The Aviator (2004) was on TV last night. There are some great scenes in it. One of my favorites is the time Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) was subpoenaed to appear before the Senate to explain how money that had been paid to his company went to pay for plays that were never delivered to the military as well as other questions of financial impropriety.
Hughes reminded me of Trump on the way he took on the political establishment and did it publicly in a no-holds-barred fashion.
Maine Senator Ralph Owen Brewster (Alan Alda) was in the pocket of Pan American World Airways (Pan Am). Brewster was described by Hughes’s right-hand man Noah Dietrich as “an errand boy for Juan Trippe and Pan American World Airways.” Pan Am wanted a monopoly on international flights and Trippe, president of Pan Am, was using Brewster to get his bill passed.
The one person in his way was Howard Hughes who owned TWA and wanted to take his airline international, but if the bill passed TWA would be stuck with the domestic leftovers.
In an attempt to destroy Hughes and his airline, Brewster, with the full support of Trippe, called for a Senate hearing in 1947. It was a big mistake:
“Brewster tried to steal Hughes’ airline and hand it over to the owner of Pan Am, Alda notes. This powerful man tried to bring down Hughes with a public investigation, only to have the tables turned on him.
“Alda explains, ‘I think the wonderful thing in this story is that Hughes has descended into madness and he finds out he has to go to this hearing and defend himself in front of television cameras for the first time. They had never televised a hearing before. He has to pull himself together and he hates crowds and he has to defend himself. And you should see the News Reels of this. We used what they said almost verbatim. It was an amazing dialogue. Hughes did pull himself together and got the whole country on his side. He was really a national hero, which I didn’t know before this.
“About Hughes, Alda says, ‘He was the first billionaire in the country, real billionaire. He invented airplanes. He was an engineer. He flew them like a daredevil. He was a courageous guy. He made movies and that’s before you get to his regular job of trying to sleep with everybody in Hollywood.’” (H/T: CBS News)
Note this comment from Alda: “Hughes did pull himself together and got the whole country on his side. He was really a national hero, which I didn’t know before this.”
Like Hughes, Trump is very rich and has a questionable moral past with two divorces and a third wife, but it’s his willingness to take on the political establishment that has people energized.
You can see parts of the original hearing in the following two short films. The embed feature has been disabled: