Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes's Hollywood

In recent months, the media has reported on scores of entertainment figures who used their power and money in Hollywood to sexually harass and coerce some of the most talented women in cinema and television. But as Karina Longworth reminds us, long before the Harvey Weinsteins there was Howard Hughes—the Texas millionaire, pilot, and filmmaker whose reputation as a cinematic provocateur was matched only by that as a prolific womanizer.

His supposed conquests between his first divorce in the late 1920s and his marriage to actress Jean Peters in 1957 included many of Hollywood’s most famous actresses, among them Billie Dove, Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and Lana Turner. From promoting bombshells like Jean Harlow and Jane Russell to his contentious battles with the censors, Hughes—perhaps more than any other filmmaker of his era—commoditized male desire as he objectified and sexualized women. Yet there were also numerous women pulled into Hughes’s grasp who never made it to the screen, sometimes virtually imprisoned by an increasingly paranoid and disturbed Hughes, who retained multitudes of private investigators, security personnel, and informers to make certain these actresses would not escape his clutches.

Vivid, perceptive, timely, and ridiculously entertaining, Seduction is a landmark work that examines women, sex, and male power in Hollywood during its golden age—a legacy that endures nearly a century later.


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Named a most anticipated book of the fall by ELLE, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, Newsday, and SF Weekly. Featured in Wired, Nerdist, Birth Movies Death, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Esquire and Culturess.

“Karina Longworth loves Hollywood the way it ought to be loved—mercilessly. This is a deep and radiant book, and Longworth is a national treasure.” —James Kaplan, author of Sinatra

“Karina Longworth casts a gimlet eye over the dark corners of movie history, taking us on an entertaining and timely tour of early Hollywood mores and manipulation. No matter how much you think you know about golden age Hollywood, Longworth serves up fascinatingly fresh perspective on the ways male desire and power shaped movie mythology.” —Joy Press, author of Stealing the Show

“A history that shows clearly how powerful men exploited actresses long before the #MeToo movement began. Hollywood historian Longworth has mined memoirs, biographies, magazines, newspapers, and archives to create an entertaining, gossip-filled portrait of the film capital’s golden age… A lively—and often sordid—Hollywood history.” Kirkus Reviews

Longworth puts the man, the women and the whole flesh-peddling movie-biz circus in a new and timely perspective.” New York Times Book Review

“Longworth puts all of the stories from countless memoirs together in one place, allowing the conflicting versions of Howard Hughes to stand side by side, revealing his desire for control, sex and fame, and in so doing she creates a vibrant history not just of Hughes but of Hollywood itself, its sins and glories, its darkness and light.” LA Times

“Karina Longworth creates a candid portrait of the multifaceted millionaire, revealing the depth of his tendencies toward control, secrecy and manipulation of the women he kept close.” Washington Post

“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…” USA Today  

“The writer and critic has found a cult following with her podcast, You Must Remember This, unpacking the myths to show age-old stories and stars in a new light.” The Atlantic

“Longworth illustrates how Hughes created and maintained his millionaire playboy image, often at the expense of the careers and well-being of the long line of women he used to prop up his lifestyle.” Longreads

“Howard Hughes… who's at the center of her new book, Seduction: Sex, Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes's Hollywood… profiles 10 women he dated and worked with (decades before #MeToo)” The Hollywood Reporter

“Karina Longworth views the dream factory through the life of Howard Hughes, the mogul whose on screen productions and offscreen relationships with some of the industry's most iconic female figures — including Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and Lana Turner — molded the industry.” Salon

“It’s simultaneously the story of producer, aviator, and tycoon Howard Hughes and the many women he slept with (and often ruined the careers of).” Vox

“What Longworth is so impeccably skilled at is contextualizing how the events of the past shape the world we live in today and how, often in the most disheartening ways possible, history is so liable to repeating itself.” Pajiba

“His story is also very relevant to our current cultural moment, between his constant, exaggerated hyping of himself and his controlling, frankly appalling treatment of women, which sheds light on the rest of the old Hollywood universe.” Jezebel


Upcoming Events for Seduction


AUSTIN | Thursday December 6
Austin Film Society Cinema | 7:00PM  

Screening of WAIT TILL THE SUN SHINES, NELLIE followed by discussion with Richard Linklater and booksigning | Ticketed event – get tickets

BOSTON | Monday December 17
Brattle Theatre with Harvard Book Store | 7:00PM

Screening of BOMBSHELL followed by booksigning | Ticketed event – get tickets 

LOS ANGELES | Friday January 11
Library Foundation of Los Angeles | 7:30PM
Karina Longworth in conversation with John Nein, Sundance Film Festival | Ticketed event – get tickets 

CHICAGO | Monday January 14
Chicago Filmmakers with Women & Children First | 7:00PM

Screening of OUTRAGE followed by book signing | Ticketed event – get tickets