As part of his Shamrock Hotel grand opening in March 1949, Houston oil millionaire Glenn McCarthy bought the Hughes 307 to bring Hollywood celebrities to the event. McCarthy was the “King of the Wildcatters” who struck oil and became the real-life inspiration for the Jett Rink character in the Edna Ferber novel Giant. In the 1956 movie classic based on the book, James Dean portrayed Rink.

McCarthy (1907-1988) was the prototype for the hard-drinking, barroom-brawling Texas oilman, He often was called other names not as complimentary as the “king of the wildcatters.” He discovered 11 oil fields and expanded others. In 1949 he built the $21 million Shamrock Hotel in Houston, spending $1 million for the gaudy party when it opened, but in 1955 lost it to the Hilton chain.

The plane, dubbed The Shamrock by McCarthy, was sold in 1962 to Florida Jet Research in Fort Lauderdale, renamed The Flying Penthouse, with the flight from Houston almost ending in disaster when a cockpit electrical fire over the Gulf of Mexico forced an emergency landing in Gulfport, Mississippi. Then in 1964 Hurricane Cleo roared through Broward County, Florida, causing wing and tail wheel damage to the 307, ending its flying days forever. It had logged a remarkably low total of 500 flight hours over 25 years, only to become an abandoned derelict, stripped of its useful parts and waste away.

Dean’s third and last movie was Giant which was filmed in the summer and early fall of 1955 and was released in 1956 — a year after Dean’s death. The film was based on Ferber’s popular saga about a Texas cattle raising family. Dean played a bitter ranch hand turned wealthy oil wildcatter. Lee Strasberg, Dean’s Actors Studio coach, considered the role Dean’s greatest screen performance. Reportedly, Strasberg wept when he saw the movie, grieved by the loss of so promising a talent.

The screenplay was written by Ivan Moffat and the late George Stevens who also directed the film. Moffat and Stevens had previously worked together on A Place in the Sun and Shane which are regarded by some as classics of 1950s cinema. The former starred Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor whom Stevens selected as the female lead in Giant.

Glenn McCarthy, top (The Houston Chronicle circa 1950), and James Dean, below, in his wardrobe test for the movie, Giant.