THE CARPETBAGGERS (1964). Director: Edward Dmytryk. Screenplay by John Michael Hayes.
George Peppard gives a surprisingly dynamic performance – his best, ever – as Jonas Cord, a Howard Hughes-type rich boy's son who weds and beds many a wench, starts an international airline, and takes over a movie production company and creates a star out of his own, very sexy former stepmother (Carroll Baker). Based on Harold Robbins' novel, this could easily be dismissed as trash were it not for the fact that it's quite well-acted, well-scripted (for what it is), and moves at a pace that leaves little time to ponder events but much time to be extremely entertained – there isn't a boring moment and much of the film is even striking in its way. Peppard and Baker are both better than you'd expect them to be, although they may not capture whatever nuances other actors might have found in their characters. Alan Ladd scores as Peppard's old companion and surrogate father, who becomes a cowboy hero of the movies and marries Baker. Ladd's climactic fight scene with Peppard is a highlight of the picture. Elizabeth Ashley, who later married Peppard in real life, is excellent as the wife he terribly mistreats, and even Martha Hyer is sexy fun as another blond hooker Peppard decides to turn into a star. Ralph Teager is fine as Peppard's pilot buddy and Bob Cummings is right on the money as a rather slimy Hollywood agent positively dripping with charm. Lew Ayres has one of his best latter-day roles as Peppard's business advisor, who is eventually disgusted by his antics (their parting scene is very well played).
Verdict: Overall, this long, lusty, often amusing and exciting picture isn't bad at all. ***.