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Celebrities provide fodder for films

Hollywood stars of the past had plenty of drama in their lives. Not many scriptwriters can produce such pulsating stories. The legends, from Howard Hughes to Marilyn Monroe, can provide great material for movies, says V. GANGADHAR.



Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese's "Aviator," based on the life of the reclusive billionaire.

IN HOLLYWOOD, the `Awards' time is just round the corner. Director Martin Scorsese's film, "Aviator," has won the largest number of nominations for the prestigious Golden Globe awards and may lead the nomination race for the Oscars too.

"Aviator" is based on the life of Hollywood legend, the reclusive, eccentric billionaire, Howard Hughes, who, after inheriting a fortune, spent most of it on planes which did not fly and movies, some great, the rest quite ordinary.

For nearly 20 years, Hughes made dozens of films for the RKO studios, which included hits like "Hell's Angels" and "The Outlaw."

One of the most eligible bachelors of Hollywood, Hughes made headlines with his romances with stars like Katherine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Jean Harlow, and Terry Moore before tying the knot with another star, Jean Peters.

And now all of this is on screen with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the role of Hughes and a host of newcomers playing some of the Hollywood immortals like Hepburn and Gardner. The movie vividly recreates the glamorous age of Hollywood and famous show business institutions like the Coconut Grove, the Hall of Fame and Grauman's Chinese theatre.

Why a movie on Hughes and his lovers, some of whom died only recently? Over the years, Hollywood has made films on Biblical characters (Ben Hur, Samson), historical immortals (Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte), famous modern generals (Patton, Macarthur), world leaders (John Kennedy, Gandhi), scientists (Louis Pasteur) and villains (Hitler, Idi Amin).

Then Hollywood looked inwards and found it had its own quota of heroes and heroines who were also remembered by the public.

Hughes is a more interesting personality than an average film hero. He represented an era when Hollywood was something special. Under the then prevailing studio system, stars were larger than life figures for the public who had no other sources of entertainment. Movie magazines like Photoplay and film gossip writers like Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons and Sheila Graham were household names. Famous writers flocked to Hollywood to do film scripts and make a fortune. Dream factories churned out hundreds of films every year.

Naturally, many of the Hollywood bigwigs were ideal for having their lives made into films. There was Clark `King' Gable, the immortal Charlie Chaplin, the one and only Mae West and dozens of others.

The young stars of today competed with one another to bag the prestigious roles of their predecessors. How will Cate Blanchett interpret the immortal Katherine Hepburn who died at 90 plus and whose true love was not Hughes but fellow actor, Spencer Tracy?

Even in 1976, James Brolin had played Gable to Jill Clayburgh's Carole Lombard in "Gable and Lombard."

The movie, "Cat's Meow" revolved round the lives of Charlie Chaplin and Marion Davis, while Geoffrey Rush starred in the film, "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers." Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth play singer Bobby Darin and his actress wife Sandra Dee in "Beyond the Sea."

Movies are also planned on the lives of famous actors like Bette Davis, Steve McQueen and the one and only Gary Cooper.

Not to be left behind, American television channels had produced films on "Norma Jean and Marilyn Monroe," Audrey Hepburn and July Garland. It is easy to understand the reasons for making movies on the immortals of the past.

Thanks to the video and DVD revolution, millions had been able to watch classic films of the past, which appealed because of their content, dialogue and unforgettable acting. They did not have to depend on special effects.

There was also plenty of drama in their lives. Marilyn Monroe was wooed by none other than the President of the US and even married a famous playwright. Actor Errol Flynn had to face criminal charges of raping a minor.

Glamour girl Lana Turner was known for more than her sweater. She was involved with a Mafia hoodlum, shot dead by her teenaged daughter who was also in love with him. Not many scriptwriters can produce such pulsating stories.

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