The "assembly line" scenes for BMC (fictional Bethlehem Motors Company) were actually filmed at the AMC (American Motors Corporation) plant located at Kenosha, Wisconsin. In several shots you can catch glimpses of 1978 AMC Gremlin, Pacer, and Concord models being built and painted. The plant was purchased by Chrysler, along with the rest of AMC/Jeep in 1987, and demolished by Chrysler in the early 1990s. Interestingly, most of the BMC models on display were not disguised AMC models. Almost all of the contemporary "BMC" model automobiles are actually poorly redecorated/remodeled Ford cars. Recognizable 1970s era Ford cars included Granada and LTD among the unfortunate victims of fairly hideous restyling. The only car which did not seem easily recognizable, or quite so bad, was the titular model itself, "The Betsy," which was probably a skinny restyled mid-1970s Ford Mustang II.
Publicity for this picture stated that it was the first time in film history that a major American car company allowed filming to be conducted at their facilities. The company was the American Motors Corporation, and they allowed filming to be done at both their Detroit Design Studio and Wisconsin Assembly Plant.
Three famous Newport, Rhode Island mansions were used for filming Loren Hardeman's home. They were The Elms, Rosecliff, and The Breakers, all of which have been featured in many other movies, before and since. Also featured in the movie are glamorous estate houses in Palm Springs, California and Santa Barbara, California.
Lorimar/Allied Artists Pictures hired writer William Bast to write the screenplay, after rejecting an earlier treatment. Bast was primarily a writer for television productions (series, television movies, and mini-series), but this film was his third, and final, feature film screenplay, and Bast is credited along with original novelist Harold Robbins, and prolific screenwriter Walter Bernstein.
This film is listed among The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book THE OFFICIAL RAZZIE® MOVIE GUIDE. Interestingly, even though it was a critical bomb, it met the approval of original novelist Harold Robbins, and although it was not a blockbuster, it was a moderate financial success.
The character of Jake Weinstein (portrayed by Joseph Wiseman) was loosely based on infamous mob financier Meyer Lansky, who was also the basis for the character of Hyman Roth (portrayed by Lee Strasberg) in The Godfather: Part II (1974), four years earlier.
The name of Loren Hardeman's (portrayed by Laurence Olivier) car company was "Bethlehem Motor Company," or "BMC," based on the number four U.S. auto manufacturer (before and at the time this film was produced) "American Motors Corporaton," or "AMC," until 1987, when it was purchased by the Chrysler Corporation.
This movie was the third of four films which featured both Jane Alexander (who portrayed Alicia Hardeman) and Edward Herrmann (who portrayed Dan Weyman), the most famous of which were the two Eleanor and Franklin (1976) television movies, in 1976 and 1977.
It was a bit of a family affair for director Daniel Petrie. One of his daughters, Mary Petrie had a credited role as a nurse, and younger son Donald Petrie was credited on screen as a production assistant, but was actually star Laurence Olivier's off screen driver.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The senior Loren Hardeman character (the name of the character appears in the end credits as simply "Number One"), a Detroit automotive conglomerate, was inspired by automobile industrialist Henry Ford, even though Ford's personal name and company name are mentioned in dialogue at several points in the movie, including by Laurence Olivier, who portrays Hardeman senior, the character based on the senior Henry Ford, while Loren III (protrayed by Robert Duvall as an adult), as senior's grandson, takes over the company, just as Henry Ford II took over the Ford Motor Company from his grandfather after his father, Edsel Ford died prematurely (although Edsel died of stomach cancer at age 49, while Loren Jr. (portrayed by Paul Rudd committed suicide before age 40).