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Off topic with Ayn Rand and Howard Hughes

January 24, 2005

I recently saw the The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and I started making some interesting connections. I read up on Howard Hughes, and found out they he owned (among many other things) a lot of movie studios, including RKO pictures. I also found out that Ayn Rand, the founder of objectivist philosophy, also worked at this company as head of wardrobe. Even though they never worked there at the same time, it made me think about the character of Howard Hughes and the characters created by Ayn Rand in such books as The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.

Both Rand and Hughes were attracted to the movie industry, and worked their way into roles of leadership there. Then they both went on to focus on industry and business, one of them writing stories about the men of unborrowed vision,” who live by the judgment of their own minds, willing to stand alone against tradition and popular opinion”. While the other is arguably the clearest example of these traits America has produced. Hughes was a major player in every field he played, from lingerie to aeronautical engineering. However, while the protagonists of an Ayn Rand novel exhibit lives free of self-doubt and personal frustration, the persona of Hughes is quite possibly one of the most tormented, tragic and pathetic personal stories in the history of American business. This may be, in part, a condemnation of Rand’s ideals, if the only individuals capable of them are insane, driven by unknown horrors of the mind. What is most interesting is the unlikely link they share through Hollywood, and how it must have shaped their “ideals”.

If anything, it’s gotten me interested in both of them again. I might even have to read through Atlas Shrugged again… soon…. ok, I’m kidding myself, I can’t make it through that again.

[Listening to: proto.mp3 – – proto.mp3 – (4:30)]

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  1. John Orozco permalink

    I hope this email isn’t too tardy. I came to a similar conclusion myself about Hughes and Rand. When I watched the movie, “Atlas Shrugged” came to mind right away.

    It’s funny, the same people I know who do not like Ayn Rand, seem to find fault in Howard Hughes. I guess some people are threatened by the success of others, as if it were a piece of a pie limited to time and space.

  2. Wow, thanks for digging this one up. I’d forgotten about it. I’ll be really interested to see how Hollywood handles Atlas Shrugged in 2011. The novel seems to have gotten a lot of attention lately since Obama took office.

  3. deepak permalink

    i read the Atlas Shrugged novel first & then saw movie “Aviator” in a gap of almost 1 year. Movie made me to google Howard Hughes for his eccentricities at first, but after spending some time reading about him & the timeline when all of this was happening i felt strange coinicidence between what Rand has written & the life of hughes. A volley of questions surrounded me, was fictional Galt inspired from real Hughes or real Hughes decided to do something like fictional Galt. Did Rand & Hughes ever met. Did Hughes even ever read Atlus shrugged or any of the blueprint Rand had started after visiting the first ever nuclear horror. What actually made Hughes to go recluse. Was he trying to draw away from the world he gave so much in terms of engineering genius setting a standard of thinking liberally & beyond constraints. Or Rand was such a huge admirer of hughes that inspired her to create Galt but like an astute philospher she could only take her character towards perfectionism taking away all the personal weaknesses Hughes might have ever had.

  4. Rob Williamson permalink

    This is amazing

    I just finished reading Atlas Shrugged and at the end she notes that men like the protagonists in her novels really do exist. Then I was thinking about the movie The Avengers and how the character of Howard Stark reminded me of her Hank Rearden, John Galt and so on…

    So I looked up Howard Stark, which led me to Howard Hughes. Then I thought if these two existed and thrived during the same period maybe they knew each other… which led me to this page…

  5. Justin Donaldson permalink

    I’m a big Iron Man fan as well 🙂 Somehow, I still haven’t seen the Avengers movie.

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