The Betsy is a 1978 film made by the Harold Robbins International Company and released by Allied Artists and United Artists. It was directed by Daniel Petrie and produced by Robert R. Weston and Emanuel L. Wolf with Jack Grossberg as associate producer. The screenplay was by William Bast and Walter Bernstein, adapted from the novel of the same title by Harold Robbins.
The film stars Laurence Olivier, Robert Duvall, Katharine Ross, Tommy Lee Jones, Jane Alexander, Joseph Wiseman, Kathleen Beller, Edward Herrmann, Paul Ryan Rudd, and Lesley-Anne Down.
The novelist reportedly considered The Betsy the "best movie adaptation of any of his works."
A fading family-owned automobile manufacturer and its owners pin their hopes for a return to profitability on a new model named for the great-granddaughter of the firm's founder.
The aging Loren Hardeman Sr. remains the titular head of a Detroit automotive conglomerate. (An obvious parallel exists between this fictional character and that of Henry Ford.) His grandson, Loren Hardeman III, now runs the company as president, but has diversified into other fields and is concerned that the auto division is not as lucrative as it once was and might even need to be eliminated.
A young auto racer, Angelo Perino, has been secretly commissioned to develop a ground-breaking fuel-efficient car. He juggles romantic relationships with a British royal, Lady Bobby Ayres, and the young Betsy, who is about to turn 21 and inherit a fortune, including the new car her great-grandfather is naming in her honor.
Loren Hardeman III bitterly despises Hardeman Sr., who once carried on an affair with Loren's mother. The older Hardeman is not the man he used to be, but neither is he ready to step aside forever.Laurence Olivier as Loren Hardeman Sr.
Tommy Lee Jones as Angelo Perino
Robert Duvall as Loren Hardeman III
Katharine Ross as Sally Hardeman
Jane Alexander as Alicia Hardeman
Lesley-Anne Down as Lady Ayres
Kathleen Beller as Betsy
Joseph Wiseman as Jake Weinstein
Edward Herrmann as Dan Weyman
Paul Ryan Rudd as Loren Hardeman Jr.
Charlie Fields as young Loren Hardeman III
Assembly-plant footage was filmed at the American Motors (AMC) Kenosha, Wisconsin factory. It shows 1978 Gremlin, Pacer, and Concord models being built and painted on AMC's assembly line serving as the factory of the fictitious Bethlehem Motors. For authenticity, the movie producers had queried AMC on how a new car is developed.
The titular car is a slightly modified 1974 Lancia Beta coupe. The Betsy features music composed by John Barry. It was filmed at Rosecliff mansion in Newport Rhode Island.
Review by an automobile industry expert noted that filmmakers have not shown believable characters and realistic dialogue. Attempts by Hollywood to capture the auto industry on film, such as The Betsy, have "aimed at realistic drama but wound up with suds."
In 1978 in United States there was an notable increase in construction of racquetball courts in the country and the director chose to shoot a scene in a company racquetball court during first meeting between the character played by Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall.