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When a millionaire came to dinner



When their 18-year-old daughter Terry told  her parents Ted and Barbara Moore, that she wanted to bring "a friend for supper," to their modest bungalow in the Los Angeles suburbs, she  added: "Don't make a fuss. He just wants to see us as we are."

Ted and Barbara took Terry at her word. Consequently Ted was in his shirt-sleeves and Barbara served burgers and fries when their daughter turned up with her latest admirer — 44-year-old Howard Hughes, one of the richest men in the world. Terry had a small part in the movie Mighty Joe Young when Hughes first saw her as he strolled through his latest acquisition, RKO studios in the spring of 1949. And the magnate who had squired some of the world's most glamorous woman, decided it was love at first sight.

Undeterred that she already had a childhood sweetheart, Hughes began to exercise his considerable charm on the unsuspecting starlet. He took her up in his private planes, gave  her expensive jewellery and instructed his casting directors to find her leading roles in his  movies. Soon he was regularly visiting Terry's parents, washing the dishes at the end of family meals and telling the Moores just how talented their daughter was and how he would make her into a superstar. "I never liked him," Ted Moore said later. "I thought he was a creep."

But their daughter thought differently. Up to now the relationship had been purely platonic. But one night, Howard Hughes took Terry's hand and kissed it. "Zing! Fire seemed to spread through my body," was how she remembered it.

Three months later they were married on the deck of his luxury yacht, Hilda, anchored off San Diego. The yacht was decked with white gardenias and guests sipped champagne as the sun set over the Pacific.

"This marriage will last for ever," Hughes told her. It was the start of a bizarre relationship which would continue until Hughes's mysterious death 26 years later and became part of Hollywood folklore. The wedding ceremony was kept secret from Ted and Barbara Moore. "We can tell them later and have a real big celebration," Howard Hughes told Terry.

For nearly a year after her wedding, Terry Moore lived in a luxury suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel with Howard Hughes making occasional appearances and refusing to tell her where he spent the rest of his time. But he did keep his word about her career: he gave her a major role in Gambling House with Victor Mature, arranged for drama and singing lessons as part of his plan to make her into a musical star. Although he certainly wasn't faithful, Hughes expected Terry to be. He had her followed everywhere, bugged her phones, called her at restaurants and parties and vetted her friends.

When she took him to task about being unfaithful — he was being seen out with British star Jean Simmons — and reminded him of his marriage vows, Hughes dropped a bombshell. He told Terry that they weren't legally married — he had instructed the captain of the Hilda to conduct the ceremony outside American territorial waters which nullified the marriage.
"We can still be good friends," Hughes told the distraught and sobbing girl. It's just that you can't expect to have me all to yourself..."

Terry stormed from the hotel. A few months later she married Los Angeles Rams football star Glenn Davis, but she still couldn't keep away from Howard Hughes. In 1951 he asked her to RKO to negotiate a role in his forthcoming picture High Heels. The interview ended with the couple being friends again.

Now the movie star and the millionaire embarked on a five-year secret affair of which Glenn Davis seemed totally unaware. When her husband thought she was on location for a film, Terry was flying with Hughes in his private Constellation airliner. Later she claimed that he put the plane on automatic pilot while they were singing and dancing.

Finally, in 1956, Davis found out what had been going on and sued for divorce, asking for $7,000. When Hughes refused to pay, Terry Moore had to borrow the money from the millionaire — with interest — to pay off her husband. No sooner had she handed over the cheque, leaving her broke, than Hughes left her for Jean Peters. But, as always, he came back.

In 1958, Terry Moore married CIA man Stuart Cramer, but still kept in touch with Howard Hughes and when he died mysteriously in April 1975, leaving $650 million, she was one of only a dozen mourners at his funeral. Characteristically the woman who had loved Howard Hughes longer and more faithfully than anyone else, wasn't left a cent in his will.

Source:Susan French/Tony James Features

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