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The First Real "Disaster" Film...
Isaac58552 December 2005
Another of my guilty pleasures is AIRPORT, the 1970 all-star cast drama based on the best selling novel by Arthur Hailey. This soapy potboiler follows multiple stories throughout a busy metropolitan airport. Subplots that appeared in the book naturally had to be watered down or removed entirely, but that was to be expected in telling a story of such size back in the late 60's. However, after 35 years, I still find this film a lot of fun to watch (even though it really should be experienced in a theater). Burt Lancaster is all stone-faced authority as Mel Bakersfield, the airport manager who neglects his wife (Dana Wynter) while lusting after his passenger relations agent (Jean Seberg). Dean Martin almost gives an actual performance as Vernon Demarest, the smooth-talking pilot who also neglects his wife (Barbara Hale) while having an affair with a stewardess (lovely Jacqueline Bisset)whom he has impregnated. George Kennedy began his long association with the character of Joe Patroni here(he would play the role in three subsequent sequels). Van Heflin is extremely effective as D.O. Guerrero, the sad and twisted man who plans to blow up an airliner. Helen Hayes won an Oscar playing Ada Quonsett, a little old lady who stows away on the plane, but that Oscar should have gone to Maureen Stapleton, who is just devastating as Guerrero's wife, who is totally dismayed about her husband's plan and is tragically heartbreaking during one brief scene near the end of the film. For those who like their adventure films spiced with some somewhat corny, soap suds, put your brain in check and have your fill with AIRPORT.
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Disaster in More Ways Than One
tvnutt16 December 2004
I thoroughly enjoyed Airport, hands down the best of the four flicks in the serial(does Concorde count? It was MFTV). There was so much tension going on both with the airline, the airport and the lives of some of the passengers and crew members. This was a good old fashioned 60's flick, but not too cheesy. Helen Hayes is excellent as the little old lady who with all the grace and charm, has made a career out of stowing away. I love how she fights with Jacqueline Bisset's character in order to distract the mad bomber on board(Van Heflin). The tension when Joe Patroni(George Kennedy) guns the plane's engines and gets that plane out of the snow was gut wrenching. Burt Lancaster as the married and harried airport manager who has some what of an affinity for his assistant. Dean Martin gave such a surprising dramatic performance as the captain who was carrying on a love affair with Bisset's stewardess who later tells him she's pregnant. Even Gary Collins wasn't THAT bad. The film's climactic ending leaves you nothing short of disturbed and breathless. Maureen Stapleton, upon learning the plane has landed after being blown up by her husband, walks up to the injured passengers bawling her eyes out and apologizing for her husband's actions. Of course my favorite is the scene where Bisset's character Gwen(who was wounded in the blast) is being escorted by the doctor who tells the EMT's on the ground that Gwen is pregnant. Martin is also escorting her, completely bypassing his wife, who is ready to give him a hug and then soon puts two and two together. What a way to find out! That dejected look on Hale's face, who is once again playing her, oh so kind and understanding character, you can't help but hate Martin for this last scene. Hale almost never played the "bad girl." She's a favorite of mine. Airport will keep you on edge. Haley managed to intertwine the suspension and soap opera dramatics that made the prime time soap opera "Hotel" so popular. He definitely walks a fine line and doesn't go over either one.
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Airport scales the lofty heights
krorie16 October 2005
I recently watched "Airport" on TCM. It was the first time I had seen it in its original widescreen format since it came out in 1970. I was surprised at how well it has held up with the passage of time. Although there have been disaster movies from the beginning of cinema in the late 19th century and one that dealt specifically with an airplane in danger ("The High and the Mighty"), this was the film that launched the modern disaster craze that produced "The Towering Inferno," "The Poseidon Adventure," and countless others including "The Day After Tomorrow." The hilarious spoof "Airplane" which poked fun at the clichés and pretentiousness of the films did much to discredit the genre until recently.

"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.
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Undeniably entertaining!
Nazi_Fighter_David22 December 1999
Warning: Spoilers
"Airport" is a fascinating well-made drama, based on Arthur Hailey's best-selling novel, chronicling the unlucky event that strike a trans-Atlantic flight bound to Rome...

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!
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A Great Film with Great Actors
inspt71-122 April 2004
Airport is a classic film that was one of the films that began the disaster film genre. It contains great actors like Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Helen Hayes, George Kennedy and Jaquline Bissett. Helen Hayes won the films only Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her comic role as the Stow away. I have one question. Where was George Kennedy's Oscar? I think he should have recieved an Oscar for his role as Joe Patronni. To recieve 10 Oscar nominations is an incredible achievement for a film of this Genre. Alfred Newman gives an upbeat and suspenseful music score and Ernest Laszlo's cinematography is good. Altogether, this film is a great one and there isn't any down spots that I noticed. Dean Martin was great as the smart mouthed airline pilot and Burt Lancaster as Bakerfeld, the airport manager. Van Hefiln was also good because he made you believe that his character had problems. A great film, worth your time to watch.
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The Original Disaster Flick
tfrizzell1 September 2000
"Airport" is an impressive disaster epic that rises high above the ground due to its characters. Every key player adds to the plot and that fact makes "Airport" a very good film from a great decade of movies. Oscar-winner Helen Hayes, in particular, dominates when she appears on the screen. Unfortunately this film would spawn one of the most trivial genres in the history of the cinema. 4 out of 5 stars.
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Air Plot
clydestuff18 February 2004
In 1968, Arthur Hailey's best selling novel Airport was a fixture atop the best seller's lists. It was an intricate detailed telling of the inner workings of fictional Lincoln International Airport trying desperately to function during one of the worst snow storms in decades. Hailey had researched the book for five years, and as he weaved his soap opera storyline magic, we gained a fascinating behind the scenes look of airport operations, why airlines function the way they do, and a detailed look at the stressful lives of air-traffic controllers. It was these details that made the novel great. Hailey wrote his characters with substance, digging deep into their personalities, motivations and psyche, so that we always understood their actions and reactions. The basic plot lines may have been high class soap-opera but the book as a whole was one of great substance and readability.

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
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Classy action
Rrrobert12 February 2000
Airport is a film that has been unfairly tarnished by having spawned three `sequels' which were really just variations on the aviation disaster plot-line with little in common with this film. In fact there is a whole lot more to this film than aviation disaster but at no point is there the feeling of `gee I wish the plane would hurry up and crash'. Much of the running time is taken with exploring the personal dramas of the various personalities of Lincoln Airport; Mel Bakersfield (Burt Lancaster) must contend with stacked up planes and a snow-bound airport, a bitter wife, and philandering and antagonistic brother-in-law Vernon Demerest (Dean Martin). Between dealing with complaints by nearby residents and airport officials, Mel loves Tania Livingstone (Jean Seberg), the calm and efficient Airport administrator who spends her time at the airport dealing with complaining customers, customs cheats, and little old lady stowaway Ada Quonset (Helen Hayes). Meanwhile Vernon, married to Mel's sister Sarah also loves flight attendant Gwen Mieghan (Jacqueline Bissett) who has just announced her pregnancy. Much sympathy is generated for struggling older woman Inez Guerrero (Maureen Stapleton, who is excellent) who discovers that her heavily insured husband D O Guerrero (Van Heflin, also excellent in one of his last roles) who has claimed to have found demolition work in Milwaukee, has actually booked a one-way ticket to Rome. Inez frantically travels to the airport but arrives after the plane has taken off... with Vernon, Gwen and Ada amongst those on board.

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...)
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This movie Is a classic.
dbr747418 November 2004
Is amuses me how easily many here can offer condemnation of this film. If you condemn it by reason that it doesn't capture the viewer in a way that say The Maltese Falcon or Vertigo did then perhaps I can understand.

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.
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Hollywood's first big-budget disaster film...and still the best
SJBear27 February 1999
Universal assembled an all-star cast for this film version of Arthur Hailey's best-selling novel "Airport", and the result was a critical and box-office smash that earned 10 Oscar nominations. The film is at its basics pure soap-opera built around the impending bomb on a 707 bound for Rome. The workings of a major international airport are well depicted and the cast provides some great performances. Burt Lancaster, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean Seberg, Maureen Stapleton, Dean Martin, and Van Heflin all turn in some of the best performances of their careers, and Helen Hayes (who won an Oscar for supporting actress) is endearing as the stowaway, who has worked out quite a system for flying for free. "Airport"'s success signaled the beginning of the disaster movie era that was followed over the next several years by such films as "The Poseidon Adventure", "The Towering Inferno", "Earthquake", "Two Minute Warning", and "Rollercoaster". "Airport" also inspired three sequels, although none of them even approached the original.
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Enjoy it every time!
cemab4y16 April 2009
I just saw this film again. I always enjoy it. It is a "time warp" 39 years ago, the hairstyles, the clothing, the airport. I always get a hoot when Van Heflin just strolls on the airplane, with a bomb in a briefcase. I have been flying since 1974, and since Sept 11 2001, you have to strip, take off your shoes, and get wanded. Strange to see the airport procedures of this bygone era.

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!
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Boeing Boeing
jotix1008 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Airport", which was recently shown on cable, was a popular film when it was released. Arthur Hailey, whose novel is the basis for this movie, adapted his own material with the director. "Airport" is a fine example of the 'disaster' film genre that was much in vogue during those years. The nature of the setting serves to present a lot of characters in small stories related to that particular winter night at a large airport where things go wrong because of the weather and the inner conflicts of most of the people that are involved in the story.

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.
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A sort of 'Grand Hotel' in the sky...
Neil Doyle11 June 2002
Watching AIRPORT today is like watching a parody of the film because of all of the spinoffs that followed, including the hilarious AIRPLANE! And sometimes you have to wonder about the humor--especially the scene where the priest slaps a hysterical man across the aisle without even a glance at him.

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.
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Interesting for its parts, and players, not for the bloated plot
secondtake2 May 2014
Airport (1970)

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.
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Where's This Going? Oh.
ReelCheese27 August 2006
You'll spend the first quarter of this film wondering where it's going. Once you find out, "Airport" is an entertaining effort. An ensemble cast including Dean Martin, Burt Lancaster and George Kennedy lead the way on a snowy winter night at a midwestern airport. Not only is one of their planes stuck in deep snow, blocking a valuable runway, but a separate flight has been forced to turn around and make an emergency landing after a botched bombing.

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.
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Gleefully Walks the Line of Good and Hilarious Unintentional Comedy
datemaru6 March 2015
I should qualify my above statement by saying I'm 25 and my entire experience with Airport before hand was none. I have seen both Airplane movies, I own them and the Naked Gun movies, their my favorite comedies.

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.
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Sweet old ladies, mad bombers, pilots with marital problems...Its all here!
mark.waltz25 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This delightful disaster soap opera started off a trend of all-star popcorn movies where some sort of tragic occurrence changed the courses of people's lives. Whether it be a bomb exploding on a plane, a tidal wave tossing a cruise ship upside down, a skyscraper catching on fire or a massive earthquake, Hollywood filmmakers became obsessed with finding new ways to toss old and new actors together to bring fun onto the screen while giving its audience something to bite their nails over as famous people fought to survive something totally beyond their control.

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?
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Good Disaster Drama.
AaronCapenBanner10 September 2013
George Seaton directed this massive box-office hit about an busy airport(of course!) threatened not only by a blizzard, but a bomber on one of its planes. All-star cast includes Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jacqueline Bissit, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, and George Kennedy as Joe Patroni, a role he would reprise in the three sequels.

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.
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You gotta see this
Muggy Bhat19 March 2006
It's nice to see a movie well made. And Airport is one of them. The movie begins with a display of stuff that makes an airport function. Viewer might get a little bored during the first 30 minutes, especially if he/she is looking for some adrenaline pumping action from the first frame. Now if you stop watching at this point then you would have missed quite a lot. Airport is the kind of movie that slowly but surely builds up a tempo, ending with a nail-biting finish. I would suggest every user get their hands on the novel Airport by Arthur Hailey either before watching the movie (will make the movie seem quicker in comparison) or at least after watching (believe me you will crave for every detail you can get in the book). I did it the first way and loved every moment of the movie. This is a must watch for every drama freak.
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A masterpiece; but not the "grandaddy" of disaster films -- the "grandson," maybe!
Larry-9822 January 1999
The "grandaddy" of aviation disaster films would be The High and The Mighty, starring John Wayne. Airport, however, brought such films into the jet age, and did so in a manner which was at once dramatically exciting, and hilarious! This is a very funny movie!

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!
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First-class entertainment.
vip_ebriega17 September 2009
My Take: A bit cheesy and stodgy at times, but so old-fashioned, it's very entertaining.

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.
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Excellent entertainment and historic air travel fun!
bryan19kc7 August 2006
Glad to see that others enjoyed the movie on TCM this evening. I'm rather disturbed that they used an older "cut-up" version that was intended for network showing. Several good scenes were cut out of the way. (I have several different versions and cuts of this movie on DVD and VHS). Yes, I still enjoy watching the movie.

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.
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A Simple Treasure
RNMorton25 February 2005
There's been a big debate for years on the baseball Hall of Fame about who really belongs, the best players ever? the best at their position? the best of their generation of players? If you apply the last standard then this one would certainly make the Movie Hall of Fame. Lancaster, Deano and Kennedy lead a star-studded cast in a non-stop roller-coaster ride over 8 hours or so at a snowy Nebraska airport and in the skies. I suppose this movie is more derivative than I realize - there were a number of airplane disaster films before this one - but the sources go back before my time. As it is this one is perfectly paced and never lets up from beginning to end. This was the first and best of the 70's big budget disaster movies; it was also followed by several mediocre Airport "sequels" that bear little resemblance to this simple treasure. Derivative or not, this film has been so copied (hilariously by Airplane! among others) that I suspect younger viewers don't give it the credit it deserves.
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It smartly works the audience up while never being too outlandish...
moonspinner5530 March 2008
"Airport" wasn't the first all-star "disaster" movie--those have always been a bankable commodity in Hollywood--but it was probably the first one to garner truly blockbuster returns (and effusive reviews and awards), creating a new vogue in cinema which lasted throughout the 1970s. Sprawling melodrama from Arthur Hailey's bestseller intertwines several sudsy plots as an ill-fated airliner leaves a snowbound airport. Helen Hayes won a Supporting Actress Oscar as a stowaway, all but stealing the film from headliners Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin and George Kennedy. Jacqueline Bisset plays a stewardess in love with married pilot Martin (what an odd combination), and her youthful beauty is stunning though the role itself is colorless (when she gets a burst of conviction near the end, it appears to come out of nowhere). Van Heflin and Maureen Stapleton do very well in pivotal supporting roles, the undercurrent of cynical humor is appealing, and the handsome production looks sumptuous and credible. Director George Seaton takes it all at a steady pace, though the "disaster" action is a long time in coming. Plenty of juicy tidbits keep it interesting and engaging. Followed by a myriad of sequels and imitations. **1/2 from ****
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If you are a disaster genre fan? Get in line for your ticket.
Spikeopath25 November 2008
Lincoln International Airport is swamped by a truly severe snow storm, frozen runways and inadequate vision are causing no end of problems. Yet these are not the only things causing distress on this blustery evening, marital strife and stress management issues are besetting some of the airports major players, all this when a madman with a bomb has boarded the flight to Rome!

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
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