Ultra-professional trash . . . and plenty good fun. Harold Robbins’ once shocking Hollywood roman-à-clef peaks at the early life & times of financial whiz, industrialist & movie mogul Howard Hughes, salivating over every indiscretion. Martha Hyer fails to bring the necessary insincerity to her prostitute turned-movie-star, but everyone else gives just the sort of ripe, over-indicative performance helmer Edward Dmytrk must have wanted. Robert Cummings, in a part he was born to play, is gleefully two-faced & venal as an opportunistic Hollywood agent, a veritable beacon to the film's younger stars (George Peppard, Elizabeth Ashley, Carroll Baker) who rinse any residue of ‘the Method’ right out of their system. John Michael Hayes brings the unwieldy story under control, as he had on PEYTON PLACE/’57, and producer Joseph E. Levine fakes the appearance of an all-star cast with a splashy opening title sequence. Note that Alan Ladd, the film’s one true movie star, takes second-billing for the first time. It was 50 and out for Ladd, decent & touching in what would prove to be his final role.
DOUBLE-BILL: The recent Scorsese/DiCaprio Howard Hughes bio, THE AVIATOR/’04, has real names & events, but a similar disregard for facts. And it misses this film’s spot-on chintz factor. (So much money, so little taste!) To get a feel for the real Hughes, try Max Ophuls’ CAUGHT/’49 with Robert Ryan in terrifying control-freak mode; along with Hughes’ very own directing gig, the hilariously over-ripe, closet-case Western THE OUTLAW/’43.