THE CARPETBAGGERS is first-rate trash--and trash of so high a caliber is not easy to find. Deny it though he might, Harold Robbins obviously used parts of the life of Howard Hughes as the basis for his major character, Jonas Cord (Peppard). The other roles are not so easily
distinguishable, but most of them appear to be melanges of many business and Hollywood types. Ladd is Peppard's avuncular confidante, Nevada Smith, a former outlaw. Peppard inherits his late father's dynamite plant and promptly goes after the old man's widow, Baker. He turns her into a movie
sexpot and makes Ladd a Roy Rogers-type hero when he takes over a movie lot. When Baker refuses to sleep with him, Peppard replaces her with Hyer, considerably freer with her favors. Then he marries Ashley, whom he shortly dumps too. Peppard plays a man with absolutely no redeeming graces until a
fistfight with Ladd brings him to his senses, whatever they are.
Peppard is properly tough and surly in the lead role, as evidenced by the hatred the audience feels for him throughout. This universal indignation toward the character is voiced by Baker, who seethes at him: "You dirty, filthy, perverted monster! You're the meanest, cruelest, most loathsome thing
I've ever met!" This was Ladd's last American film (he made two in Europe before his death in Palm Springs), and he was thoroughly convincing in the part. Had he lived beyond his 51 years, in fact, he might have had a fine career as a character actor ahead of him, once the burden of having to be
svelte and unlined as a lead player had been lifted. By today's standards, this movie is about as mild as typical Friday-night television fare, but it was hot stuff in its day. Although it is clear that Peppard's role is modeled after Hughes, the Ladd character is drawn from less-obvious sources:
chiefly a mysterious Old West character who was once a friend of Hughes's father, with some traits of cowboy stars William Boyd ("Hopalong Cassidy") and silent- western great William S. Hart thrown in for good measure. Baker's role, of course, is based almost wholly on Jean Harlow, Hughes's first
discovery and star of his epic WW I film HELL'S ANGELS, with whom he had dallied. Hyer's sensuous character bears a strong resemblance to Jane Russell, sexpot star of Hughes's THE OUTLAW. Note that Cummings is billed as Bob Cummings in the credits.. He usually used "Robert" in dramatic roles, such
as DIAL M FOR MURDER, and "Bob" for less-serious parts. Obviously he regarded THE CARPETBAGGERS as a comedy.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: THE CARPETBAGGERS is first-rate trash--and trash of so high a caliber is not easy to find. Deny it though he might, Harold Robbins obviously used parts of the life of Howard Hughes as the basis for his major character, Jonas Cord (Peppard). The other roles… (more)