George Peppard plays a hard-driven industrialist more than a little reminiscent of Howard Hughes.
While he builds airplanes, directs movies and breaks hearts, his friends and lovers try to reach his human side, and find that it's an uphill battle.
The film's title is a metaphor for self-promoting tycoons who perform quick financial takeovers, impose dictatorial controls for short-term profits, then move on to greener pastures.
The Carpetbaggers is the kind of trashy classic most people were too embarrassed to admit they enjoyed back in the early 60s.
But this Harold Robbins adaptation is so cheerfully vulgar, it's hard not to have a good time - especially given the thinly veiled portrait of Howard Hughes at its center. George Peppard plays the heel-hero, who founds an airline company in the 1920s and buys a movie studio in the 1930s, crushing friends and mistresses along the way.
The high cheese factor is aided by the good-time cast: Carroll Baker as Peppard's hot stepmom, Bob Cummings (quite funny) as a cynical agent, and Elizabeth Ashley, who married Peppard, in her debut -uncharacteristically, as a good girl.
One sad note is Alan Ladd, looking and sounding very end-of-the-line in his final role, as a man's man cowboy star.
Elmer Bernstein's swaggering score helps goose the action along.