Awaiting at London Airport for a flight to New York, Frances Andros, seen off by her tycoon husband, Paul Andros, plans to leave her spouse for the arms of an aging international playboy, Marc Champselle. Les Mangrum, a self-made Australian businessman traveling with his loyal secretary, Miss Mead, must be in New York the following day to arrange the loan that will help him repel a hostile takeover of his tractor company. Max Buba, a film mogul traveling with starlet Gloria Gritti, must get out of England immediately or face ruinous British income tax. The Duchess of Brighton has taken a job as a hostess at an American holiday resort, thinking she will be able to keep her family estate on her new income. Fog descends and blurs the future for them all, forced now to wait in the airport hotel for morning and fair weather. Written by
Most of the jewelry worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the film is from her personal collection. The diamond and emerald brooch is cited as her first "If it's Tuesday, I love you" gift from future husband Richard Burton. The diamond tiara worn during the opening credits dinner party scene was a gift from third husband Michael Todd . See more »
Reaping the Advantages from the Cleopatra publicity
When I was in my teens I well remember all the publicity surrounding Elizabeth Taylor, from her serious illness, to her Oscar for Butterfield 8, to the various problems with Cleopatra and finally all the kanoodling with Richard Burton. No film star before or since had the media attention the way Ms. Taylor did.
When Cleopatra was in its editing stages and there sure was a lot of footage to edit, the publicity was too good to take advantage. Taylor had been off the screen since 1960. I'm sure that Anthony Asquith the director had this project that became The VIPS in mind for some time while Cleopatra was still being shot.
It was all shot at Heathrow Airport so there were no sets to build so the money was spent on getting a top rate cast. Orson Welles, Elsa Martinelli, Dennis Price, Robert Coote, Michael Hordern, Rod Taylor, Maggie Smith, Linda Christian, Louis Jourdan and the Best Supporting Actress of 1963 Margaret Rutherford join Liz and Dick.
A bunch of VIP passengers are stuck at the airport due to fog and we see their stories unfold in a Grand Hotel style plot. Orson Welles is an extravagant producer and I'm sure he borrowed bits from Alexander Korda, Dino DeLaurentis, and himself in a very outrageous portrayal of a man trying to leave Great Britain before the income tax nails him. His tempestuous Italian star Elsa Martinelli figures in the solution to his problem.
And Welles figures in the solution to Margaret Rutherford's problem. She's an impoverished and widowed Duchess who is leaving her home to settle in Florida. She's bright and funny and her portrayal is very much like Helen Hayes who won a second Academy Award for playing a little old eccentric lady in Airport.
Taylor and Burton oddly enough have the weakest story in the film. He's a billionaire tycoon who's wife Elizabeth Taylor is running off with a playboy gigolo portrayed by Louis Jourdan. Burton is as offended as Orson Welles was in Citizen Kane when Susan Alexander was running away from Charles Foster Kane. It's his pride more than anything else. It's a humbling experience.
My favorite story in The VIPS occurs with Aussie businessman Rod Taylor who is the victim of a cash flow problem as a result of beating back a hostile takeover. Linda Christian is his socialite jetsetting wife and Maggie Smith his loyal private secretary. It's one of the few times Rod Taylor has ever played someone from his native country on screen.
Though Margaret Rutherford got an Oscar, in my opinion the best portrayal in The VIPS goes hands down to Maggie Smith. She is so touching as the prim and proper Ms. Meade who is crushing out big time on her boss.
The Burton-Taylor story intersects with the Rod Taylor story when Smith spots Burton at the airport and corners him for help on behalf of her boss. She explains Rod Taylor's problems to Burton and of course she doesn't know of the personal crisis he's going through. Their scene is the highlight of the film.
Richard Burton was later reported to say that when he saw the finished film and saw Maggie Smith with him on the screen that she was guilty of grand larceny for her scene stealing. He said it with a smile and chuckle in admiration for her talent. I think you'll agree with him.
It's a good film, The VIPS, filled with characters you become involved with though they are hardly likely to be ones you come in contact with in your daily life.
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