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Howard Hughes Was a "Liar" Who "Did Unthinkable Things," 94-Year-Old Ex Says

Actor Terry Moore was with the eccentric billionaire producer for eight years.

As the years have passed, it's become more and more rare to hear new, firsthand information about the Golden Age of Hollywood. But, one star who is continuing to speak out about her interesting life populated by stars from decades gone by is Terry Moore. The 94-year-old actor got her start as a child star and went on to receive a nomination for an Academy Award in 1953 for Come Back, Little Sheba. During her career, Moore crossed paths with many famous faces, and she had a lengthy relationship—and possible marriage—with the infamous Howard Hughes.

In a new interview with People, Moore opened up about her memories of Hughes, from the very positive to the very negative ends of the spectrum. While she called the producer and pilot "the most charming man you could ever find," she also said that he was a "liar" and that he "did unthinkable things" during his unusual life. Read on to find out more.

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Moore and Hughes were together for eight years.

Terry Moore holding a dog circa 1950
Bert Parry/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Moore explained to People that she first met Hughes, who was a high-powered producer, when she was a teenager and was dining at a restaurant with her boyfriend.

"My agent brought [Hughes] over," Moore said. "We thought it was accidental but nothing was accidental with Howard. It was all set up."

She went on to say that their relationship "developed into a friendship and then into a great love." The two were in an off-and-on-again relationship for eight years.

Moore said he was "charming" but also "cruel."

Howard Hughes circa 1946
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Moore still has fond memories of Hughes and his audacious lifestyle, including that he taught her to fly planes. (Aerospace and aviation were the producers' other passions, in addition to movies.) "He was dashing, exciting, adventurous," she recalled. She also called him "the most charming man you could ever find."

However, there was another side to his personality, according to Moore. "He was also a liar. And he did unthinkable things. He did so many things that hurt me. Was he cruel? I guess you could say he was cruel but I didn't know that he was cruel. He was just too much for me to handle. I was too naive." Hughes was 23 years older than the actor.

Moore didn't go into details about how Hughes harmed her, but added of his supposed mean streak, "I think he paid for it in the end. He had a terrible death. He could manipulate so much. I was too young and too innocent."

Hughes died in 1976 of kidney failure at age 70. By this point in his life, he had become reclusive and suffered badly from obsessive-compulsive disorder. According to People, at the end of his life, he was only ever around close aides.

She doesn't know if they were ever legally married.

Howard Hughes during a congressional hearing in 1947
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Moore has said that she and Hughes said their vows in front of a boat captain in international waters in 1949. But she told People that she's not sure the marriage was ever legal. "I don't know if it was," she admitted. "We got married on a boat by his captain who could marry anyone, but who knows?" At the time, Moore would have been 20 and Hughes 43. Reportedly, Hughes destroyed the ship's log, which would have contained record of the marriage.

That said, in 1983, Moore received a settlement from Hughes' heirs in light of her claim that they were married at one point. As reported by The New York Times, Moore said the amount she was given was "not more than eight figures." Meanwhile, a lawyer for the heirs said it was "substantially less than eight figures."

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No one ever lived up to him, however.

Terry Moore at the Roger Neal & Maryanne Lai Oscar Viewing Party in 2020
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Moore was married five times outside of her relationship with Hughes—all of which occurred after their 1949 wedding would have taken place. As for Hughes, he was married once before his relationship with Moore and once after to another actor, Jean Peters.

Moore called Hughes the love of her life, and she wrote a book about their relationship called The Beauty and the Billionaire, which came out in 1984.

"In the beginning, I had no feelings for him," Moore told Fox News in 2020. "But as time went on I fell madly in love with him. In fact, Howard was the love of my life."

She said that his being a pilot is what attracted her to him most. "Flying with Howard was magical, especially at night when we'd see all the stars above us and all the lights below us," she said. "I mean, it was just so thrilling and he was thrilled with it too."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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