This Week in Universal News: Howard Hughes and the Boeing 307 Stratoliner, 1939

In July of 1939, Howard Hughes purchased the first Boeing 307 Stratoliner. Because of the plane’s pressurized cabin, the plane could fly at altitudes over 20,000 feet, allowing it to avoid rough weather. In this clip from Universal News, we see the multi-millionaire taking his new toy for a test drive. Hughes had hoped to use the Stratoliner to break his own round-the-world flight record, but Germany’s invasion of Poland in September made the attempt unsafe and the flight was cancelled. Boeing produced ten Stratoliners; the last remaining example is on display at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, near Washington, D.C.

From the release sheet:

GLOBE FLIER TRIES STRATOPLANE, SEATTLE, WASH.– Howard Hughes, millionaire sportsman pilot who set a new “Round-the-World record last year, takes off in a new giant Stratoliner on a test flight believed to herald a new globe-circling venture.

Howard Hughes prepares to fly his customized Boeing 307 Stratoliner for the first time.

You may view the complete newsreel, including stories about a flash flood in Kentucky, a royal wedding in Greece, pilot’s training in California, Girl Scout Mariners embarking on a one-week cruise, a lion-taming class in New Jersey, and others here. Note: the soundtrack for this newsreel no longer exists.

About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:

The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.

In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).

While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in OPA, and on this playlist.