RUPERT HUGHES by James O. Kemm


A Hollywood Legend
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 A tediously enthusiastic biography of a once celebrated man of letters. The career and subsequent eclipse of Rupert Hughes (18721956) is further proof that, in literature at least, it is extremely rare for one to be both prolific and great. Hughes had an enormous, even compulsive need to create--writing dozens of novels, short stories, biographies, patriotic screeds that no one reads anymore; scripting, even directing, scores of silent and talkie films that now go unwatched; composing music that is never listened to. He even cranked out the occasional unmuseumed sculpture. In his own time, he was enormously successful and the tag ``story by Rupert Hughes'' was once a significant draw for both films and magazines. Today, he is remembered, if at all, as an uncle of billionaire Howard Hughes. In his dull and thorough way, Kemm, a retired journalist and distant cousin of Hughes's, tries to make the case that posterity has been unfair to ``one of the most remarkable persons in the history of American literature and in the patriotic life of the nation.'' But the plot of every Hughes work he recounts seems worse than the last, and all the quotes and excerpts sound clumsy and wooden. Both Hughes and Kemm share an uncanny gift for using the next-best word. Kemm claims that Hughes led an interesting life, but apart from some mildly controversial opinionizing on subjects such as God, divorce, and George Washington, some late-life ratting out of film-industry communists, and a little home-front soldiery in both world wars, it was mainly scribble, scribble, scribble. History's verdicts are often unfair, but despite Kemm's best, belabored efforts to resurrect Cousin Rupert's reputation, he's arguing a losing case. (30 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1997
ISBN: 0-938817-49-3
Page count: 424pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997