‘Seduction’: New book looks at Howard Hughes’ Hollywood through a #MeToo lens

 

By now, our perception of Hollywood’s “golden” age, when stars were born in the studio era of the 1920s through the ‘50s, has been thoroughly tarnished by the awakenings of the #MeToo era. The sordid, sexually abusive history of powerful men, their casting couches and exploitation of female talent, is being writ large – if all too belatedly.

None of it is described more compellingly than in Karin Longworth’s new book, “Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood” (Custom House, 560 pp., ★★★★ out of four).

This is a first-rate work of cultural curation, in which Longworth combs the countless stacks of Hollywood memoirs and biographies, with a focus on the pathological predations of Howard Hughes, Texas millionaire, star maker and film producer.

Film critic and creator of the popular Hollywood-themed podcast “You Must Remember This,” Longworth delivers much more than a warmed-over recounting of the eccentric Hughes saga and the famous women who helped define it.

Written with forceful style and a passionate regard for the forgotten hopefuls who came to California seeking success in a thoroughly sexist era, the book casts a feminist eye on the dark decadence of early Hollywood – from silent-era orgies at the Ambassador Hotel to the impunity with which the founding studio heads manipulated starlets.

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