The Legend of Howard Hughes

In 1941 The Studio in the picture above was RKO.
What can’t this man do?

At RKO, a film was being made on the lot below this hill top-The Outlaw.
When not reading a script, it would be a schematics of his latest innovations

The movie Outlaw broke boundaries in several ways. To emphasize the camera capturing her figure correctly, Howard engineered a push up cantilevered bra to capture her bust. According to Mrs. Russell, she did not use it because the metal rods hurt too much, he’ll never check…

Give him a break he builds planes…not bra’s.

Funny enough, the bra ends up in a Hollywood museum and it was not attached to to what you imagine. Typical Hollywood, like the Ruby Slippers that were sold at the MGM auction, pair 6. The good one’s ended up somewhere…

Outlaw was completed in 1941, yet The Hollywood Production Code Administration would not approve it and this was viewed immoral. 20th Century Fox decided to cancel its release agreement, standing to lose millions, this shrewd businessman turned the tables. The outcry from the public was to ban this explicit film, but that in turn gave it massive publicity creating demand to see it.

Thought: this guy is playing the room and lets remember, he builds planes and other classified items

The major buzz only lasted a week and it was then pulled for good. Finally released in 1946, five years after completion, it became a box office hit with lifetime rental earnings of $5.075 million.

Howard, in 1941, had more on his plate than this film; WW2 is underway and he is a significant contractor. In the hills above this movies location, something else is underway. TOP SECRET!

We are at war, MGM goes dark along it’s streets because of the threats of bombardment from the air. Studios have two worries, they look like aircraft factories- so they could get bombed, secondly, they are producing military training films.

While the worry of a woman’s breast exposure is being worked on at the RKO lot below, Howard is deeply involved with the war effort, I will take you to his facility that rises above what was Desilu, RKO, and so many other studio names.

This compound was secured by an arm guard 24/7 It was built for research and devolopement of radar systems, it was active past WW2 and didn’t stop until Viet Nam in the early seventies. That’s when I first entered this place that sits above Stalag 13. This is no set- it’s a scientific laboratory

Inside that building with the chemical tank attached is a wind tunnel.

All these structures over look the Desilu Backlot and Main Lot, beyond those trees looking west is more Hughes property. He owned the most expensive real estate anywhere, from the ocean to the hill tops, the world was his.

Engineering room to left, large power feeds were paneled inside here. The movie 8 mm was filmed here with Nicolas Cage.
Platform that aligns with air traffic vectors for LAX. Radar test range.
Guard shack, this place was surrounded by a 10 ft. barbwire fence. You could end up in Federal Prison if your caught inside based off this being classified. For all I know UFO’s landed here!
This picture is the roof of the garage below.
Parked inside was a radar that would be used while under the cover of darkness. Those doors open up and a large contraption would roll into place. I was told listening devices were tested here as well. Tests were done at night, all of this is just out of sight from all your favorite Desilu Television shows.

That’s it, up in the hills where those trees are, I know you have seen it on TV, but now you have the big picture. The hill top you see is the balcony for the Desilu backlot. It is the most photographed hilltop, by movie lenses, in the USA. I can’t wait to show you what I mean in future stories and posts. Thomas Ince built this studio here for those hills and what was a wild waterway known as La Ballona creek. Filmmakers include these hills when composing camera angles. I include everything that is seen as backlot – extensions. That’s truly why backlots end up situated and nestled with hill tops. Poor old Paramount is located no where near one so they built one. It can be seen on Bonanza and the underneath can be see on The Mod Squad opening credits.

There is always more to story than what you see with your eyes, and needless to say Howard Hughes was a complex individual who succeeded at things because he never quit and took risks!

My Dad briefly worked at Hughes Air Base as a firefighter, that guy was my pops hero, I dig him just as much, I wish I could have met him. I was in his office at the Hughes Air Field before the remodel of Playa Vista. That’s another story for another day.

Ironically, the place the Spruce Goose was built staged some of Hollywood’s biggest movies on some of the biggest stages you could rent…built for aircraft. What goes around comes back. I will tour that backlot/aviation ranch military base- call it whatever you want it to be- in the future.

Written by Donnie Norden

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