The Carpetbaggers (film)

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The Carpetbaggers
The Carpetbaggers 1964 poster.jpg
U.S. poster art
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Produced by Joseph E. Levine
Written by John Michael Hayes
Harold Robbins (novel)
Starring George Peppard
Alan Ladd
Carroll Baker
Bob Cummings
Martha Hyer
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Joseph MacDonald
Edited by Frank Bracht
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • April 9, 1964 (1964-04-09)
Running time
150 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3.3 million[1][2]
Box office $40,000,000[2]

The Carpetbaggers is a 1964 American film directed by Edward Dmytryk, based upon the best-selling novel The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins, and starring George Peppard as Jonas Cord, a character based loosely on Howard Hughes, and Alan Ladd - in his last role - as Nevada Smith, a former western gunslinger turned actor. Carroll Baker portrays an actress. The film is a landmark film of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, venturing further than most films of the period with its heated sexual embraces, innuendo, and sadism between men and women, much like the novel, where "there is sex and/or sadism every 17 pages".[3]

Filmed in 35mm Panavision, this was one of the first movies to be blown up to 70mm ("Panavision 70") for premiere screening. The picture was the final film of Alan Ladd; he died some months before its release. Dmytryk followed this film the same year with Where Love Has Gone (1964), also based on a Robbins novel. Two years after The Carpetbaggers was released, Steve McQueen played Ladd's role in a Western prequel entitled Nevada Smith.


Jonas Cord becomes one of America's richest men, inheriting an explosives company from his late father. Cord resents his father bitterly and is psychologically scarred by the death of a twin brother. Believing his family has insanity in its blood, he does not want children of his own.

Cord buys up the company stock held by Nevada Smith, a former gunslinger. He had practically raised Cord in the absence of his father. Cord pays off his father's widow Rina Marlowe, who he believes had married his father strictly for money. She is portrayed as a gold-digger and sexually assertive.

Cord becomes an aviation pioneer and his wealth grows. He ruins a business rival named Winthrop, then seduces and marries the man's daughter Monica. He quickly abandons her and demands a divorce.

Nevada Smith finds work in western films. Rina resurfaces to become a movie star for a studio owned by Bernard Norman. Cord seeks to buy that studio, but Norman refuses until after learning that Rina, by then alcoholic, has died in a car crash. A public relations man, Dan Pierce, betrays his employer Cord, who pays Norman more money than the studio is worth absent its chief box-office draw.

Cord goes on an alcoholic binge and disappears. Upon his return, he decides to run the studio, even directing films. He casts an attractive call girl, Jennie Denton, as the studio's new girl star. Cord cuts his ties with aviation partner Buzz and longtime lawyer Mac. He so badly mistreats Jennie that his old friend Nevada Smith challenges him to a fistfight and badly beats him.

A contrite Cord returns to Monica, with whom he has a child. He has learned from Nevada that there was no insanity in his family after all. His and Monica's daughter grows up as a healthy, normal girl (as much as is possible given her parents' pasts).


Release and reception[edit]

Screenshot from trailer for "The Carpetbaggers" (1964)

The Carpetbaggers was released theatrically in North America on April 9, 1964, and was a massive commercial success. It grossed $28,409,547 at the domestic box office,[5] making it the 4th highest grossing film of 1964. Variety reported that the film earned $13 million in domestic rentals. At the worldwide box office, the film grossed $40,000,000 against a $3 million budget.[2] Due to its success, a prequel was filmed and released two years later. Ladd's part was taken by Steve McQueen.

The movie was one of the 13 most popular films in the UK in 1965.[6] However, many critics frowned upon the film, considering it to be "vulgar and tasteless" or "an upscale dirty movie".[7][8] The film became one of the targets for the negative impact of films on society. Bosley Crowther cited the film, along with Kiss Me, Stupid, for giving American movies the reputation of "deliberate and degenerate corruptors of public taste and morals".[7]

The theme tune by Elmer Bernstein was used to accompany the title credits for the UK BBC2 TV The Money Programme, a finance and current affairs magazine programme. The music was recorded in a version by Jimmy Smith arranged by Lalo Schiffrin.

In her 1978 autobiography Past Imperfect, Joan Collins claims she had a firm offer to play Rina Marlowe but had to decline because of pregnancy.


Elmer Bernstein re-recorded his music for the movie as an album on Ava Records. In 2013 Intrada Records issued the complete original soundtrack on CD, pairing it with the CD premiere of the Ava re-recording (tracks 22-31).

  1. Seal / Main Title 2:26
  2. A Maverick 0:52
  3. Rina's Record 3:32
  4. The Forbidden Room 2:42
  5. Sierra Source (Alternate) 1:41
  6. Sierra Source 2:39
  7. Separate Trails 2:03
  8. Monica's Shimmy 0:31
  9. Lots Of Lovely Ceilings 2:02
  10. Nevada's Trouble 7:12
  11. Get A Divorce 1:35
  12. Movie Mogul 0:35
  13. Two Of A Kind 5:11
  14. Sierra Source Pt. 2 2:14
  15. Rina's Dead 1:02
  16. Speak Of The Devil 1:29
  17. New Star 3:05
  18. Bad Bargain 0:51
  19. Jonas Hits Bottom 5:40
  20. Finale 1:26
  21. Love Theme From The Carpetbaggers 3:10
  22. The Carpetbaggers 2:31
  23. Love Theme From The Carpetbaggers 2:40
  24. Speak Of The Devil 2:01
  25. Forbidden Room 2:19
  26. The Carpetbagger Blues 3:52
  27. Main Title From The Carpetbaggers 2:10
  28. New Star 2:16
  29. The Producer Asks For A Divorce 2:39
  30. Jonas Hits Bottom 2:50
  31. Finale 1:44


  • Nevada Smith (1966) was conceived as a prequel to the The Carpetbaggers. Steve McQueen was chosen for the role of Smith as a much younger man named Max Sand who makes up the name Nevada Smith when he infiltrates the gang of a man he intends to kill.


  1. ^ "The fruitful labours of Levine." Sunday Times [London, England] 11 Oct. 1964: [29]. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Box Office Information for The Carpetbaggers. IMDb. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  3. ^ Sova, Dawn B. (1 January 2006). Literature Suppressed on Sexual Grounds. Infobase Publishing. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-8160-7149-4. 
  4. ^ Baker's character was believed inspired by Jean Harlow, who had appeared in Hughes' film epic Hell's Angels.
  5. ^ Box Office Information for The Carpetbaggers. The Numbers. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Most Popular Film Star." Times (London, England) 31 December 1965: 13. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.
  7. ^ a b McNally, Karen (16 December 2010). Billy Wilder, Movie-Maker: Critical Essays on the Films. McFarland. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-7864-8520-8. 
  8. ^ Pfeiffer, Lee; Worrall, Dave (29 November 2011). Cinema Sex Sirens. Omnibus Press. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-85712-725-9. 

External links[edit]