Campus News

Owen Brewster '09 Tries to Take Down Howard Hughes in The Aviator

Story posted December 21, 2004

Fall 2004 is proving to be a biopic bonanza, as films recounting the lives of such luminaries as singers Ray Charles and Bobby Darin, Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie, and revolutionary Che Guevara make their way to the big screen and generate plenty of Oscar buzz.

In a noteworthy coincidence, Bowdoin alumni are featured prominently as characters in two of the most critically acclaimed films of the year.

As previously reported in Campus News, Liam Neeson portrays sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, Bowdoin Class of 1916, in the Fox Searchlight film Kinsey.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. and Miramax's The Aviator, directed by Martin Scorsese, looks at the life of billionaire Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) during the 1920s, '30s and '40s, when he was producing movies in Hollywood and developing innovative aircraft. Alan Alda plays a key figure in the story, Maine Senator (Ralph) Owen Brewster, Bowdoin Class of 1909.

As chair of the Senate War Investigating Committee from 1946-48, Brewster initiated an investigation into government contracts awarded to Hughes to develop aircraft. According to the film's official Web site, Brewster is portrayed as "the powerful man who tried to bring down Howard Hughes, only to have the tables turned on him."

Those interested in learning more about Brewster's career, including his investigation of Hughes, can find a wealth of information at the Bowdoin College library. The George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives is the repository of a substantial collection of Brewster's papers. The full collection is described on the Library's Web site here.

The material connected to Brewster and the Senate Committee's investigation into Hughes includes typescripts of reports, lengthy memoranda, correspondence, Committee press releases, clippings and separate photos of Brewster and Hughes at the hearings. There is also a copy of the accident investigation report of the crash of the Hughes-piloted XF-11 that includes Hughes's testimony.

For more information on the Ralph Owen Brewster Papers at the Bowdoin library call (207) 725-3288.

Note that the Special Collections and Archives Department will close from Tuesday, December 21, through Monday, December 27, and will resume its regular hours on Tuesday, December 28.

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