Just Above Sunset
January 2, 2005 - Reach for the books, partner!

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Book Wrangler

Sunday, January 2, 2005

By Bob Patterson


The Aviator, directed by Martin Scorsese, is one of those rare movies that left this columnist with a desire to go to the bookstore or library to find a book and learn more.


The Aviator tells the story of Howard Hughes.


Quality-wise this film is top notch. 


If this were to be compared to an album of music; it’s as if you took the greatest singers of all time, backed them with the London Philharmonic, got Toscanini to conduct the Orchestra, and then they all collaborated on the definitive version of One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall.


It’s supposed to be Citizen Kane done with aviation substituting for the newspaper industry, but it leaves viewers with the impression that, by 1947, Hughes was nuts.  If that assumption were accurate, why then, twenty years later, did the CIA turn to Hughes and his Glomar Explorer for help? 


In the movie, Hughes is portrayed as spending every cent he can scrape together to pursue his obsessions.  If he was spending all his money, how was he able to put enough in the bank to become America’s first billionaire?  Maybe he saved money by brown bagging his lunch to work? 


This film might cause folks to run to the public library biography section to learn more of the back-story.  (All the Hughes biographies were checked out by the time this columnist got to the Santa Monica Public Library’s main branch.)


It’s happened before, that a movie leaves this columnist reaching for a book, but not very often.  Air America, the 1990 film directed by Roger Spottiswoode and starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr., produced a strong desire to find a book that would provide more details about the history and operations of Air America (the CIA operation not the radio network featuring Al Franken.) 


The film We Were Soldiers (also starring Mel Gibson) was about the early days of the War in Vietnam and it produced an impulse to read more about the historical origins of that conflict.


Books are books and films are movies and there’s not a gigantic cusp area for both categories. 


Here are some books did not get a chance to plug before Christmas, so you can, if you are so inclined, start buying now for the next Yuletide.


Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten by Judy Artunian and Mike Oldham ($16.95 paperback Santa Monica Press.) - One book for movie fans and architectural buffs.


How Soccer Explains the Word: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer.  ($24.95 HarperCollins) Go, you Hotspurs, go!




Copyright 2004 – Robert Patterson





Editor’s Note:


The editor of Just Above Sunset in the eighties, while working for Hughes Space and Communications Division – think Rocket Scientists – wrote a produced a film on Howard Hughes and his company.  This was a history of the man and the company he founded, intended for new hires.  It won an award and disappeared – the company was sold to General Motors, and General Motors sold the hardware and electronics parts of the Space and Communications Division to Boeing – and the satellite management and communications parts of the business became DirecTV – acquired last year by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.  No copy of this minor film survived.  But if you want to know the inside scoop on the Spruce Goose, and the fights that drove key managers to leave Howard and start their own companies – TRW and Litton for example – and how the Howard Hughes Medical Institute got started and was linked to all the industrial stuff, and how GM dumped it in the mid-eighties (and discussions we had of same with key folks at Surgeon General Koop’s Christmas party at the National Institute of Health in the late eighties) – well, drop a line.  Otherwise, go and see the Scorsese film.  The editor of Just Above Sunset will go see it to check for accuracy, as he interviewed many people who knew Howard Hughes personally.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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