Telegram from Dynamite Dan

16 June, 2005 at 11:05 pm (film)

Found in the Detroit Free Press:

For Auction: Collection of 24 Telegrams Twenty-two telegrams sent from Howard Hughes to Katharine Hepburn between 1937 and 1939 and including two 1939 handwritten drafts in Miss Hepburn’s hand of telegrams to Hughes.

One of the great Hollywood romances of the 1930s started innocently enough. In June 1935, while filming “Sylvia Scarlet”, Cary Grant invited Howard Hughes to lunch in Malibu. Hughes made a spectacular entrance by landing his Sikorsky Amphibian on the golf course where director George Cukor and co-star Katharine Hepburn were playing. Miss Hepburn mentioned it in her autobiography Me, thinking it “rather nervy and romantic, in a bravado sort of way.” Obviously, something about Hughes impressed her as, a year later, they began an affair that lasted more than two years and garnered much media attention.

The first of the telegrams from Hughes to Miss Hepburn is dated January 19, 1937 and addressed to the Ambassador Hotel in Chicago where she was starring in a theater production of Jane Eyre, in part: “…supposed to arrive six something in the afternoon probably not in time to see you before the theatre so will try to contain myself until eleven thirty, love Dan.” Dan was short for Dynamite, one of their nicknames for each other. That very day, Hughes had flown from Burbank to Newark breaking his own transcontinental speed record. Hughes spent a few days in Chicago on this trip, leading to speculation that he and Miss Hepburn were married. Most of the telegrams to Miss Hepburn were sent to Emily Perkins, Miss Hepburn’s assistant, to avoid unwanted attention.

One message from Hughes reads (in part): “Conkshell, you are terrific, but you might say something nice amid cleverness and reminders which make me lonesome…” One of the two handwritten drafts from Miss Hepburn appears to be from this same period and reads: “Arrived one item, missing one boss, lonely one mouse, empty one conkshell.”

Telegram from Katherine Hepburn to Howard Hughes

Hughes, of course, purchased the film rights to The Philadelphia Story and gave them to Ms. Hepburn as a gift. Despite the consistently positive notice of her widely-touring performance of the stage version, Ms. Hepburn would probably not have been allowed to star in the feature adaptation as the studios considered her to be unhireable. Hughes’ gift therefore gave her the ability to leverage herself into the film version. It was clearly a gift for which we should all be thankful.

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