The Carpetbaggers (1964)

This movie confirmed to me what I always suspected. Namely, that I have really bad taste. How else can I explain that despite the fact that this film was two hours and twenty minutes of silly soap opera trash, I had little problem sitting through all of it?

Jonas Cord, Jr. (George Peppard) has serious daddy issues. Dad has called Junior on the carpet for another one of Junior’s flings with the ladies. After attempting to castigate his son with a bunch of jive about real men having brains in their heads, not in their pants, Junior fires back about his dad being an impotent old man and that it was good that Junior does what he does so that his dad’s wife won’t think all the Cord men are losers!

Though I’m a big fan of such scenes, I was also a bit worried that this would be one of those movies where Junior would be having run ins with dad every half hour or so, thus slowing down Junior’s ruthless business ways and his callow treatment of the money-grubbing skanks he was sure to bed down and throw out like yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

But Harold Robbins didn’t proclaim himself the “world’s best writer” and sell three quarters of a billion books, by getting bogged down in stuffy father-son arguments. So, right after that the old man croaks right there in the office!

Jonas is left in control of his father’s company and he has all sorts of plans including getting involved in some newfangled thing the Germans are working on called plastics. But as any budding tycoon will tell you, the real thrill isn’t the art of the deal so much as getting revenge on the scumbags you’ve harbored and nursed grudges against for years! Next stop: dad’s mansion where Jonas’ step mom is staying.

Is she some type of dried up wicked step mother type who is out to steal his company from him? Not exactly. Rina Marlow Cord is a young blonde hussy played by Carroll Baker (The Big Country) and Jonas aims to show her who’s boss now that daddy is out of the picture.


He forces himself on her and when she finally gives in and admits that she really wants him now that his dad is dead, Jonas stops and tells her that he wanted to see how far she’d go and that he’ll have his revenge later on.

But that’s not the icky part! It turns out that before Rina was Jonas’ stepmom, she was his girlfriend! Jonas brought her home and somehow his dad stole her away from him! You can bet there wasn’t a lot of that “you’re an impotent louse” stuff being shoveled by Jonas at his dad that day!

We are then treated to what passes for as characterization as to Jonas. This involves him going into a locked room in his dad’s house and looking around at all the cobwebbed furniture and things. It’s clearly a child’s room that hasn’t been touched in twenty years or so and Jonas has a bit of a breakdown as he hears his father’s voice in his head telling him not to go into that room and Jonas is just wanting to see his brother, but his dad says his brother is gone and not coming back.


Jonas has to be physically removed from the room by one of the servants and we are left to wonder what this terrible secret is that no doubt will serve as the armchair psycho babble at the end of the movie to justify everything he’s done.

Jonas embarks on his world conquering by buying up businesses, plastering his name on them, and inventing new businesses. After his old buddy Nevada Smith (Steve McQueen starred in a movie based on this character a couple of years after The Carpetbaggers came out) gets into trouble out in Hollywood, Jonas steps in to help out and gets sucked into the picture-making game.

Nevada was a wild west outlaw with a colorful past who left it all behind to become Jonas’ companion since Jonas was a boy. He’s the closest thing to a friend that Jonas ever had. They would end up beating the piss out of each other in a brutal fight at the end of the movie.

Making movies consumes Jonas as he gets tricked into buying a movie studio without knowing that its only star has been killed in automobile accident. He declares that he’s going to live on the studio lot and starts barking orders just like he did right after he took over his father’s company, determined to make this venture succeed even if an ex-hooker needs to be his big star!


As junky as all of this was, it’s the ending that really pulls it all together and makes this the total package of pop culture refuse. You’ve got Jonas’ big secret revealed and it purports to be the motivation for him being such inhuman slime.

Since this is a Hollywood version of people with emotional problems deeply rooted in their dysfunctional childhoods, Jonas is pretty much able to throw off all his neuroses after a fight and conversation with Nevada, followed up by a quick trip to see Monica eight years after their marriage ended and finding her ready to take him back. A real crowd-pleasing ending, except by this time, you’d like to see Jonas die a miserable, lonely old man, instead of being rewarded and suffer no consequences for his actions.

This is a big, glossy-looking paperback movie where stars like George Peppard, Robert Cummings (Kings Row), and film noir icon Alan Ladd (The Blue Dahlia) in his last role, drop silly dialogue like Jonas drops blonde starlets and engage in increasingly ridiculous situations (hiring your ex-girlfriend and ex-stepmother to star in a film with your ex-bodyguard? Is this part of the movie or a pitch for a sitcom?) while wearing nice suits and maintaining perfect haircuts. There’s nothing to recommend in it beyond pure spectacle, but that’s pretty much all it seemed to be aiming for.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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