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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
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 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...)
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!