Carpetbaggers, The (1964)

Carpetbaggers, The (1964)

“Oh — you dirty, filthy, perverted monster!”

When a playboy (George Peppard) inherits his father’s fortune, he turns his young widowed stepmother (Carroll Baker) into a movie star; marries and mistreats his business rival’s daughter (Elizabeth Ashley); begins an aviation company; gives a company stockholder (Alan Ladd) work as an actor; tries to buy a movie studio from a producer (Martin Balsam); enlists help from a slimy agent (Robert Cummings); and eventually turns a prostitute (Martha Hyer) into a star — all while ruthlessly accumulating millions and alienating everyone around him.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alan Ladd Films
  • Audrey Totter Films
  • Carroll Baker Films
  • Edward Dmytryk Films
  • George Peppard Films
  • Hollywood
  • Inheritance
  • Martin Balsam Films
  • Millionaires
  • Robert Cummings Films
  • Ruthless Leaders

Edward Dmytryk directed this big-budget Technicolor adaptation of Harold Robbins’ 1961 novel, loosely inspired by real life celebrities Howard Hawks and Jean Harlow, and well-described by DVD Savant in his capsule overview as a “very entertaining soap ‘n success saga of the kind still celebrated in endless television miniseries about sin and glamour” — a film which “slips in an amusing undercurrent of double entendres and almost-sensational scenes” and “walks a risky tightrope over the pit of censorship.”

Indeed, the material is just salacious and outrageous enough to be mildly amusing — starting with Peppard’s “let’s get busy making money” response to the unexpected death of his father (Leif Erickson):

… and moving quickly to his first sultry encounter with Baker’s beautiful young widow (once Peppard’s girlfriend), then his courtship with Ashley — who is somewhat inexplicably loyal to him (though in the film’s final twisty-turvey ten minutes, we — sort of — learn why).

Alan Ladd was given his last film role as an alcoholic western star and former family business partner, who perhaps serves as Peppard’s voice of conscience:

… though trying to get anything through to Peppard’s seriously hard-headed Jonas Cord is a feat; he ranks among cinema’s ultimate ruthless bastards.

Other than Baker, the most notable performance is given by Cummings, who seems to be having a field day playing a self-serving studio employee who flits throughout the entire screenplay.

Watch for Audrey Totter in a tiny role as the prostitute Peppard turns to after a tragedy.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Joseph MacDonald’s cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth the ride if you’re up for it.


One thought on “Carpetbaggers, The (1964)

  1. (Rewatch 5/21/22)

    Skip it.

    I read a Harold Robbins novel once. I don’t remember which one but it wasn’t ‘The Carpetbaggers’. However, this screen adaptation has the same kind of awful feel as the one I read. As a crowd-pleasing novelist, Jacqueline Susann took over where Robbins left off, but even she improved on the ‘form’.

    Even as camp, this film fails. It’s just an overlong bore.

Leave a Reply