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The setting is London, and Frances Andros (Taylor), the wife of
shipping magnate Paul Andros (Burton) says goodbye to her husband at
the airport, where he thinks she is bound for Jamaica. After he leaves,
it is revealed that she is meeting her new love Marc Champselle
(Jourdan), a notorious international playboy who has fallen head over
heels in love with her. Both are going to eschew their old lives and
fly to New York, but are dismayed to discover that their plane is
grounded due to heavy fog. Unfortunately, Frances has chosen to let
Paul know about her plans via a "Dear John" note that she leaves at
their house, and of course, Paul (influential in both money and power)
comes back to the airport to demand his wife's return. Also
inconvenienced by the fog is Les Mangrum (Taylor), an Australian
businessman who has been fighting with a larger company for months to
avoid a corporate takeover, and finally has the number of shares
needed; until one of his associates turns against him and sells him out
to the new company, forcing Mangrum to write a bad check on the share
price difference. Thinking he can have another associate cover his
check before the act becomes a bona fide felony, Mangrum knows that if
he can get to New York in time for the board meeting everything will be
okay, but the plane delay quashes all hope for this. Mangrum decides to
spend one last night in London drinking champagne and living the high
life with his trusty, loyal and prim secretary Miss Mead (Smith), who
is secretly in love with him. Two other story arcs that aren't as
prominent involve Max Buda (Welles), an acclaimed film director
traveling with starlet Gloria Gritti (Martinelli) who finds himself
forced into the position of marrying her, despite his obvious contempt,
in order to save millions in taxes. And finally there is The Duchess of
Brighton (Rutherford) an elderly eccentric who is flying to Miami in
order to work on a project that will pay her enough to keep her large
castle, despite the fact that she doesn't want to leave London. All of
the above players are first ensconced in the airport's VIP lounge, and
later, an airport hotel, where their personal dramas (and foibles) all
play out and work themselves out, one way or another.
I had read an article about this film in Vanity Fair a couple of years ago, and it detailed various behind-the-scenes facts about the film, namely the burgeoning romance between Burton and Taylor, who were the Jolie/Pitt of their day, only on an exponential scale. Their chemistry in this film is very pervasive, and really add depth to both of their characters. Surprisingly, I found that Taylor and Smith had an enormous amount of synergy, most of it due to Smith's portrayal of Miss Mead as mousy, yet practically bursting at the seams with respect and love for Mangrum. Margaret Rutherford, who is a revered British stage and screen actress, won an Academy Award for her funny, yet slightly heart-breaking portrayal of a woman with a title and not much else. The only story line that I found obnoxious was the Orson Welles/Elsa Martinelli one. It contained so little depth and such a minimal amount of compelling moments that I found myself getting annoyed whenever I had to waste precious viewing time watching their story arc rather than being able to watch more of the other well-written, well-acted ones contained in the film. Admittedly, Orson Welles is a long-time hero of mine, and there were times when his sarcastic portrayal of the pompous director made me chuckle, but those moments didn't save his scenes in the slightest.
"The V.I.P.s" is as lush and colorful as a Sirk film, and Taylor is decked out in glamorous gowns and furs, but I was shocked to find myself really becoming wrapped up in the story lines and the acting, whereas I had planned on watching a fluff piece that had a bunch of attractive people enacting what would essentially be a soap opera with a multi-million dollar budget. Critics in 1963 expected to marginalize the film the same way I did, and were surprised (and not always pleased) to find that "The V.I.P.s" is actually quite a good film. A lot of the stars of the film had already done some of their most recognizable and lauded work by the time this film had been released, Smith would achieve a great amount of recognition within a couple of years, and Rutherford was at the tail end of her life, but all of them (with the possible exception of Welles and Martinelli, though I believe a lot of it was the material they were given) pulled together to make a film that is surprisingly compelling, very well acted and unfortunately, mostly forgotten. 7/10 --Shelly
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.
A product! That's what this is. Beautifully wrapped but inside, a potential for heartburn. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor at the height of their popularity then, are hopelessly dated now. But, the Maggie Smith and Rod Taylor story is just great. Moving and funny. Orson Welles in another piece of self indulgence and self parody is priceless and so is the Academy Award winner Margaret Rutherford. Louis Jourdan, poor thing, as a gigolò - still, he spends the entire film, thinking that he'll be able to take Elizabeth Taylor away from Richard Burton - All that makes the film, almost sink. But put up with them to enjoy the rewards of Rod, Maggie, Orson and Margaret dealing with Terence Rattigan's enjoyable dialogue.
As another user has said, I love this movie. I too saw it multiple times in
theatres (the first Dick/Liz film made it a must-see at the time) and have
played the grooves off the laserdisc. DVD anyone????
In the classic "Grand Hotel" style, the film follows several A stories and several more B stories during one night, fogged in at Heathrow. Though the script has some dreadful stuff, there are moments throughout the movie which seem indelibly etched on my mind: Burton's face as he sits in the hotel lobby, every Smith/Taylor scene, every Rutherford scene, every Welles scene.
Am I the only one who enjoys good melodrama? This one is so rich with such beautiful people, gorgeous clothes and glorious character actors, it has to be fattening.
I love the score, the sets, the richness of the colors and the way so many of these actors are captured in their absolute prime. I don't remember any film that wasn't a costume drama that shows off Liz's beauty any better. Rod Taylor, always handsome, often underrated, has some marvelous moments. And despite some pretty maudlin scenes, you get some idea why Liz fell for Burton so hard.
The beautiful people, the jet set, or let's just call them by their
names - Liz and Dick. They are the cornerstone of this luscious,
glamorous cream puff about the elite stranded at an airport. There's
Liz, the unhappy wife of the filthy rich Burton, getting ready to run
away with playboy Louis Jourdan; Margaret Rutherford, on her way to
work in Florida so she can keep her estate afloat; Orson Welles as a
filmmaker, who has to leave London by midnight or be stuck with $1
million in taxes; Elsa Martinelli as his bratty star; Rod Taylor as man
about to lose his business; Maggie Smith as his secretary suffering
from unrequited love for her boss.
It doesn't get much better than this in terms of star power. Taylor is gorgeous with a wardrobe to match, Rutherford delightful, and Burton, Jourdan, and Rod Taylor all at their handsome bests. Maggie Smith gives a lovely, very touching performance, adding reality to this superficial story.
This is a marvelously entertaining film, done back in the days when a film budget went for a star cast and wardrobe and not special effects. The original star with Burton was to be Sophia Loren, but Taylor piped up and said she'd do it. It was made rather quickly to beat "Cleopatra" to the box office and cash in on Burton and Taylor's hot love affair.
Terrence Rattigan based his story on a true account of Vivien Leigh running away with Peter Finch and Olivier managing to stop them because their flight was delayed.
but a fascinating melodrama also. This was the first movie Liz Taylor
and Richard Burton made as a married couple.
The story is by Terence Rattigan who apparently based it on a scene he observed in the VIP lounge of London Airport when Vivien Leigh made plans to run away with Peter Finch and was stopped by her husband, Laurence Olivier.
It is well filmed, way ahead of its time in certain segments where other minor characters are playing in the background of the scene, a continuum not employed in movies until the nineties (this was filmed in the early 60s).
Some of the script is a hoot, the fact that Liz and her lover are running away without ever having "made love". Richard and Liz both overact dramatically. But the cast make it well worth watching.
Maggie Smith is particularly vulnerable as a secretary, she is yet to find the acerbic edge that laces her subsequent movies. Margaret Rutherford is particularly good as a Duchess who has to go earn a living in America to save her stately home. More scenes with her would have been a treat.
7 out of 10, totally watchable and almost sinful in the enjoyment of same, it is just so deliciously shallow.
Much of the action focused on a romantic triangle involving a pampered
wife, a wealthy husband, and a penniless playboy lover
Liz once again is the neglected wife, comforting herself with a lover (Jordan) When the destitute husband is threatened by his wife's departure who has given her diamonds instead of affection, Burton shows he cares Liz, unyielding however; wants him to suffer
Taylor's performance is cool and serene Her face undisturbed by normal human expression Playing an instigator of male insecurity, she is, for a change, altogether lovely to look at
Maggie Smith plays the trusty secretary in love with her Australian boss Rod Taylor Orson Welles's arrogant character provides the comic relief Margaret Rutherford won a Best Supporting Oscar for her delightful role as the eccentric elderly duchess
Nothing has been spared, production wise, with THE V I P'S. They sure don't make them like this anymore. While the story is a bit of a soap opera, some of the acting is quite good for a film of this ilk. Elizabeth Talor and Richard Burton are so-so, as is Orson Welles and Louis Jourdon. Less of them would have made a better film. The Airport in London is fogged in and the story focuses on a few of the V I P'S. Love triangles prevail as well as money issues for most of the people. It's kind of a ala GRAND HOTEL of sorts. The best thing about the movie is Maggie Smith (a jewel of a performance) and the lush music. How nice to hear a reacurring theme which is no longer used in todays films. The DVD transfer is super and while I wouldn't want to own the film, it's a great rental.
This is basically a soap-opera decorated like a Christmas tree with a
There are two plots and two non-plots. The non-plots, with Orson Wells and Rutherford, are uninteresting. From the two "plot-plots", the one with Rod Taylor and Maggie Smith is solid, though very predictable, and the one with the love triangle Burton-Taylor-Jourdan is soap-operatic though not tedious, as it may have easily turned out. The film is basically kept afloat - after a boring first 15-20 minutes - by R.Taylor, Smith, and Burton. Jourdan is average, and Elizabeth Taylor, though not bad, simply plays herself, and in the process does her distressed-rich-princess routine yet again.
If you want to read parodies/biographies of Welles, Taylor, and other Hollywood nitwits, contact me by e-mail.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(There are Spoilers) Stuck in the fogged in Heathrow Airport in London
a number of very important people, V.I.P.s, are confronted with a major
crisis in that if they don't leave Great Britian by midnight their
lives will never be the same again. The movie centers mostly on British
mega millionaire and ruthless businessman Paul Andros, Richard Burton,
who achieved everything that he started out in life to do but is
unknowingly throwing away the only thing that's really worth anything
to him his beautiful and frustrated wife Frances, Elizabeth Taylor.
Giving Frances everything in money and jewelry Paul has neglected to
give her any true affection and love treating her like she's one of his
prized possessions which lead Frances to secretly have an affair with
that international jet-setting gigolo and all around moocher, of the
rich and famous, Marc Champsella, Louis Jourdan.
Frances and Marc are planing to elope to New York and get married but their plans goes a bit sour when the flight their to take is fogged in and the note that Frances, a dear Paul letter, left at her and Paul's home to be opened when she and Marc were airborne and on their way to New York is discovered by Paul, while the two are still at Heathrow Airport. Paul then comes running, as well as to his senses, to the airport to confront Frances in her leaving him for the smooth talking and conniving con-artist Marc.
For the first time in his life Paul is left a broken and defeated man when Frances tells him in so many words to get lost. Later Paul does, mostly out of self-pity for himself, the most chartable things he ever did in his mostly selfish life. Paul writs out a blank check, that eventually amounted to 153,000 pound sterling, to a total stranger Australian tractor manufacture Les Mangrum, Rod Taylor, in order to save his company from being gobbled up in a corporate takeover. This act of charity not only changed Mangrum's life for the better but, not knowing this at the time,Pauls as well.
Paul was at the airport bar drowning his sorrows and slowly getting smashed when Mangrum's Girl Friday his private secretary Miss Mead, Maggy Smith, who recognized him as the big kahuna that he is approached Paul and begged him to save her boss from going bankrupt or even to jail, for passing a phony check. This act of kindness, which money wise was only a drop in the bucket for him, was something that Paul would have never done before he found that Frances left him. In the end it was this new understanding of his own short-comings, in his not being a kind feeling and giving human being, is what brought a tearful and forgiving Frances running back to him.
There's also the story in the film of the Dutchess of Brighton, Margaret Rutherford, at the airport booked for a flight to Miami Florida. The Dutchess has, at her very advanced age, to go back to work as a hostess at a Miami hotel in order to earn enough money to pay for the taxes and upkeep of her family Brighton home. It just happened that also at the airport is world famous schlock director Max Buda, Orsen Wells, who has to leave the country by midnight or else the money that he made last year in Britain, over one million pound sterling, will be taxed at over 85%. Thus leaving him, with his expensive dining and drinking habits, almost penniless.
With the expert advice of his financial whiz and adviser Doctor Schartzbacher, Martin Miller,Buda marries his favorite actress, who's in all his art films, the dizzy and star struck Gloria Gritt, Elsa Martinelli,which in effect by him putting all his earnings in her name. That exempts Buda from paying the brutal British taxes. At the same time have him make a deal with the Duchess to film his next movie at her castle or ancestral home in Brighton paying her as much as 3,000 pound sterling per day, for six weeks. That will more then get the cash-strapped Dutchess out of the hole in losing her beloved and precious country estate.
Really an all-around feel-good movie more then anything else where everyone ends up on the winning side except that sneaky heel and low-life chiseling gigolo Marc Champselle who's left holding the bag. Thats when Frances finally realizes what a phony creep he is, like her husband Paul warned her, and what a fine and wonderful man even though sometimes a bit too serious about himself, and his status in the whole scheme of things, her Paul Andros is.
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