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George Peppard plays a hard-driven industrialist more than a little reminiscent of Howard Hughes. While he builds airplanes, directs movies and breaks hearts, his friends and lovers try to reach his human side, and find that it's an uphill battle. The film's title is a metaphor for self-promoting tycoons who perform quick financial takeovers, impose dictatorial controls for short-term profits, then move on to greener pastures. Written by
Jeanne Baker <email@example.com>
On one of the Star Trek feature films Spock refers to Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins from his vantage point in the future as the 'old masters' of 20th century earth literature. Is that a frightening prospect or what?
One of the earliest of master Robbins works to get to the silver screen was The Carpetbaggers. It's a novel about a young industrialist whose like a tornado in his business and personal life, destroying everything in the path of Jonas Cord, Jr.
George Peppard is the younger Cord, based on Howard Hughes as you will know within the first 15 minutes of the film. Peppard is singlemindedly determined to outdo his father, Leif Erickson in every way conceivable. Erickson dies at the beginning of the film leaving an industrial empire to Peppard who rules it 24/7.
There's also a young wife Erickson left, Rina Marlowe played by Carroll Baker. Think of Baby Doll grown up a bit and you have Carroll as Rina.
The novel was an immense bestseller in its day and had a pre-existing audience so there was no way it was going to flop commercially. Knowing that is what attracted a very good cast of players to support Peppard and Baker who give some really good performances. My favorite is Robert Cummings as the sly actor's agent who doublebangs Peppard in a business deal and then attempts some blackmail. He is truly a slimeball.
Of course you can't talk about The Carpetbaggers without talking about Alan Ladd. He plays Peppard's friend and confidante Nevada Smith, a cowboy who Erickson takes on to mentor young Peppard. And he does very well in the part.
Alan Ladd's wife Sue Carol was his agent and managed his career. Or mismanaged it in one sense. She never let him gracefully transition into good character parts like Nevada Smith as so many of his contemporaries did. She insisted that he had to be the leading man as he was in his big box office days at Paramount. It's too bad Ladd didn't live to see the good reviews he got even from critics who trashed The Carpetbaggers.
How good was it? Well if it was bad, I doubt a Nevada Smith movie would have ever been made.
Ironically Ladd was also in a cast with Robert Cummings and Lew Ayres both of whom transitioned into character roles and got work the rest of their lives.
The Carpetbaggers is trashy, no doubt about it. But it gets a good production from a good cast, a mixture of old and new Hollywood of the period.
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