Carpetbeggars, The (1964): Trashy Film of Harold Robbins Novella

Edward Dmytryk brought The Carpetbeggars, Harold Robbins’ trashy Hollywood best-seller, to the screen with George Peppard starring as Jonas Cord, in a portrait of Howard Hughes-like adventurer.

This was the last American film of Alan Ladd, who also played Nevada Smith in the prequel to this soap opera.

The tale begins in 1925, when his father dies of a stroke, Jonas inherits the Cord Chemical factory, a manufacturer of dynamite and other explosives. Jonas proceeds ruthlessly, making a settlement with his sexy stepmother Rina (Carroll Baker) and liquidating the stock owned by cowhand Nevada Smith (Alan Ladd)

With the help of Mac McAllister (Lew Ayres), his father’s attorney, Jonas builds his father’s company into a huge business, expanding into plastics and aeronautics.

Meanwhile, Rina has become a fashion model and movie star and Nevada Smith goes into a career as a popular silent film cowboy idol.

Jonas marries and then abuses Monica Winthrop (Elizabeth Ashley), ruining her father’s company.  With the advent of sound films, Jonas helps Nevada Smith through the sound film crisis by offering financial backing for a film to star both Nevada and his ex-mother-in-law Rina.

Jonas decides to direct the film himself, hoping to seduce Rina. But Jonas’s insensitive behavior leads to Monica’s departure.

Jonas invests all his time in film production but the alcoholic Rina dies in a car accident. The owners of the film studio, Bernard B. Norman (Martin Balsam) and Dan Pierce (Robert Cummings), want to sell the studio to Jonas but hide the fact that Rina, the studio’s biggest star, has died.

Jonas buys the studio and when he finds his biggest asset is gone, he becomes alcoholic.  However, Jonas quickly meets call girl Jennie Denton (Martha Hyer), who he decides to turn into a superstar. But Jonas’s vile treatment of Jennie upsets her and old friend Nevada Smith, now bent on revenge.

Both director Dmytryk (Crossfire, The Caine Mutiny) and scribe John Michael Hayes have done better work; the latter for Hitchcock.

Extremely popular at the box-office, The Carpetbeggars is a good companion piece for Valley of the Dolls for those who like this sort of sleazy and campy entertainment.

Credits

MPAA: PG.

Running time: 150 minutes.

Directed by Edward Dmytrkk

Written by John Michael Hayes

Released: April 9, 1964

DVD: April 22, 2003

Paramount