updated 10/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 10/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT
as Howard Hughes
as Jean Harlow
Hughes gave Harlow something far more enduring than a fleeting romance: By tapping her as leading lady in the first film he directed, 1930's Hell's Angels, Hughes made her a star.
as Katharine Hepburn
In the '30s, Hughes's affair with Hepburn grew so serious, they moved in together. But neither would compromise career for marriage. Said Hepburn years later: "Ambition beat love."
as Ava Gardner
Their 1940s affair was as torrid as it was titillating. A recent Hughes biography claims that once, after Hughes hit Gardner, she beaned him with a bronze bell—costing him two teeth.