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‘50s star Terry Moore recalls ‘cruel’ ex Howard Hughes: ‘He did so many things that hurt me’

Terry Moore’s relationship with Howard Hughes, an eccentric billionaire who died a recluse, was “very complicated.”

The Oscar-nominated actress, one of the last surviving stars from Hollywood’s golden era, had an on-and-off romance with the film producer who was 23 years her senior. It lasted for eight years.

“It was the first time I was ever in love,” the 94-year-old recently told People magazine. “[But] I would have been just as happy if it hadn’t happened.”

According to the outlet, the pair first met in the late ‘40s at a Hollywood restaurant. Moore was a teenage actress who was out with her boyfriend at the time.

A black and white split image of Terry Moore and Howard Hughes

Actress Terry Moore met eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes in the late ’40s at a Hollywood restaurant. (Getty Images)

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

The aviation tycoon was a legendary playboy whose lengthy list of lovers read like an all-star cast. Some of the many screen sirens Hughes was romantically linked to included Katharine Hepburn, Lana Turner, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Linda Darnell, Ava Gardner, Yvonne De Carlo and Jane Russell — just to name a few.

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Terry Moore in an ivory strapless dress leaning against a white pole

Terry Moore is one of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s golden era. (Getty Images)

“It developed into a friendship and then into a great love,” Moore reflected. “You can’t be more eccentric than he was. Everything was bigger with him. He taught me to fly, and we spent a lot of time in airplanes. And he would take me to meet his pilot friends. He was dashing, exciting, adventurous. He was the most charming man you could ever find.”

However, the former owner of RKO Studios had a dark side.

Howard Hughes in a suit sitting next to Ava Gardner who is smoking and talking to him

Howard Hughes was a notorious Hollywood Playboy who was romantically linked to numerous leading ladies including Ava Gardner (pictured here). (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“He was also a liar,” Moore explained. “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.”

“I think he paid for it in the end,” Moore shared. “He had a terrible death. He could manipulate so much. I was too young and too innocent.”

According to the outlet, Hughes spent his final years living from hotel to hotel. He died in 1976 at age 70 from kidney failure. Hughes left behind a fortune of some $1.5 billion.

Moore claimed that she and Hughes married on a ship in 1949 in international waters. However, the ceremony was never verified and Hughes allegedly ripped up the records. He married actress Jean Peters in 1957, a union that lasted until 1971. Following Hughes’ death, a Texas court rejected Moore’s claim of marriage. But in 1984, his heirs awarded Moore an undisclosed financial settlement. In her book, “The Beauty and the Billionaire,” she claimed it was “not more than eight figures.”

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Terry Moore smiling and holding a rose next to a giant photo of Howard Hughes

Terry Moore claimed she and Howard Hughes married on a ship in 1949. (Getty Images)

Back in 2020, Moore told Fox News Digital that it was “flying” that drew her to Hughes.

“I had always wanted to fly my whole life,” she said at the time. “He wanted to teach me, which he did. He arranged for me to jump with the 82nd Airborne [Division], which I did. And I just loved that. Flying with Howard was magical, especially at night when we’d see all the stars above us and all the lights below us. I mean, it was just so thrilling, and he was thrilled with it too.”

“He said, ‘When you’re in the air you [get to] see which things are small and which things are big,’” she continued. “And people forget, Howard was a great hero too. Maybe I love heroes because he was the first man to ever fly around the world. They talk so much about [Charles] Lindbergh, but he only flew the Atlantic. Howard flew around the world.”

“In the beginning, I had no feelings for him,” Moore shared. “But as time went on, I fell madly in love with him. In fact, Howard was the love of my life. So, it was very easy to cope with somebody when you’re in love.”

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Martin Scorsese, Terry Moore and Leonardo DiCaprio posing in front of a camera

Leonardo DiCaprio (right), Terry Moore (center) and Martin Scorsese (left) are seen here for a screening of ‘The Aviator at the Egyptian Theatre on December 2, 2004, in Hollywood, California.  (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Moore also described how Leonardo DiCaprio reached out to her while filming 2004’s “The Aviator.” The actor starred as Hughes in the biopic directed by Martin Scorsese.

“He called me, and I was so surprised,” said Moore. “It was just wonderful helping him with the character. I have some recordings of Howard’s voice and when he heard them, he imitated Howard perfectly. He was so wonderful. And he took my book… on location. He told me he read it on the plane, and it made him cry twice.”

Moore said that life today is “wonderful.”

“I think I’d like to keep working until the very end,” she remarked.

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