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"Airport" was based on the popular best seller by Arthur Hailey. Although over two hours long, the movie moves and the viewer never gets bored. The stellar cast does an exceptional job with a standout performance by the legendary Helen Hayes. The ending is both happy and sad. So it does not cop out on several key themes of the story. Many of the roles, such as George Kennedy's Joe Patroni, are played lightly and this adds zest to the performances. When the script begins to get syrupy a new element of emergency is thrown in to pick it up and go.
Forget all the cliché-ridden disaster flicks you have seen since "Airport." You will be entertained and not feel cheated when the closing credits appear.
With its strong cast, the film provides excitement, thrill and tension played on the wide-spread danger of air travel...
Directed by the veteran George Seaton, "Airport" has two romantic triangles besides some major complications...
Burt Lancaster performs the unhappily-married man to an elegant Dana Wynter, and the exhausted airport manager who, in a single night, is forced to contend with everything, from a devastating snow-storm to a Boeing 707 bomber...
Helen Hayes stands out as the eccentric little old lady passenger, winner of a well-deserved Oscar as Supporting Actress, after a 12-year absence from the screen...
Another nominee is Maureen Stapleton in an outstanding performance as the afflictive, desperate wife of an expert in demolition (a disturb Heflin) projecting vitality and fatigue as vulnerability and strength to her role...
Barbara Hale does not have much showcasing compared to the scene-stealing performances of Hayes or Stapleton but she handles well the sequence of relief, then despair and finally resignation as she witnesses her husband escorting Bisset in the climax of the film...
George Kennedy is excellent as the 'biting cigar' maintenance Chief Patroni, the expert in the aviation world... The scene of his maneuvering of the Boeing, trapped in the snow, to free the runway, is incredible... In this scene we can appreciate the prototype of the Boeing 707 that 'could do everything, but read.'
The highlights of the film: the scene of the cabin class, after the violent explosion; the effects of the compression at 30,000 feet; the Radar Room and Air Traffic Control; and the unperturbed voice of one of the Air Controller, his steadiness, serenity, skill and knowledge...
Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, "Airport" is undeniably entertaining!
In 1970, Hailey's book hit the big screen as an all star glitzy Hollywood production. Unable to put the complex details of Airport operations onto the big screen, director and writer George Seaton gave us all melodrama and not much technical details. As Hollywood spectacle it's fun to watch and taken on that level you won't mind giving it a look. If you've read Hailey's novel, you'll probably be disappointed.
Of course in a film such as this with enough plots to make six movies, you are bound by the unwritten law of Hollywood to have a recognizable all star cast. So get your pens and pencils out and get ready to draw a chart. Headlining Airport are Burt Lancaster as Mel Bakersfield the airport manager, and Dean Martin as his Mel's brother-in-law and a philandering pilot, Vern Demerest. Lancaster is easily the better of the two. He has this aura about him that makes us believe he could be running a Metropolitan Airport. Martin is not quite as successful as Lancaster. He is Dean Martin playing Dean Martin pretending to be the aforementioned playboy pilot. Heck, though, he makes the character a likable enough guy that you won't mind it a bit. Another disappointment is that Martin and Lancaster only have one brief scene together. It would have been nice if Seaton would have added a few more, just so we could watch two legends work together.
Jean Seberg plays Tonya Livingston, an airline representative who has designs on Mel despite the fact that Mel is still married. We believe her as the airline rep., but the chemistry between Seberg and Lancaster never really clicks. If the relationship were gone into in more detail then perhaps one would feel differently. Unfortunately that's one thing this film is in short supply of is important details.
Next up in our role call is Jacqueline Bisset, who plays stewardess and Mistress Gwen Meighen who also happens to be pregnant (Captain, we have an extra passenger on board). As Gwen, Bisset gives us one of the more believable characters in this film, making us understand her feelings for Vern enough that though she never says it we see her love for him. George Kennedy provides comedy relief as Joe Patroni, an ace airline mechanic brought in to remove an airliner mired in the snow and blocking a key runway. Helen Hayes is on hand as an airplane stowaway. Though she may look like a sweet little old lady, don't be fooled. Having won an Oscar in 1932 for The Sin of Madelon Claudet, she would pick up another on thirty eight years later as a supporting actress for her role as Ada Quonsett.
The very best in this film though are Van Heflin as D.O. Guerrero, a down on his luck, out of work construction worker, who hatches a chilling desperate plan to change the financial fortunes of his family. As his wife Inez, Maureen Stapleton may not have copped the Oscar, but should have. Her portrayal of Inez has some of the more touching moments in Airport.
One of the other great stars of Airport is the snow storm itself. In scenes filmed by Ernest Lazlo and directed by Henry Hathaway, the outdoor settings of snow blanketing the airport are so realistic; you'll be going to the closet to grab a coat. Alfred Newman's lush score blends right into the goings on, and his opening title overture will suck you right into the film.
Ross Hunter was the producer on airport. His involvement in glitzy Hollywood soap operas of the past such as Imitation of Life, Madame X, would help to explain much of the goings on in this film. On another note, I was unimpressed with Edith Head's costume design for the stewardesses. They are unattractively bland, and seem almost matronly.
Airport will never be confused with great film making. None the less, it is still highly watchable entertainment. It gives us a lot of plots, a lot of stars, a lot of snow and a some suspense. And for all that you get my grade which is: B
The film is an classy, old-fashioned drama which does not feel at all like the wave of disaster films that followed. The acting and characterisation is good and the subplots genuinely involving. There is also an interesting use of split-screen type devices, and a nice line in comedy. A great film if you can ignore all those silly disclaimers insisting that Boeing 707s are excellent aeroplanes, etc. (Not that they aren't good planes or anything...)
It seems however that most of the harsh words are coming from the youngsters without much desire to even know what real films were like. I suppose it's not entirely their fault. I mean an action film to them has to involve no less than 55% CGI effects, 25% scantily clad, or outright nude actresses, oh! and more times than not a totally unrealistic plot.
But you see many years back in the early 70s and beyond they didn't have CGI to make up for lacking plots and poor acting. And at that point and time you couldn't really show full nudity so you couldn't rack them into theaters that way either (note the first scene with the lovely Miss. Bissett where she emerges from the shower and barely flashes just the side of her breast. That was probably pretty racy for the time).
So since you can't have any cheap outs like you can today, Gee Whiz! you had to have a real plot and have the ability to act! Lancaster has always been a favorite and he did act very well in this film. Youngsters see the likes of Dean Martin and George Kennedy and don't know what to think because all they've ever known was a Hollywood that produces computer generated fluff. Frankly guys if your idea of an action movie is watching Speed then you need to widen your horizon (no offense to the great Dennis Hopper).
Airport was not as in depth as the book, this is true. Seldom will you find a screenplay to be written with the same depth. Do you know why? Because you can't make the film last for 9 hours!
I know this is more a rebuttal that an outright review of the movie, but it amazes me how some of the CGI junkies have room to talk when it comes to offering their disdain for films with some of the most historic actors in history. This movie is totally entertaining and works well. And the idea some whine because it may not be 'PC' by today's standards is nothing more than extremist liberal drivel. Dino womanizing is apparently an offensive no-no. But today you can show something 50 times as bad and because its more modern and allegedly more acceptable by this standard, no one blinks. Amazing.
The ensemble cast is always enjoyable. I like Dean Martin (the pilot) who is married to Barbara Hale (Perry Mason's secretary, Della Street, in one of her few film roles. When Dean Martin decides to divorce her, and continue in the relationship with Jacqueline Bisset (the stewardess), I hope the wife does not get Perry Mason for the divorce! Parry will clean his plow!
In a way, as Neil Doyle has pointed out in this forum, "Airport" can be seen as the equivalent of "Grand Hotel", in that so many larger than life figures are seen center stage, as they bring their conflicts to the surface.
There is Mel Bakersfeld, the airport director, whose life is so involved in his job, his married life is suffering. At the same time, Tanya Livingston, the executive airline lady, who loves Mel, but knows she can't have him, is seen as a dignified woman who won't make a move to make him feel guilty.
We also meet Capt. Vernon Demarest, a married airline pilot who is having an affair with a gorgeous flight attendant, Gwen. When she tells him she is pregnant, Vernon doesn't know what to do. He is in a way, a coward, because he has played with her and probably has no intentions of ever leaving his wife and cushy life.
The other couple, the Guerreros, are going through some hard times. The husband is an unemployed explosives expert, who decides to take matters into his own hands. By bringing a small device to the flight he has booked to Rome, will leave Inez, his wife, a wealthy woman because he has taken care of insuring himself.
The comic relief comes in the way of Ada Quansett, a crafty older woman, who has a wonderful plan to get free rides on different airlines. Mrs. Quansett is able to get away with her scheme by using her intelligence. Unfortunately, she is in the fateful Rome flight that scares everyone on board and one figures the scare to try ever again, but she has a surprise for everyone at the end, where she gets to fly first class.
The film can't concentrate in anyone in particular, so all the principals are never seen for too long. Burt Lancaster, Jean Seberg, Dean Martin, Jacqueline Bisset, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, George Kennedy, Dana Wynter, Lloyd Nolan, Gary Collins, Jessie Royce Landis, and the rest, contribute to make the film a nice trip to nowhere.
Alfred Newman's music is an asset in the film and Ernest Lazlo cinematography is also effective in showing how people traveled at the time. George Seaton directs this multi talented cast well, creating an entertaining movie along the way.
But the sub-plots (and there are quite a few) hold together very well and at the center of all the suspense is a humorous plot involving a little old lady stowaway (Helen Hayes). Her interrogation scene with Jean Seberg is priceless and all the way through she shows a remarkable talent for scene-stealing. It's hard to watch anyone else when she's going through her paces.
The suspense build-up is slow but steady once the plane takes off in a snowstorm--and by the way, the snow effects are very realistic for a change--almost as though the film was shot in a real blizzard, which it probably wasn't.
This is well played by the entire cast--with the exception of Dean Martin who looks too casual even when the plane is making a final, desperate landing. He never gets inside his role as a pilot. Burt Lancaster doesn't do much with his character either--but everyone else shines. Maureen Stapleton is touching as the worried wife of the bomber (Van Heflin). Heflin was in his last film role here, looking rather flabby and worn but good as the paranoid bomber.
Too bad that two of the male leads gave less than adequate performances. It would have helped considerably to make us believe more in the overall tale. By today's standards, the film looks dated and a bit overwrought almost to the point of comic foolishness--but that's what we get for seeing all the subsequent 'Airport' films.
This has such a stellar cast, and such hype (left over from the day), it's hard to remember that this is also a over-the-top kind of polished production not so terribly different than "Ben Hur" and other big studio product.
But does it work? Yes, overall. It's fast, enjoyable, and not really serious, even though it's gripping at times. Don't confuse this with "Airplane," for sure, though the comedy gets part of its inspiration here, for sure.
When I say stellar cast, I don't just mean Burt Lancaster who is terrific (and who called it the biggest piece of junk ever made). He plays the determined leading man (running the airport) very well. Not just Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, and Jacqueline Bisset, either. These all play fairly thin roles, and very well, if you can play a thin role well. I'm thinking not even of every larger George Kennedy who is in charge of keeping the runways running (and that's the core of the crisis here, as a plane has turned too soon and gotten stuck in the snow), nor Helen Hayes, who plays a terrific batty old woman who sneaks onto planes (she won the Oscar for best supporting actress).
Maybe most impressive are the two actors playing a troubled couple, the man an actor I think is always underrated, Van Heflin. This is his last role, and he's still a master at subtle believability. His wife is played by the really impressive Maureen Stapleton, pouring out a small but moving performance as a worried, disenchanted, sad woman who suddenly realizes her husband is going to do something terrible. She won a Golden Globe for best supporting actress, well deserved.
The production? Glossy and sterile. The plot? Sterile, for sure, and predictable. Subplots (of which there are many)? Forced and absurd. (One example—Martin and Bisset, playing pilot and stewardess, are having an affair. And she's pregnant. And they get serious in the aisles about what do to. But then she gets hurt in the big crisis in the air later on, and so on.)
I hate to admit I enjoyed this movie. It really is a big piece of junk. But all these actors are fascinating in some way or another. And the crappy plot is still exciting and interwoven in that way airport novels are. Yes, that kind of book you pick up to read on the place because it's distracting and not demanding. That's it, said and done.
Two things hurt "Airport" the most. The first is its drawn out "get to know the characters" opening. It starts out like a family drama, and it's more than 35 minutes -- far too long -- before we learn what it truly wants to be. Secondly, the film sporadically attempts humor. With the rest of the running time so serious -- dealing with terror, suspense, adultery and the like -- such lightheartedness comes off as plain awkward. Besides that, the acting is a little stiff, but its overall harm to the picture is minimal.
See "Airport" on a rainy day. Just be prepared to invest a lot of time before things really pick up. It's rated G, so don't worry about the kiddies walking in.
So I wondered when this came up on Turner Classic Movies if I could take this movie seriously.
I was not surprised how much unintentional comedy is in this movie. There are so many things in this movie that could only happen not only pre-9/11, but pre-Lockerbie Bombing. Like how a passenger (Helen Hayes) managed to sneak aboard an international flight and it did not caused every federal agency to freak out. Or the captain leaving the flight deck during the flight. Or that the captain smoked a pipe... while flying. Or that George Kennedy is in this movie. I'm know he was a serious actor, but I will always remember him as the man foaming at the mouth in the Naked Gun 2 1/2.
But I was even more surprised how much intentional comedy there is in this movie. There is a scene when the plane is returning because something went horribly wrong (not much of a spoiler in the "original disaster movie") and one of the passengers is freaking out screaming "we're all gonna' die!". On the other side of the aisle is a priest in one fluid movement crosses himself and backhands the guy in the face.
The drama is also pretty good as you see a three or so minor plots all pull together in one major disaster threatening to kill everyone on board this Boeing 707. As someone who watches that air disaster documentary I felt like it was a story done by someone who actually knew a thing or two about airlines. Actually Airport is apparently based off a book written with enough technical details worthy of Tom Clancy... and since Tom Clancy is my favorite author I might read it.
There are some things like slightly stilted acting and some odd editing choices like when characters are talking via phone or radio they insert the person on the other end. It's not a bad idea, but I normally associate this kind of shot with sitcoms and feels out of place in a drama. It was better used in the middle of the movie when a woman disappears and they use the PA to alert security and as they make the announcement it shows security guards in different points in the airport all snapping to attention, I thought it was very effective there.
Also points where I thought when the plane comes in for its inevitable emergency landing that I thought we needed more exterior shots or the people on the ground waiting for the plane, but I assume they just didn't have the budget since in 1970 they would have had to use practical effects. But that is also what I liked, everything was practical. Even seeing the obvious toy airplane gliding on a string through dry ice just made me smile.
Airport is in summary a good movie. It has comedy, it has drama, it has romance, it has interesting cinematography, it has good actors, it has practical effects, and it has the charm of an old movie. I think having seen Airplane first enhanced my enjoyment. It's one of those movies that has something for everyone.
Of the four "Airport" films, this is by far the best, although "Airport '75" is certainly more famous as a camp classic. Here, a group of strangers are tossed together in an enclosed space where they have no idea a disgruntled man has gotten onto the plane with a man made bomb he intends to explode so his wife can get money from the insurance policy he's just purchased. It doesn't matter that innocent people will be taken out with him or that there are laws that would keep her from getting anything, he's determined to put his evil plan into motion. Yet, there's a pitiful quality about this down on his luck elderly man (a magnificent Van Heflin) that prevents you from totally hating him, and his lovable wife (Maureen Stapleton in one of her finest performances) has obviously remained loyal in spite of his shortcomings.
To off-set the tragedy, there's a cute old lady (Helen Hayes) who stows away all the time in order to go see her grown children. Yet, this time, she may not get away with it, giving away her secrets to amused airport executive Burt Lancaster and the no-nonsense Jean Seberg whom Hayes politely tells to lighten up after Seberg grills her for breaking the law. Pilot Dean Martin is involved with pretty stewardess Jacqueline Bisset even though he's married to the older and very rich Barbara Hale. Bisset has a secret however which will be greatly affected by the results of what occurs with Heflin's bomb.
Then, there's irascible George Kennedy in the first of four "Airport" appearances as Patroni, a technical genius who spouts all sorts of technical jargon to give the audience the opportunity to understand how an airport works behind the scenes of the ticket counter and the baggage claim. Kennedy's dialog in these films seemed to get sillier and sillier, and by the time of 1979's "Concorde", his appearances here were deemed as some sort of bad joke.
Veteran actress Jessie Royce Landis is amusing in a cameo as a wealthy matron smuggling diamonds in her pooch's collar and Lloyd Nolan is memorable as an aging security guard. A ton of familiar character actors pop in and out in amusing cameos, with James Nolan very funny as a priest whose patience has run out as he deals with the obnoxious passenger next to him on the plane.
While Hayes won the Oscar here for her first film in 14 years, it is Stapleton who was certainly more worthy. She would have to wait more than a decade to get an Oscar, but her performance is certainly more memorable, although Hayes is an adorable old lady. All she's missing is the tweety bird and cage and black and white cat, because ultimately, she is more of a cartoon character than a real person. This created a huge box office sensation in the early 70's and remains greatly enjoyable. The split screen sequences are a lot of fun (having been used by producer Ross Hunter a decade before in "Pillow Talk") and an excellent music score by Alfred Newman also adds to the tension. Yes, there is a bit of a lack of reality, but ultimately, when you've got so much fun on screen, who really cares?
Though long, contrived, and potentially silly, this film still managed to be entertaining in spite of the melodrama, thanks to the good cast of actors who still give it their all(and a wonderful, Academy Award winning performance by Helen Hayes as a chronic "stowaway".)
Though star Burt Lancaster was embarrassed by its success, and despite later spoofing, this holds up as fine escapist fare.
Burt Lancaster is perfection as Mel Bakersfield, the harried, overworked, wife-harassed General Manager of a great Midwestern Airport, Lincoln International (actually Minneapolis-St. Paul International). They must have actually filmed during a blizzard, or spent a lot of money making it look like they did.
Helen Hayes, as the stowaway Ada Quonset, and George Kennedy, as the rough-and-tumble maintenance chief Joe Patroni, provide most of the humor. The scene with Hayes, Seberg, and Lancaster, where Mrs. Quonset is being interviewed regarding her procedures for stowing away on airliners, is one of my favorite comedy scenes! Joe Patroni's simple, brute-force way of making things happen makes me proud to be an American! The plot is standard, yet we get to care about all the characters, and we get a pretty good sense of closure at the end of the film!
A real challenge to any filmmaker would be to re-make this film and bring it up-to-date, without insulting the intelligence of aviation film buffs like me!
Although it's been acknowledged that it began the disaster movie craze in the 1970's, AIRPORT was more melodrama than a real disaster movie. In fact, the main disaster, about a mad bomber on a plane, takes backstage to everyday "disasters"; the drama of different people set on a busy, snowy night at the airport. Although its rather trite by today's standards, AIRPORT is an excellent relic of pure 70's cinema. Hate to bring up a cliché but they don't make 'em like this anymore!
It's a busy winter night at Lincoln International Airport. A 707 takes a shortcut across the runway and gets stuck in the snow. Airport manager Mel Bakersfield (Burt Lancaster) sorts out the problem (with a little help from , while at the same time having a few problems with his angry wife (Dana Wynter). Meanwhile, pilot Vernon Demerest (Dean Martin), married to Bakersfield's sister (Barbara Hale), is having an affair with stewardess Gwen Meighen (Jacqueline Bisset). Back on the ground, Bakersfield's assistant Tanya (Jean Seaberg) is having a few problems with a stubborn elderly stowaway Ada Quonsett (Helen Hayes, in an Oscar-winning role), whose not the nice old lady you think she is. Meanwhile, desperate loose cannon Guerrero (Van Heflin) boards a plane (not to coincidentally, the plane piloted by Martin) with a suspicious suitcase. Add to that, the airport struggles to stay open despite a devastating winter storm and the bickering of angry homeowners and engineer Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) struggles to move the trapped airliner to clear the path of the runway. Whew! Now that's more plot than you'll ever find in one soap opera!
Based on the novel by Arthur Hailey, and written for the screen by George Seaton (who also directed), AIRPORT tries its best to balance these several stories (as advertised, that's seven stories!) together. Although the movie's several subplots tend to be too crowded and therefore a bit confusing, the movie still plays along just fine, moving along from one subplot to another without harming the film's overall narrative, and all is resolved in the end. But AIRPORT is nothing without its legendary cast (which the advertisements proclaim: "The biggest cast ever assembled for a Universal Picture"). They surely won't be able to do this kind of casting today without risking half a film's budget. That, along with the tuneful score by Alfred Newman and a witty old-school screenplay, give AIRPORT that irresistible old-fashioned charm that makes it still worth seeing.
Rating: **** out of 5.
I think the important thing to observe is that during the 1970's air travel was considered "much more" luxurious than it is now, and a majority of middle class Americans had not yet taken to the sky. Believe it or not, you really did get real wine glasses while in coach. :-) The set design of the 707 is EXACTLY perfect. I flew with my parents many times and remember those interiors well. I wish the airlines would take a look at this movie while they are doing personnel reviews. HEHE..
Sure, the writing is a little "campy" but overall it is an excellent movie with actual historic value.
Based on the hugely successful novel written by Arthur Hayley, Airport is not only the trail blazer for the disaster genre, it's also a case study for star appeal over basic substance. Which all told makes for an interesting bed fellow. Yet as niggly as Airport is at times, and as dated as it so clearly is (but lets say period piece), the entertainment value and slick professionalism more than make it a hugely enjoyable piece of fluff. I mean come on, when Dean Martin is the Captain of your flight, you just know that this is a film to be enjoyed with a pinch of salt, this in spite of the multi threaded strands of character arcs that seam throughout the course of the picture.
Not without tension, excitement and surprisingly deft moments of humour, (something the makers of Airplane would wonderfully exploit ten years later), Airport suffers mainly because it just doesn't have the time to cram in all of Haley's technical aspects from the book. We do get little tasters of just how pressurised the workers of a busy airport are, both with Dean Martin's Captain Demerest and Burt Lancaster's airport manager, Mel Bakersfield. But in the main the substance needed is glossed over in favour of a star cast mugging for all they are worth. That they are all duty bound to look good as they triumph is of course a given. But in spite of my grumblings, and my willingness to accept Airport's failings (you will never find me debating with someone who thinks it's awful) I just flipping think it's great viewing, but then again I'm a disaster genre fan, a genre that doesn't take itself as seriously as some of its detractors do.
Universal Studios were well sweating on the reception to Airport, after plunging in $10 million to make the piece, there was a big feeling that the film would fail miserably. They needn't have worried, it made four times that amount, was nominated for 10 Oscar's, winning the one for Best Supporting Actress (Helen Hayes wonderful as batty stowaway Ada Quonsett) and the 70s public lapped it up.
Not bad for a star laden piece of cheese really. 7/10