As a teenager, Howard Robard Hughes declared that his goals in life were to become the world's best golfer, the world's best pilot and the world's best movie producer. In 1923, he inherited the highly profitable Hughes Tool Company from his inventor father.
He bought into Transcontinental & West Airline in 1937 and acquired RKO studios in 1948. Hughes Space and Communications was founded in 1961. During the 1970s, Hughes went back into the airline business, buying airline Air West and renaming it Hughes Airwest.
As an aviator, Hughes set world records, but he also designed and built aircraft for Hughes Aviation, as well as running the company. In January 1937, he set a new record for flying from Los Angeles to New York City. One of his greatest failures was the Spruce Goose, a massive flying boat completed just after the end of World War II, which only flew once.
As a producer, his films 'The Racket' and 'The Front Page' were nominated for Oscars. He utilised his skills as an avaiation designer to fabricate a special push-up bra for Jane Russell to wear in 'The Outlaw'. His good looks and vast wealth also enabled him to woo many of Hollywood's most famous actresses.
In 1972, Hughes was persuaded by the CIA to help secretly recover a Soviet nuclear submarine, which had sunk near Hawaii. The Hughes Glomar Explorer, a special salvage vessel, successfully raised the Soviet boat in 1974.
Despite his fabled lifestyle, Hughes struggled with mental problems for much of his life, a battle he was to lose in his later years, as he descended into a reclusive, drug-addled existence, locked in darkened rooms and terrified of germs. He became a nomad, moving from hotel to hotel.
In Las Vegas, he bought the Desert Inn (because they threatened to evict him) and several other hotels and casinos, modernising Las Vegas by buying it from the Mafia.
He became addicted to codeine and other painkillers, was extremely frail, wore tissue boxes as shoes, and stored his urine in jars.
He died in 1976, leaving an estate worth one billion dollars.
A film of the life of Howard Hughes scooped top honours at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony in Hollywood.
’The Aviator’, which sees Leonardo DiCaprio play millionaire Howard Hughes, also won the best original score award and went on to Academy Award success.