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The Betsy (1978)

The aging, retired founder of an auto giant comes out of retirement to try to develop a safe, fuel-efficient car.


Daniel Petrie


Harold Robbins (novel), William Bast (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Laurence Olivier ... Number One
Robert Duvall ... Loren Hardeman III
Katharine Ross ... Sally Hardeman
Tommy Lee Jones ... Angelo Perino
Jane Alexander ... Alicia Hardeman
Lesley-Anne Down ... Lady Bobby Ayres
Joseph Wiseman ... Jake Weinstein
Kathleen Beller ... Betsy Hardeman
Edward Herrmann ... Dan Weyman
Paul Rudd Paul Rudd ... Loren Hardeman Jr.
Roy Poole ... John Duncan
Richard Venture Richard Venture ... Mark Sampson
Titos Vandis ... Angelo Luigi Perino
Clifford David ... Joe Warren
Inga Swenson ... Mrs. Craddock


The patriarch of a family-owned corporation hires a young race car driver to help him design a fuel efficient car in secrecy. They face resistance from the president of the company (the patriarch's grandson), who wishes to eliminate the motor car division because of bad blood between himself and his grandfather. During flashbacks, a parallel set of problems is revealed in the family's past, problems that persist into the present, and the race car driver gets deeper into the web of deception and corporate intrigue. Written by Ed Sutton <esutton@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Harold Robbins people. What you dream...they do!




R | See all certifications »






Release Date:

9 February 1978 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Harold Robbins' The Betsy See more »

Filming Locations:

Detroit, Michigan, USA See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Color (Technicolor)
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Did You Know?


Theatrical feature film debut of Paul Rudd. See more »


Lady Bobby Ayres: You want the whole f*****g empire, don't you?
See more »


Referenced in The Ecstasy Girls (1979) See more »

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User Reviews

Two Betsys...both getting body work done on them!
29 April 2003 | by Poseidon-3See all my reviews

Imagine a 1970's TV mini-series with added scenes of nudity and adult language and a somewhat bigger budget and the result is "The Betsy". Based on one of the gazillion cookie-cutter novels of Harold Robbins, the film looks and sounds just like a mini-series that slipped by the censors. Olivier (in the midst of one of his WORST periods for hammy overacting which also includes "The Boys From Brazil" and "The Jazz Singer") is a mega-rich automobile tycoon who has been ousted from his company to live in sedate luxury, albeit in a wheelchair. He follows the racing career of Jones closely and, after a nasty accident, convinces him to come and work for him in creating the third international car (after the Model T Ford and the Volkswagen.) This one is to be called The Betsy after his great-granddaughter Beller. Unfortunately, his nefarious grandson Duvall runs the company and doesn't want something as bothersome as a car to interfere with his profits from diversification into such products as dishwashers. This sets up a heated rivalry between Jones and Duvall. While this contemporary story plays out, Olivier flashes back to the 1930's when he was at his peak of power and he had his way with various women. Here, he contends with wimpy son Rudd and Rudd's lovely wife Ross who will one day give birth to Duvall. The stories play out alternately until the end when various connections detail how one tale is directly related to the other. The cast is fairly stellar for the most part, though few of the actors make any great impact. Olivier speaks in an inane and unexplained accent and overemotes ridiculously throughout. Fortunately, he's still rather entertaining nonetheless as his character gets several amusing things to say in the film. Jones is appealing and considerably more low-key than Olivier (anyone would be!) His fans will be surprised to see him in this traditional leading man type of role (and sporting an impressively chiseled torso.) Duvall (who, for some reason, appears shorter in this film than at any other point in his career!) nibbles his own share of the scenery as he tries to stay afloat in the melodramatics. Alexander retains her dignity as his neglected wife and Ross looks about as good as she ever did as his mother in the flashback scenes. A welcome dose of glamorous bitchery comes in the form of opportunistic and promiscuous Down. Her various high fashion costumes also bring occasional titters. Beller (the same chipmunk who would eventually land on "Dynasty" for a while in the '80's) is an acquired taste. Her Kewpie face and waist-length hair can annoy, yet her bare-everything swimming pool scene has earned her a few fans. She has one particularly ugly canary yellow dress which assaults the senses as well. Many other familiar actors pop in along the way including Swenson, Robert Guillaume's old sparring partner from "Benson". The title car seems a little goofy (people are supposed to drive around in a compact car that has Betsy emblazoned on the side?) and some of the dramatics seem pretty pointless. Maybe it was the time the film was made. The whole thing is a trashed-up precursor to "Dallas" and "Dynasty". There's even a stilted and tentatively presented homosexual relationship thrown into the mix. The sets, budget, costuming and cast elevate it to some degree and there are many unintentional laughs along the way. It is more than a little disconcerting, however, to see "Wuthering Heights" Heathcliff banging a French maid on his bed while his wife is downstairs carrying out a wedding reception for their son!

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