“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
- Martin Balsam Films
- 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
No, though it’s worth the ride if you’re up for it.