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The Hoax

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Tom’s Recommended Film of the Week



The Hoax

The literary world, publishing and bookselling have always held an interest for me, as have history, politics and current events, so back in the early 1970’s the saga of Clifford Irving and Howard Hughes was right up my alley. As time revealed more truths and the stories grew taller, the whole incident became even more fascinating for me. Give the amount of press Clifford’s fraud received in all forms of media, I’d say that I was not alone in my interest.

Of course, at that time any mention of the name Howard Hughes would stir up interest in at least three generations. Hughes had built an empire on Aviation developments, Hollywood films, Big Texas millionaires, Las Vegas buyouts and a vast build-up of eccentricities. Everyone was hungry for any information on Howard Hughes and since Hughes was not talking, Clifford Irving and Richard Suskind decided to step into some big money by talking up for him. Their chosen media channel was McGraw-Hill Publishing and as an offshoot Life Magazine. They did very well, almost getting the fraudulent autobiography of Howard Hughes in print and out to the public before Hughes pulled the rug out from under them. But jail did not damped Irving’s spirits and he came back with The Hoax, a book about the entire adventure, from which this movie was derived.

As a film this story plays very well, with humor, intrigue, tense moments and great acting from a broad supporting cast including Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci and Marcia Gay Harden. But the heart of the story revolves around Clifford Irving and Richard Suskind, so the film depends on the excellent chemistry and repartee between Richard Gere and Alfred Molina in those leading roles. As the lies get bigger and bolder these two get more and more neurotic and creative, but their research and deft manuscript theft serve them well and keep their con shored up to the bitter end. Only one short scene displays Howard Hughes in The Hoax. It is a clip from the original interview he gave refuting Irving’s claims, but Hughes presence is felt throughout the story and the viewer is left wondering what may have happened by chance and what was manipulated with intent.

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