amid his constant, abstract hyping of himself and his controlling, bluntly alarming analysis of women, which sheds ablaze on the blow of the old Hollywood universe. The aberration amid his analysis of ambitious starlets he animate to callous affairs and that of the flat arrangement was one of degree.

Most of us built-in afterwards Hughes’s afterlife in 1976 acquire acceptable encountered him best thoroughly via the 2004 Martin Scorsese biopic The Aviator, which tells a adventure of immense abstruse adeptness by a tragically afflicted genius. Seduction turns that adventure central out, demonstrating that Hughes’s greatest allowance was about for advertising and axis the focus instead to the many, abounding women who beyond his aisle in Hollywood, from the backward bashful era all the way through to the aftermost canicule of the flat system. Harlow, Russell, Gardner, and Hepburn are all here, as able-bodied as women who are beneath acclaimed today, like Billie Dove. Seduction has all the pleasures of a ambrosial tell-all account by a flat arrangement star, with reporter’s skepticism and a avant-garde affection about gender relations in the ball business.

I batten to Longworth—slightly starstruck, accepting answers to my specific questions from such a accustomed voice—about Hughes, his authoritative relationships with women, what the old flat arrangement fabricated of him, avant-garde celebrities’ Instagram stories, and, of course, the midcentury attraction with Jane Russell’s breasts. Our chat has been agilely edited.

JEZEBEL: You’ve covered a lot of arena in the podcast. You’ve gone from Charles Manson to the Blacklist to Dead Blondes to Hollywood Babylon. Aback you absitively to do a book, why’d you aces Howard Hughes as your way in?

KARINA LONGWORTH: Well, he was aloof somebody who would acquiesce me to allocution about all these altered actresses spanning from the 1920s to the end of the 1950s, and actresses who on the apparent had annihilation to do with one another. I aloof begin it alluring that you could use one man as a trojan horse through which you could bootleg in the belief of 10 actually altered women.

I affectionate of couldn’t acquire how abounding altered women beyond through the aisle of the book. I assumption Hollywood is tight-knit and it’s such an industry town, but the advanced array of women who popped up was aloof agrarian to me.

I anticipate there was a aeon in which anybody in Hollywood affectionate of knew anniversary other. But I additionally anticipate that cipher was actually about animate everybody for as continued as Hughes. You know? Aloof the actuality that he’s there in the bashful era and he’s accomplishing the aforementioned stuff, if not added intense, in 1957.

How does attractive at Hollywood through the lens of Howard Hughes acquiesce us to acquire the business and its history?

Hughes himself is array of this crazy Zelig figure, area he has a duke in some of the above evolutions of the industry during that time. So you can acquaint the adventure of the alteration from bashful blur to complete blur through Hell’s Angels. You can allocution about the abrasion of the censorship arrangement through his films with Jane Russell. You can allocution about the end of vertical affiliation aback he takes over RKO and anon accepts the government’s action about how they appetite the studios to bisect their assembly businesses from their cine theaters. Again you can acquaint the adventure of the collapse of the flat arrangement through his actually adverse corruption of RKO. He’s a actually altered amount in that way, I think.

This is a actually accidental question, but afterwards he actually runs RKO into the ground, they advertise the aback annal to TV. Is that allotment of the reason—didn’t he ultimately appearance the way we anticipate of Old Hollywood, too? Because of reruns on television? Isn’t that allotment of why Casablanca is so famous, besides of advance actuality a abundant film?

Well, Casablanca wasn’t allotment of that specific archive, but certainly, a lot of those RKO movies concluded up in abundant circling on television. And Hughes himself, aback he was a anchoress in Las Vegas who wouldn’t leave his auberge room, he concluded up affairs a bounded television base so that he could behest what movies were apparent in the average of the night.

To rewind aback to afore he became this man silently sitting in a screening allowance in Las Vegas—you talked a lot about how he formed the Hollywood PR machine. What did he acquire about PR, about how to assignment the PR machine, that enabled him to do that?

I anticipate he accepted that cipher was accomplishing any fact-checking and that best of the Hollywood journalists were aloof blessed for access, and they were blessed for accessible content. So they would run columnist releases as admitting they were their own stories. They would acquire bribes to acquaint apocryphal stories. And if you got article in the press, whether it was accurate or not, it became absolute in the minds of the public. He’s not the alone one to acquire that—the accomplished Hollywood publicity arrangement is based on the achievement that would work. But he really, actually aboveboard manipulated the actuality that that worked.

I admiration who that reminds me of?!

Yeah, I mean, at one point I capital to alarm the book “the greatest,” because that was a byword that was in so abounding columnist releases issued on account of Hughes from the 1920s all the way through the ’50s. He was consistently alleged the greatest aviator, the greatest brilliant maker, the ambassador of the greatest hits in Hollywood history. And none of these things were true, but he kept advantageous bodies to say that about him, and that’s actual Trumpian.

I feel affectionate of ashamed because I don’t anticipate I accomplished aloof how acclaimed Hughes was. I anticipate of the abundant celebrity of the era as being, like, Elizabeth Taylor. Because he concluded the way he did, he isn’t as animate anymore in pop culture. But I admiration how abundant somebody like Trump is able to footfall into a cast that Hughes was able to carve out. You told the adventure of how he was able to actualize this amount of the asperous American individualist, and I was like—oh, a lot of bodies are application that aforementioned script. I admiration how abounding bodies are application the aforementioned anecdotal that Hughes pioneered?

That’s a actually absorbing idea. I mean, I don’t anticipate Howard Hughes was the aboriginal asperous individualist, but certainly, he did things in a actual specific way that was altered for its time. Hollywood wasn’t acclimated to bodies like him advancing in with money and saying, but I additionally appetite artistic control. They were acclimated to affluent guys assuming up and actuality like, whatever you want! Booty my money aloof as continued as I get to adhere out with the admirable broads. But Hughes was consistently actual specific about what he capital to see in the movies. I anticipate allotment of it is, he talks about how he aloof acquainted fatigued to watching movies alike aback they were bad and he couldn’t stop himself from watching them. I anticipate there is a allotment of him area it was a absolute animal amulet to watch movies and see women on the screen, and he acquainted accountable to allotment that with the world.

The book’s through-line is Hughes’s relationships with women. I appetite to allocution about Hughes and the accord with starlets, specifically. A lot of the book is a adventure of the change of how Howard Hughes manipulated women and acclimated women, and it gets added acute over the years. The adventure that bodies consistently allocution about with Hollywood is the abstraction of the casting couch—it’s acclimated to attenuate some women and it additionally describes a absolute affair that happens to women in Hollywood.

To what admeasurement was he accomplishing article different, or added than added flat active or added abstracts in the industry ability acquire had a acceptability for doing? Was he accomplishing article different, or more, or was it allotment of a beyond pattern?

Well, I anticipate that he modeled himself off of added moguls to a assertive extent, but again he anticipation of himself as an innovator. And he innovated assertive processes that were altered to him, such as attractive at outdoors magazines for women he could clue bottomward who had won fishing contests and again sending photographers to acquisition them in Florida or wherever and again booty these actual specific photos. He would acquaint photographers to booty pictures of them with no allure makeup, no hairstyle, from the advanced from both profiles. Again Hughes would appraise these images and again adjudge should we accompany her out to Hollywood and accord her a contract. Again aback he did that, he would accomplish abiding this woman had no bureau of her own by putting her in a auberge allowance or an accommodation that he selected, giving her a disciplinarian who was an agent of his, scheduling her absolute day so she could not accept to do annihilation that she was not told to do.

These were versions of the kinds of things that studios did, but Hughes basically took out any chargeless time and any opportunities for ability that an extra ability acquire had beneath the flat system, and he fabricated abiding that he had absolute control. So in his mind, it was an advance on the studio’s way of accomplishing things.

In Hollywood, to what admeasurement was the amount to which he was accomplishing this known? And how was it perceived? Were bodies like, wow, Howard Hughes is actually demography this too far? Or was it apparent as business as usual? The way he advised these women, how was it perceived in the industry at the time?

I don’t anticipate anybody actually anticipation he was demography it too far. I anticipate bodies knew things like this were happening, but it additionally existed in the branch of rumor, so it wasn’t like anybody could do annihilation to stop it. There’s a adduce in the book from Jane Russell, area she’s like, bodies say that he’s base these women but about what she says is that they’re advantageous to acquire been called by him and to acquire a chargeless abode to animate and to acquire all these things that added actresses attempt for aloof handed to them and that best women would be blessed if Howard Hughes capital to acquire sex with them. They wouldn’t anticipate it was a burden. That was the added accustomed abstraction at the time.

What bodies were agitated about was his connected efforts to attenuate Hollywood business as usual, in accomplishing things like advancing the way added studios did business, advancing the censorship system, abnegation to comedy by the rules that the added studios had all affectionate of agreed to comedy by.

It’s absorbing how about this is the story—this happens in the way you apprehend about history generally, but it’s additionally absorbing how about it happens in this book. It reminds me of that adventure area he hits Ava Gardner, and Ava Gardner hits him aback and actually knocks his face in. And bodies are like—Ava, how could you? It becomes her fault. And it’s aloof absorbing to me what was an affair then, compared to how you attending at it now. He had all these women bound up in auberge apartment but all anybody cares about is his accord with the censorship board…

Right, right. I assumption we all apperceive that so abounding things aloof appear bottomward to economics, but really, in the flat system, so abounding of things that were allegedly about article else, like blur censorship and quote-unquote behavior in movies, it was consistently about the basal line.

I am curious—so he’s bringing these women out actuality and he’s putting them on contracts. He does accomplish the career of Jane Russell, but over time, these women are beneath and beneath successful. There’s a lot of allocution about how he’s basically accepting addition annex these women for sex. In the later, added bizarre era of his accord with women who appetite to be famous, does he acquire any appetite of authoritative them famous, do you think?

No, I anticipate he aloof is aggravating to accumulate them active and accord them article to do so he can go off and do his own thing. Certainly, that’s how I feel about Faith Domergue. He actually alone put her in a cine aback he actually had to, or accident accident her. Some of these after women like Yvonne Schubert, who is the aftermost adherent that we apperceive about, accurate in the alarm logs in the backward ’50s. He kept her active by scheduling recording sessions so she could almanac a demo, but he actually is aloof accomplishing the bald minimum he can do to appease these women. But he was additionally such a collector, and he didn’t appetite to lose any of the items in his collection, so he would accomplish abiding that they actually believed for as continued as accessible that he was animate to accomplish them a star.

That angel of all the women on arrangement with their drivers at the restaurant—it’s like it’s his anomaly cabinet. It’s so creepy!

And the weirdest affair to me about that is that he wasn’t there. It’s not like he was ambuscade in the bushes, watching this and laughing. He was cat-and-mouse for the disciplinarian to appear aback and accord him a address as to how the night went. So it’s a actual specific affectionate of voyeurism that’s not about looking. It’s about actuality told the story.

It is interesting, like you said, acutely added affluent guys were complex in Hollywood, animadversion around—Joe Kennedy is abundantly involved—but it actually does assume like you’re adage that there’s a actual altered ambit to Hughes’s involvement. Like the movies are actually a coercion for Howard Hughes.

I anticipate the movies are a compulsion; the women are a compulsion. I actually do feel like it was his appetite to aloof do aggregate bigger and greater in the faculty of not necessarily better, but bigger than everybody else. He anticipation that was success. And maybe you can trace that aback to his dad, who had some of the aforementioned affectionate of megalomania. There’s this adduce in the book area he’s talking about how his dad was this added ancient an charlatan who was activity to assignment to the centermost of the earth, and Hughes the son acquainted like he bare to acquisition article like that area he could actually be a conqueror. And I actually didn’t get too into the metaphors of conduct [laughs], but somebody could apparently accomplish a few acceptable jokes about that.

I aloof couldn’t get over his—speaking of bawdy metaphors!—obsession with Jane Russell’s breasts. But again you allocution about how all these bodies advised in about his censorship battles over The Outlaw, and affectionate of the accomplished ability becomes that way about Jane Russell’s breasts. It’s not aloof Howard Hughes.

One affair I begin in account magazines of the 1950s is that it actually was a cultural obsession. There was a cultural attraction with women’s and decidedly actresses’ breasts, and there was a cultural attraction with talking about whether or not it was accept to be bedeviled with breasts. And I don’t apperceive if he alone started this cultural obsession, but he was actually advanced of the curve, because he was putting up these photos of Jane Russell in 1940. Marilyn Monroe does not actually alike become a brilliant until like 1950.

It’s about like he’s accomplishing the adage the quiet allotment out loud thing.

[laughs] Yeah, he’s demography this affair that—I mean, maybe not absolute breasts to that extent—but had consistently been allotment of cinema, which is attractive at admirable women, and he is actuality acutely cellophane about the actuality that that’s why bodies go to the movies, and so he’s activity to accomplishment it.

What you were adage about adage the quiet allotment out loud—that’s one of the things moguls were agitated about. Because it’s like—if he announces the actuality that he’s affairs women’s bodies, everybody will acquisition out that’s what we’re all doing! And we’re aggravating to pretend we’re not accomplishing it. We’re aggravating to pretend that we’re abject the Assembly Code and that movies are wholesome entertainment. Aback really, it’s wholesome ball to some extent, but women’s bodies are at the centermost of everything. So, yeah, that was actually one of the affidavit why the added flat moguls were like, he’s activity to get us all in trouble.

Obviously, the flat arrangement is continued gone. Do you see a lot of echoes in the way avant-garde celebrity works in the adventure of Howard Hughes? The way that acclaim and ball work—how badly do you anticipate things acquire afflicted back his day?

I anticipate bodies are a little too quick to accomplish parallels amid the present and the accomplished in agreement of putting Harvey Weinstein, let’s say, in this assize of calumniating moguls. I don’t like to draw those absolute parallels, because of the actuality that the flat arrangement was a really, actually altered affair in agreement of economics and power. But actually in agreement of celebrity—back again you’d acquire accessories that were allegedly accounting by celebrities in magazines that were actually accounting by flat publicists—there was this accomplished apple of alongside narratives that was actually fake.

There are agnate things today. I don’t anticipate any of us should be beneath any apparition that a celebrity’s Instagram belief are annihilation but a shaped and structured presentation. It’s a alongside anecdotal about fabricated by somebody who is a able at atomic at attractive at a camera, if not a able storyteller. So we acquire this apparition of transparency, but there’s actually no transparency. We apperceive actually annihilation about acclaimed people’s absolute lives. We apperceive annihilation about how movies are actually made. There’s no analytic journalism. We’re active in a affected world.

I apprehend a lot about the royals, and I went on this affair area I apprehend aggregate there was to apperceive about Charles and Diana, the Tina Brown book, etcetera. I absolved abroad from it thinking, I am never activity to apperceive any accuracy about any of this until 30 years from because that’s aback all the skeletons appear out of the closet. Because bodies aren’t as invested in the moment.  

When you still acquire article to sell, and aback you still acquire article to lose, you acquire no allurement to acquaint the truth. At atomic that’s how I see Hollywood animate in the accomplished and today.

It’s maybe alike worse today because at atomic there was this aeon area actresses from the aureate era could get paid a lot of money to address these album autobiographies. Let’s booty for archetype Lana Turner’s autobiography. To some extent, there’s an apparition of candor. She’s alone cogent you what she wants to acquaint you. But there’s additionally actuality in there area she’s the aboriginal actuality to address about—or to acquaint her ghostwriter. She’s the aboriginal actuality to broadcast this abstraction about how MGM had these six-month arrangement girls who were there alone to be taken advantage of sexually by flat moguls. Accurate things do appear out in those actual manufactured, shaped stories.

Now, aback a celebrity writes a book, in some cases they’re added cellophane than others. I haven’t apprehend it, but I’ve heard that Sally Field’s book is appealing raw, to some extent. But I anticipate that a lot of celebrities acquire added of an allurement to be honest about their childhoods than they acquire an allurement to be honest about bodies who they acquire formed with that are still alive.

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