After two years of dedicated processing and detailed conservation, UNLV Special Collections and Archives is pleased to announce that the Howard Hughes Film Production Records (MS-01036) are now available for public access.
Special Collections also curated an exhibit titled Script to Screen: The Howard Hughes Film Production Records on the third floor of Lied Library that showcases examples of materials held in the collection. Ranging from photo stills taken on famous movie sets, to Hughes’ script annotations, to advertisements, the items demonstrate the broad range of materials, and potential research avenues for the collection.
The collection contains just over 400 cubic feet (or 500 boxes) of materials from Howard Hughes’ film production companies. The materials document Hughes’ almost 40 years in Hollywood, as well as the foundation and dissolution of several of his well-known corporate entities.
The project, "Inventing Hollywood: Preserving and Providing Access to the Papers of Renegade Genius Howard Hughes," required two years of processing and was made possible through a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and in collaboration with the UNLV film department.
Howard Hughes’ impact on Hollywood can be felt through his timeless films such as Scarface (1932), Hell’s Angels (1930), The Outlaw (1943), and The Conqueror (1956) and materials related to the film production, sale, and distribution of these films comprise a significant portion of this collection.
The majority of the materials in the Howard Hughes Film Production Records (MS-01036) highlight the process by which Hughes’ various film production companies produced their films — all the way from story concept to screen. The records also show how Hughes’ developed as a filmmaker from his arrival in Hollywood in 1925. Exposed to the industry through his uncle, the 21-year-old Hughes immediately took an interest in film.
The Caddo Company, formed in 1926, marked Hughes’ first attempt at a production company and successfully produced nine films, including Scarface and Hell’s Angels. Materials originating from The Caddo Company are the most complete example in the collection of the film production and distribution processes and include unique photographs and a collection of miniature aircraft used for special effects.
After leaving film production for eight years to pursue aeronautics, Hughes' name returned to the big screen under the company, Hughes Productions, which is known for producing the notorious film, The Outlaw, starring Jane Russell. Censorship issues delayed the release of the film for many years, and Hughes combated the pushback in a number of ways. Included within this collection are Russell Birdwell’s advertising campaign materials for the film, as well as material related to how, in the end, Hughes used the censorship battle to sell the film. Also included are materials pertaining to the release of Hughes’ films under the California Pictures alongside Preston Sturges, as well as films under his leadership of RKO Radio Pictures.
The collection highlights some of Hughes’ corporate endeavors and demonstrates the intricacies of business management in the mid-20th century. The numerous acquisitions, dissolutions, and legal battles that his many corporations underwent is staggering, but well documented in these records. Some of the business records show the struggle to turn a profit, and the rise of Nadine Henley, Noah Dietrich, and Neil S. McCarthy as crucial advisors to Hughes.
Materials also include documents, letters, and blueprints from a lesser-known company, Multicolor, Ltd. which attempted to compete against the film development powerhouse, Technicolor. The collection concludes with records from Hughes’ overarching corporate body, Hughes Tool Co., which ranges from 1912 to 1990 and includes documents from Summa Corp. researching film rights.
The full finding aid is available on the UNLV Special Collections and Archives portal.
"Inventing Hollywood: Preserving and Providing Access to the Papers of Renegade Genius Howard Hughes" is a joint project sponsored by the UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives and the UNLV Department of Film, and is funded by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.