Melvin Dummar, the man who inspired Jonathan Demme’s 1980 dramedy Melvin and Howard, died December 9 in hospice care in Nevada. He was 74.
Dummar was known as the man who argued that Howard Hughes bequeathed him over $150 million after he rescued him on a deserted road and drove him to Las Vegas in 1967. In the alleged hand-written “Mormon will”, the Hughes estate also left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a beneficiary of the inheritance. Dummar battled cancer for years and quit referring to the document after losing the legal battle nearly a decade ago. Jurors and judges decided that Dummar lied and a U.S. appeals court in 2008 signed off on the decision that a Nevada state court jury 30 years ago said that the will was fake.
The story was the inspiration for Demme’s Melvin and Howard in 1980. The movie starred Paul Le Mat, Jason Robards, and Mary Steenburgen. Robards earned an Academy Award nomination while Steenburgen went on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The film also earned Bo Goldman an Academy Award nod for Best Screenplay.