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The Aviator (2004) Poster

(2004)

Goofs

Anachronisms 

In 1928, Howard Hughes orders "10 chocolate chip cookies" - which were not invented until 1933.
In the early scene when Howard Hughes takes Katharine Hepburn on a flight over LA, the first aerial shots briefly show a couple of obviously modern buildings as well as part of a freeway.
Near the end of the film, when Howard Hughes and others are in the tent beside the Spruce Goose, the ceiling fans are of a modern style not invented in the 1950s.
The Honolulu clock behind Owen Brewste shows the time is 9:30, 3 hours earlier than the time on the Los Angeles clock (12:30). Based on Brewster's line about Harry S. Truman being Vice President, the scene takes place between January-April 1945. Until the Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time Zone was changed to its present 3-hour differential in 1947, Hawaii was 3-and-a-half hours behind the West Coast.
Howard Hughes refers to the Lockheed "F-80" when he's talking to Noah and Odie about working with jet engines. Since this conversation took place the same day as the flight of the Spruce Goose, 2 November 1947, then he should have called it the "P-80", as the Air Force did not discard the "Pursuit" designation until 1948.
There are references to both Ava Gardner and Linda Darnell well before either became a movie actress.
The scene in which Howard Hughes locks himself in the projection room and cuts off most contact from the outside world for an extended period of time is somewhat misleading. Though Hughes battled germ phobia all of his life (the fear of germs was instilled in him early on by his mother) Hughes did not become a recluse until much later in his life. The scene that is portrayed in the movie is very similar to a documented incident where Hughes did spend almost a year in a private movie theater however it wasn't until he was near 50 years old.
When the Spruce Goose first gets airborne, two members of the crew stationed behind the cockpit can be seen briefly exchanging a high five.
At least two of the Feds who trash Howard Hughes's office are smoking filtered cigarettes before filtered cigarettes were introduced.
At least one of the Fokker biplanes shown rolling for takeoff in the Hell's Angels (1930) scenes had a modern opposed cylinder engine.
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The first time we see Pan-Am's headquarters, a close-up of the upper portion of the Chrysler Building shows several cellular telephone antennae.
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In the Pantages Theatre premiere sequence, posters for The Women (1939) are quite visible. On the soundtrack we hear an announcer praising the newly discovered Ava Gardner who did not enter films until 1941.
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The dialog places the scene where Howard Hughes shows Frye and Gross the XF-11 on Christmas Night 1944, but the plane's insignia is of the post-World War II USAF, a red bar in the center of the white bar; it should have just the white bar. And the star on the left boom is pointing in the wrong direction.
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Whilst Katharine Hepburn and Howard Hughes are dining in the Coconut Grove in 1935, she states "Haven't you heard? I'm being labeled box office poison..." Hepburn and a list of other stars including Mae West and Joan Crawford were not listed as box office poison until 1938 by a board of film distributors.
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In the Coconut Grove Errol Flynn is portrayed as an established and successful movie star. The scene is set prior to September 13, 1935 (the date given in a scene soon thereafter), but Flynn was virtually unknown until Captain Blood (1935), which was released in December of that year.
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The Hell's Angels (1930) screened at the premier is not the master - which the real audience saw - but the 1989 restoration of the film, as evidenced by the blue-hued dirigible scenes.
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Luddy shoots Howard Hughes with a Bolex reflex camera, which was not manufactured until the 1950s.
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Robert Gross's eyeglasses are too thin and modern for the time period.
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Senator Owen Brewster's eyeglasses have non-reflective coating.
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During the filming of Hell's Angels (1930), as one of the SE5a scout biplanes taxis past, the fact that it is a reduced-scale replica is obvious due to the oversize pilot's head. Also, same shot, you can see his modern microphone attached to the helmet.
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When Howard Hughes and Katharine Hepburn are first flying together, they are flying over LA at night. You can see all the car tail lights below. While they existed at the time, they were not that popular on cars.
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When Howard Hughes is in the hospital, Trippe sends a flower arrangement that contains Gerber Daisies. Gerber Daisies are a hybrid and were not bred until after the 1950s.

Audio/visual unsynchronised 

Louis B. Mayer's mouth movements doesn't match his vocals near the end of his talk with Howard Hughes.
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The singer at the Cocoanut Grove is at the microphone until we cut to a wide shot, and he's now stepped away from the microphone and swinging his arm, yet we still hear him singing.
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Boom mic visible 

When Howard Hughes is in the hospital after his plane crash, a boom mic is visible on the door.

Character error 

Howard Hughes replies to Mrs. Hepburn's statement "we don't care about money" with "that's because you've always had it", an insinuation that he has made his own way whereas they were of "old money" (a "point" Hughes makes again when he says: "some of us choose to work for a living" as he leaves the table). Some have asserted that the real situation was nearer opposite: the real Hughes was born into millions whereas the Hepburns, while well-off, had to work for what they had. HOWEVER, Hughes was not literally born into wealth, and his comment could have been a reference to his father, who was an oft-failed entrepreneur before making a fortune with drill bits in the early 1910s, years after Howard Jr. was born. Meanwhile, Katharine Hepburn's mother was born into the Houghton family (a prominent New England and New York family famous for its involvement with Corning Glass Works) and married Thomas Hepburn, who came from a respected, well-to-do southern family and became a wealthy doctor after studying at Johns Hopkins. From such a perspective, Howard's assertion and insinuation in the film is accurate.
When first in the Coconut Grove, Howard Hughes orders a "milk with the cap still on". When Howard receives the milk there is no cap on it.
A main plot point is that Howard Hughes is mysophobic, yet he engages in behavior that someone who suffers from mysophobia would not: he makes incidental contact with various characters; he opens the doors of public places with a bare hand; he turns the public restroom faucets on with a bare hand, and uses their towels; Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner complain about his womanizing; Ava refers to his "filthy gym shoes"; he shares the same sundae and spoon with Faith Domergue; he shakes hands with Owen Brewster before their lunch; he leaves food in the projection room half-eaten and exposed to ants; he shakes hands with people as he walks out of the hearings.
Katharine Hepburn's reaction when Howard Hughes pushes the yoke to her tells us that she knows nothing about flying, yet he doesn't give her a basic rundown of the instruments and controls.
Howard Hughes has cellophane wrapped on the yoke of the plane he flies Katharine in, yet the stick of the H-1, the yoke of the XF-11, the yokes he has to choose from for the Hercules, the yoke and the throttles of the Hercules, and his car's steering wheel on have nothing wrapped on them.
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Johnny Meyer tells Howard Hughes that all the color cameras in Hollywood are being used by Cecil B. DeMille, who is making a movie for Paramount. The film referenced, The King of Kings (1927), was actually made for Pathé-DeMille, not Paramount.
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After reaching 352mph in the H1 Hughes describes himself as 'fastest man on the planet'. In fact the Supermarine s.6 had already established a faster speed than that in 1929 and the record at the time of the H1 was set by Francesco Agello at 440mph. It is inconceivable that Hughes, with his interest in aviation, would be unaware of this. Hughes' record was a land plane (rather than sea plane) record.
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Continuity 

When Howard Hughes and Faith Domergue are at the nightclub, they share a chocolate sundae. The scene begins with a continuity issue involving Faith's spoon. As the sundae itself melts and re-freezes, the cherry jumps from the top to the side and back to the top with fresher fudge. Also, at one point, Faith is shown with her arm raised, eating, but, in the very next shot, her arm is on her lap.
When Faith Domergue crashes her car into Howard Hughes and Ava Gardner's car, even after two crashes there is no significant damage seen on either car.
When the model of the Hercules is brought out to promote the plane's construction, the propellers are turning in the wide shots, but not in the close-ups.
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When Howard Hughes is lying in the hospital bed, the pillow changes positions between shots.
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The overhead shot of the H-1 just before Howard Hughes takes it off for its test flight show the airplane with its short wings (used for setting pure speed records), whereas the in-flight shots portray the airplane with its long wings (used for cross-country races and setting cross-country records).
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At the premiere screening of Hell's Angels (1930), in the first wide shot after the film ends, Dietrich is seen to be one of the first to applaud, but on the close up of him, he is shown as being hesitant and watching others to see if they start applauding.
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In the first scene where they are filming Hell's Angels (1930), Howard Hughes puts his hand up in the air in a close-up, but then it's down by his side when they cut to the wide shot.
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In the restaurant scene with the indoor snowfall, snowflakes on Howard Hughes' shoulders appear and disappear between shots.
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When Howard Hughes does his first (and last) flight with the Xf-11, you can see a very wide runway from the cockpit view before takeoff. But from the outside view (probably made with 3d studio) you can see a narrow runway.
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When Howard Hughes is dining with Senator Owen Brewster in the hotel, his jacket seems to vary between being buttoned and unbuttoned. Before he rises to leave, he buttons it, but when he stands up, it is unbuttoned again. Then when he walks into the hallway (in what appears to be a differently coloured jacket) it is buttoned up again.
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In the frontal shot of the Hercules, the pilot's and copilot's cockpit windows are open. The next shot is from the side of the Hercules and the windows are closed.
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When Howard Hughes rolls out the "Spruce Goose" at the dinner party, the plane's eight engines are shown with propellers spinning, then seen from a different angle they are not spinning, and then back to a head-on shot they are spinning again.
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In the Coconut Grove when we first see Errol Flynn, the waiter brings out Howard Hughes' "usual", which includes 12 peas. The first shot of the dinner plate shows 12 peas. The shot of the dinner plate after Jude Law steals a pea still shows 12 peas. The amount of peas does not change until the third shot of the dinner plate showing that there are now 10 peas.
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When Howard Hughes is washing his hands at the Coconut Grove, the one where he cuts his finger, the overhead shots of his scrubbing his hands vigorously has inconsistencies in the splashes on the sink: first spotted with dirty splashes, then no splashes on the sink and then lightly spotted with dirty splashes.
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As Howard Hughes enters the tent at the end of the film, he raises his arms to clasp Noah and Odie on their backs. But in the next shot, his arms are down.
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The shot of Howard Hughes and Ava Gardner talking near the end is spliced with a shot of them over Howard's shoulder with her mouth open, then back to the first shot, and her mouth is closed.
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As Howard Hughes enters the tent at the end of the film, he is carrying his hat. When he's talking to Noah and Odie in the next shot, his hat is on his head.
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When Professor Fitz tells Howard Hughes there are clouds in Oakland, the sky behind Fitz is blue, but the sky behind Hughes is white.
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Errol Flynn reaches out for Katharine Hepburn's hand twice as Howard Hughes introduces them.
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Errol Flynn has a drink in his left hand when he approaches Katharine Hepburn and Howard Hughes' table, but the drink is gone when he kisses her hand moments later, then later appears on the table, even though we don't see Flynn put it there.
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The lamp shade Errol Flynn removes off the lamp sits flat on the table, then leans on its left side, then sits flat again.
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The shots of Howard Hughes flying the speed-test plane show him in an open cockpit, but the cockpit is clearly closed in the shots of the plane actually flying, then the cockpit is open again when Hughes lands in the beet field.
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The sky alternates between sun and shade during the speed-test run.
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The close-ups of the stopwatch timing Howard Hughes isn't the same stopwatch that Odie is holding.
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Odie has his finger on the reset button of his stopwatch during the speed-test, then at the crown.
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As Hughes crashes into the neighborhood, a pair of glasses on a kitchen counter fall down twice.
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While Howard Hughes asks Ava Gardner if she wants to go to Paris, two guys with blue suits pass behind them three times.
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As Howard Hughes approaches Mayer at the Coconut Grove, the men with Mayer switch positions.
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When Howard Hughes starts to shout "Oakland!", the shadow of the tower behind him and Dietrich changes.
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When a model Hercules is shown at the party, it passes by two ladies in red twice.
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The Spruce Goose flies over a group of boats, which disappear in the next shot. Moreover, the plane is flying lower in the shot.
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As Howard Hughes and Dietrich first talk on the Hell's Angels (1930) location, the same two men pushing a klieg light walk behind them twice.
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When Katharine Hepburn and Howard Hughes drive up to the Hepburn estate, it is sunny. When she gets out of the car moments later, the sky is overcast. When we zoom in on Hughes as Luddy shoots him, the sky is sunny again. When she gathers the clan and introduces them to Hughes, the sky behind them is blue, and the sunlight reflecting off of the roof is a yellow-orange, indicating that the sun is beginning to set. When we cut back to Hughes, the sunlight is the same as it was when we first cut to him as he was being shot by Luddy.
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When Ava Gardner smacks Howard Hughes, the flowers in the vase he knocks down fall onto the left side of the hearth. When we cut to the wide shot, the flowers are now strewn in front of the hearth and on the rug. When she stomps out of the room after him, the hearth is now clean.
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After Dietrich introduces himself to Howard Hughes, everything to their right disappears when the shot changes.
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After Howard Hughes yells "Oakland!", he passes behind Dietrich, then passes him again in the wide shot.
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The positions of Howard Hughes's arms and Frye's head as they talk about Hughes buying TWA.
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The angle of the sketch of the Hercules on the back of the photo that Howard Hughes hands to Odie changes.
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Howard Hughes' left hand is hanging up the phone as he points his right index finger up to acknowledge Katharine Hepburn as she walks into the office. In the next shot, his left hand is rubbing his forehead, and the finger is down.
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The right-side half of the soap holder on the bathroom sink as Howard Hughes vigorously washes his hands is straight in one shot, then is lined up against the faucet in the next shot.
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As Howard Hughes confronts Roland Sweet, you see the face of the thug in the car behind Hughes. When we cut back to Hughes, the thug's face is completely dark. When we cut to Hughes again, the thug's face is visible again, and lighted differently from the first time we saw him.
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Howard Hughes is holding a pen and notebook as he asks Ava Gardner what she thinks about the new name of his airline. But we don't see the the pad or notebook anywhere when we cut to a wide shot of them moments later as he fetches her wrap.
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As Frye tells Howard Hughes about the airline route bill that Owen Brewster is pushing on Trippe's behalf, Hughes removes his hat. In the next shot, the assistant walking behind them has the hat, and Hughes has the drawings for TWA's new logo. It's clear that Hughes exchanged the drawings for the hat, but we never see the assistant with the drawings to begin with.
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The static shot of Odie and the others watching Howard Hughes zip by them during the speed test was clearly shot on a sound stage.
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At the lunch with Owen Brewster, the garnish on Howard Hughes' fish, the garnish next to the fish, and the potatoes and the asparagus on the plate move from when Hughes is served the meal to when he begins to eat.
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Before the man throws the crumpled-up paper ball at Errol Flynn, a couple passes between them, disappear in the next shot, then reappear as Flynn turns around in reaction.
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After Ava Gardner shaves Howard Hughes, she instructs him to rinse off his face. The water in the sink has drained, and the faucet is off. But as his hands move under the faucet, it is running, and there is water in the sink again.
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After Howard Hughes crashes the XF-11 and is laying on the ground, the left leg of his trousers is undamaged. As the Marine picks him up moments later, it's in tatters, and his left calf is now exposed.
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As Howard Hughes lifts off in the XF-11, there are yellow and white stripes on the runway that weren't there a moment earlier.
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As Katharine Hepburn blots her face with the handkerchief on the golf course, a group of people walk up the slope to her left in the opposite direction, but there is no sign of them or the slope in the next shot.
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When Errol Flynn reaches Howard Hughes and 'Katherine's table, he takes a final drag off of his cigarette, then exhales. When Flynn kisses Katherine's hand moments later, he is clearly exhaling the cigarette smoke.
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Errol Flynn's cigarette moves from his right hand to his left hand as Howard Hughes and Katharine Hepburn stand up, then back to his right hand as they leave.
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Errol Flynn holds a drink in his right hand and a cigarette in his left hand as the man behind him hits him with the crumpled-up paper ball. As he turns around to react in the next shot, the drink in now his left hand, and the cigarette is in his right hand.
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As Howard Hughes tells Dietrich "but it all makes good sense to me", the action behind them changes.
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When we first see Louis B. Mayer, his arms are down. When he turns around after Howard Hughes taps him on the shoulder, he has a drink in his hand.
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When we first see Louis B. Mayer, the bar that he and his party are gathered at is to his left. As he talks to Howard Hughes, the bar is now to his right as evidenced by the drink he sets down while talking to Hughes.
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As Howard Hughes talks to the cigarette girl at the Cocoanut Grove, the same couple walk up to the table behind him twice.
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As Howard Hughes complains about the airplane footage, his arms are moving in a circular motion in one shot, then his left arm is down in the next shot before he moves it again.
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We cut to a frontal view of the plane whose rudder Howard Hughes is inspecting with Dietrich, then to a shot of Howard Hughes and Odie at the propeller, but we never see Hughes and Dietrich walk around to the front of the plane.
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In the projection room with Dietrich, Howard Hughes jots down notes with his right hand. When he is at 'Ava' Gardner''s house much later in the film, he jots down notes with his left hand.
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As Howard Hughes is on the phone ordering Reel 10 to be re-run, his right index finger is pointed. When he orders chocolate chip cookies in the next shot, the finger now touches his thumb in an "OK"-like gesture.
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As Dietrich breaks the bad news regarding the cost overruns on Hell's Angels (1930), Howard Hughes runs his hands through his hair up either side of his head, then stops. In the next shot, his hands have met on the back of his head, with the the fingers interlocked.
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The mink on 'Katherine Hepburn (I)''s right shoulder before and after Howard Hughes hands her the steering wheel of the plane.
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When Howard Hughes is burning his clothes, his fringe appears in the close ups and disappears in the wide shots.
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The sunlight as Howard Hughes taxis down the runway in the H-1 changes radically.
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Howard Hughes puts the drawings for TWA's new logo down on the table to free his hands. But as he chews out the assistant who gave him the drawings, we cut to a close-up of the mock TWA logo, and Hughes is holding it with his left hand. In the next shot, his hands are empty again.
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As Howard Hughes orders Frye to dig up dirt on Owen Brewster, a man in a full brown coverall suit appears behind Fyre that wasn't among the workers until then.
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As Howard Hughes finishes shaving as he talks to Katharine Hepburn, there is still foam on his chin. As he moves to rinse his face, the foam is gone.
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The "fog" surrounding the model of the Hercules as it taxis up and down the runway changes radically.
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The two models who present the Hercules are at the curtain as it parts. In the next shot, they are standing several feet from the curtain, near the middle of the runway.
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As Howard Hughes stands at the doors to his office, the ice cream carton he holds has shifted to his left hand, and the spoon, which had been against the carton, is now in his right hand.
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The ice cream spoon Howard Hughes holds against the carton as he enters his office is in the carton when he defies Katharine Hepburn and answers the phone.
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The sunlight when Howard Hughes is in the cockpit of the XF-11, taxis down the runway, then takes off.
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The handkerchief folds in the breast pocket of Trippe's dress jacket as he talks to Howard Hughes at the Cocoanut Grove.
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The Sydney, Honolulu, and Los Angeles clocks first seen in Trippe's office are later replaced by clocks representing New York, London, and Paris.
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The amount and position of fudge on the sundae that Howard Hughes and Faith Domergue share in the Cocoanut Grove changes with each shot.
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During the H-1 run, close up shots of Howard Hughes shows an open canopy, but farther shots show a closed canopy.
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The posters outside the viewing room where Howard locks himself change when he leaves. Before he leaves, the Scarface (1932) poster is on the left and the Hell's Angels (1930) poster is on the right, but by the time he's gone they have switched.
During the brawl in the nightclub, the violin player is standing/sitting between shots.
As Howard Hughes steps out of his plane just before meeting Katharine Hepburn on the beach and he buttons his coat, his tie is outside the coat. In the next shot of Hughes, the tie is tucked in under the buttoned coat.
When Howard Hughes is checking the control panel mock-ups for the Hercules, his hands are on/off the controls between shots.
Howard Hughes inspects a rudder while talking to Dietrich, but neither he or Dietrich are in the shot when we cut to a frontal view of the plane, even though we still hear Hughes talk.
As Mrs. Hepburn asks Howard Hughes about his politics, the drinking glasses before her and the plate of sliced bread before him are spaced apart, and he holds a bowl of carrots even though he doesn't have a plate. Katharine passes a bowl of string beans to Mrs. Hepburn, who passes them back to her, and takes the carrots with her left hand. When we cut to Hughes after Mrs. Hepburn asks him about Franklin D. Roosevelt, the carrots are now in her right hand, and the drinking glasses in front of her have moved. As Hughes grunts, the carrots are in Mrs. Hepburn's left hand again. When we cut to Hughes after Luddy says "What are you snickering at?", there are carrots on Uncle Willy's plate that weren't there before. As Hughes complains about the dog, Luddy holds the string beans with his left hand. In the next shot, Luddy's left hand reaches for the dog under the table. In the next shot, Luddy holds the string beans with his left hand again. When Dr. Hepburn says "Don't you like dogs?", there are carrots on Hughes's plate that weren't there before. When we cut to Mrs. Hepburn, she is holding a full bowl of carrots. When she passes the carrots to Katharine Hepburn without serving herself as Hughes says "No, no, I wasn't", the amount of carrots has changed, and the carrots on Hughes's plate are gone. As Luddy asks Katharine something, he passes the string beans to his right. When Dr. Hepburn says "A bad experience? With a dog?", the string beans are passed across him. Two shots later, Luddy holds the string beans again. Seven shots later, Hughes holds the string beans. When Dr. Hepburn asks Hughes if he reads, Hughes handles a fork and a napkin. When Uncle Willy reacts to Hughes's use of the word "snuff", Hughes is leaned over to his right as he looks at Uncle Willy, then, two shots later, is upright holding just the napkin. When we cut to Hughes after Mrs. Hepburn says "Flying magazines?", his hands are on his lap, and the plate that was next to the vase before is now near him. When Katharine mentions the plane Hughes is building, Luddy, a glass up to his lips, says "Oh, really?", but his lips don't move. We then cut to Luddy, and the glass is gone. When Luddy says "a mere trifle, darling", Hughes's arms are in his lap when they should still be holding the two pieces of bread he was using to describe the plane he is building. As Hughes reacts to Dr. Hepburn telling him he's a urologist, there is a fork and vegetables on Hughes's plate that weren't there before. When Hughes says "I'll bet", the fork and vegetables are gone. As Hughes says "Well, that's because you have it", his plate is gone, the drinking glass and the sliced bread are in the same spot they were when the scene began, the spoon in the string beans has moved, and the amount of beans in the bowl has changed. When Hughes gets up, his plate reappears, there is a red pitcher between Hughes and the lady which should have been in the shots of Hughes from Dr. Hepburn's point-of-view, and there is a candle holder near Katharine and Mrs. Hepburn which we should have seen in the shots involving them.

Crew or equipment visible 

Lighting screens are reflected in Katharine Hepburn's glasses while she's in the car heading to the set.
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Light screens are seen reflected in Robert Gross's eyeglasses.
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Errors in geography 

During the crash of the XF-11 aircraft over Los Angeles, Howard Hughes radios that he will put down on the Wilshire Country Club. Hughes actually lived in a Spanish Villa at Wilshire Country Club (near the 8th hole), the crash of the XF-11 was into Beverly Hills at the Los Angeles Country Club.
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Factual errors 

In the film, the Hercules is not only airborne, but flying over boats and above the newsreel cameras filming it. In fact, the Hercules was airborne for about 20 seconds, and was never more than 70 feet above the water.
The hearings were chaired by Michigan Senator Homer Ferguson, not Senator Owen Brewster. Brewster did testify at the hearings, and was questioned by Howard Hughes himself.
The film implies that Hughes re-shot Hell's Angels (1930) for sound. In fact, he re-shot the dialogue sequences only, tweaked the plot, and replaced Greta Nissen with Jean Harlow.
Odie was not aboard the Hercules on her maiden flight because Hughes wanted there to be no doubt that he was at the controls. Those on board with Howard Hughes were Radio Operator Merle Coffee, Flight Engineer Don Smith, Flight Mechanic John Glen, James McNamara, and various reporters.
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In the film, the witnesses inside the Hercules are seated and separated from Howard Hughes as he was at the controls. Newsreel footage showed that people were actually standing in the cockpit, with James McNamara steps away from Hughes.
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Odie tells Howard Hughes that there is enough fuel in the H-1 for two runs. Just after takeoff, the fuel gauge reads "43". Going into the first run, it's at "30". Going into the third run, it's nearly at "10". The H-1 doesn't drain that much fuel that quickly, nor would the gauge needle drop from "10" to "0" in a second, stalling the engine.
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Howard Hughes writes in his notebook with his left hand as he asks Ava Gardner what she thinks about the new name of his airline. Archive photos show that the real Hughes wrote with his right hand.
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Howard Hughes is shown ordering 40 Lockheed Constellations on Christmas Night 1944 after being pitched by Frye and Gross. In fact, in 1939, after Hughes bought 25% of TWA at Frye's behest, he requested a 40-passenger transcontinental airliner with a 3,500 mile range from Lockheed; in the movie, Frye and Gross pitch a 60-passenger craft with a 3,000 mile range.
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According to biographers, Hughes Tool Company ("Tool Co"), which owned a 90% market share of petroleum drill bits, was such a gusher of cash, the financial crunches in the movie never took place. Howard Hughes entered the entertainment, aviation, and hospitality industries solely by using the revenues generated by Tool Co. In 1953, Hughes spun off Hughes Aircraft, which had been spun off from Tool Co., and donated it to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as its endowment.
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While shooting the dogfight, a plane clips the camera mounted on Hughes' plane, and brown film spews out. Brown is the hue of undeveloped color film. Hell's Angels (1930) was shot in black and white; the hue of undeveloped black and white film is either gray or blue. In the next shot the camera mounted on the plane is undamaged.
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In a newsreel account, Howard Hughes himself says that the H-1's top speed was "approximately 370 miles an hour", and that the engine failed when the plane was "20 feet above the ground". In the movie, the H-1's top speed is 352 MPH, and the engine fails in mid-air.
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When Howard Hughes asks how long can the Civil Aeronautics Board keep the Constellations grounded, Frye replies until the CAB completes its investigation into "the Redding (Pennsylvania) crash". Although all Constellations were grounded from 12 July - 23 August 1946 (the period covered in the scene), there wasn't a commercial plane crash in the US in 1945 or 1946, and there wasn't a crash involving a Constellation until 20 October 1948.
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In the H-1 run, Howard Hughes wears a fedora. As the newsreel account of the ensuing crash showed, he actually wore a skull cap and goggles.
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A more careful examination of the timing Howard Hughes during the speed-test run: Odie says "347" (miles per hour) then "352". The first run shows the stopwatch at as near to 18.5 seconds as is possible to determine and the second run clearly shows the stopwatch (a more distant view of the watch face) at 18.3 seconds which is more in agreement with the times Odie announced. Since 1905, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, FAI, has been the recognized arbiter of all speed records. For a recognized record, their rules require 2 runs at a sanctioned event viewed by their officials, with the speed for the record being the average of the best of two runs.
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In the closing credits, Kenneth Welsh's name is misspelled as Kenneth Walsh.
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During the test flight of the Howard Hughes H-1 racer, as Hughes pulls the plane up over the runway, a shadow on the ground reveals a plane with fixed undercarriage - the H-1 had retractable landing gear.
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Several changes were made in the movie to the relationship between Katharine Hepburn and Howard Hughes. Hepburn did not in fact leave Howard for Spencer Tracy. The two broke up long before she had met Spencer Tracy. And lastly, Katharine Hepburn's brother committed suicide when she was little, not during her years as a star.
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At one point in the film, Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) address each other as "City Mouse" and "Country Mouse" - a detail lifted from telegrams exchanged between the two that were auctioned off after Katharine Hepburn's death in 2003, in which they address each other by those names. In the movie, Howard calls Kate "country mouse", and she calls him "city mouse." This is incorrect: Howard was the country mouse (living in suburban Los Angeles) while Kate was the city mouse (a regular in New York).
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Despite the fact that this was filmed in Super 35, "Filmed in Panavision" is listed in the end credits.
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The real Howard Hughes had brown eyes, but Leonardo DiCaprio's blue eyes are not covered with brown contact lenses.
The propeller tips on the XF-11 are painted. Archive photos show that the first XF-11 didn't have paint on the propellers tips, but the second XF-11 did.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs 

Various people and events in Howard Hughes' life, and events in the lives of the real-life characters he interacts with have been altered or omitted to fit the dramatic narrative.
Hell's Angels (1930) is set during World War I when parachutes were unavailable to pilots. But parachutes were available in 1930 and the Hell's Angels crew made use of them out of common sense.
It is not certain that Howard Hughes had any of his germ phobias prior to either the crash of the XF-11 or the congressional hearings. However, according to Faith Domergue's autobiography, Hughes began to display the bizarre behavior that would typify his later years as early as 1942.

Plot holes 

How did Faith Domergue know exactly where Howard Hughes and Ava Gardner were going, and when they would arrive?

Revealing mistakes 

In a shot with the Hercules aircraft in the background, a painter is seen applying paint to the nose-area of the aircraft with a paint roller. The roller passes past the section that he is supposed to be painting.
(at around 45 mins) Howard Hughes sits down to the table with Johnny Meyer who pulls out a cigarette and proceeds to light a match with the cigarette backwards in his mouth. In the next cut of him holding the match up to the cigarette, it has been reversed.
When Howard Hughes is staring at his hands in the projection room he raises them to be illuminated by the light of the projector in a close-up, but in the subsequent long shot, although his hands are still in the light, there are no shadows of the hands on the screen.
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When we see Sir Ian Holm sitting in the Hercules his head barely comes over the back of the seat. In reverse shots the head and shoulders of Professor Fitz are clearly visible - obviously a stand-in.
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Timing Howard Hughes during the speed-test run, Odie says "347" (miles per hour) then "352", yet, both times, his stopwatch is at 18 seconds when he clicks it.
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One of the SE-5As planes that Howard Hughes and Noah walk past has an air-cooled cylinder engine instead of its original water-cooled V8 engine.
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As Howard Hughes gets the idea to build a single-wing plane out of the bi-plane, Odie smashes the support holding up its upper wing with a beam. But the upper wing is already broken, with a covering laid over the joint.
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As Howard Hughes runs his hand across the H-1's body the first time, you can see the sheet above his index finger bend in a bit.
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When Howard arrives at the Hepburns', and the dog greets him, there is a visible laser pointer on the dog's head, indicating that the dog followed the laser to Howard's body rather than actually greeting him.
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Howard Hughes flies the H-1 without goggles, yet his eyes are not affected. Even with a windscreen, the wind should have caused his eyes to water.
As Howard Hughes wipes the blood off his hands in the Cocoanut Grove bathroom, it is obvious from the spots on the towel that it is make-up and not actually emitting from the cut on his finger.
Howard Hughes has small hands with slender fingers, but the right hand that reaches for the Cocoanut Grove bathroom door is broader with beefier fingers.

Spoilers 

The goof items below may give away important plot points.

Audio/visual unsynchronised 

During the speed runs of the H-1, Hughes increases engine power for each run, as evidenced by the increasing tachometer (the needle of which falls off prior to the final run). However, we hear the same engine note for each run.

Factual errors 

When the H-1 runs out of fuel after the last speed run, Hughes immediately yanks the throttle completely back to the idle position, followed by the mixture leaver to full lean / cut off. While reducing power would certainly help keep a fuel-starved engine running, pulling both controls back completely in an abrupt manner would stall it immediately.

See also

Trivia | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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