The male gaze. Wow. Yuck.
Like many others, I adore Karina Longworth’s podcast You Must Remember This. Well researched and well told, Longworth is effective at dispelling old Hollywood myths while still reminding us about our fascination with these people. It’s unquestionably one of the best podcasts out there.
Here, she turns her knowledge and skill into telling the story of Howard Hughes’ life and the lives of the women he pursued. I knew it was bad with Hughes; his fictionalized James Ellroy character prepared me enough as is. But still…the whole thing just made me feel gross. I get that there were moments of true intimacy with him and some of the women but Hughes, raised by megalomaniacs and lacking the most basic understanding of social interactions, made these women’s lives a living hell. Stalking, obsession, abuse…it’s all there.
But what I didn’t know is how ineffective he was as a movie maker. He had a few hits but by and large, his RKO Studio run churned out mostly garbage. Guess it helps to be a white guy with a big bank account; you keep failing upwards. The magic of the movies.
Anyway, Longworth is a good writer and her storytelling gifts here are well used but much of this book made me physically uncomfortable. I just felt sad for most of those women and the predatory nature of an industry that chews them up and spits them out. Maybe I don’t have the curiosity for old Hollywood that I thought I did. A good book but I’m very happy to be done with it.