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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
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.
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
high class soap-opera but the book as a whole was one of great substance
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
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.
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.
*** This review may contain 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!
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.
"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.
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.
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.
Although The Poseidon Adventure gets all the credit, Airport is the
film that really kicked off the 70s disaster craze. Unlike its three
follow-ups, this adaptation of Arthur Hailey's doorstop novel really is
as much about the snowbound airport as it is the imperilled plane, one
of many plots the movie juggles. Hailey had built his novel around a
1956 Canadian TV movie he wrote called Flight Into Danger, but much of
it plays like a Peyton Place-esquire soap opera: will embattled airport
manager Burt Lancaster stay married to Dana Wynter or to his job or
will he go off into the sunrise with that nice airline rep Jean Seberg?
Will pilot Dean Martin leave his wife now he's got stewardess
Jacqueline Bisset up the duff? Will Helen Hayes' scene-stealing
geriatric stowaway get caught? Will George Kennedy clear the blocked
runway in time to avoid tragedy? Will Van Heflin's mentally troubled
demolitions expert set off the bomb in his briefcase? Would there be a
movie if he didn't?
Shot like an epic to emphasise the size and scale of everything (it even opens with an overture of sound effects of a busy airport terminal before bursting into Alfred Newman's urgent rumba-led score) it's a big, glossy well crafted entertainment that still holds up surprisingly well, especially in widescreen where the occasional split-screen effects come into their own (not to mention a great gag with a priest and an annoying passenger during the crash landing that's usually lost in the TV panning-and-scanning). It's the least sensational of the series but still the most effective, and there's no shortage of familiar faces in the passenger seats, from Lloyd Nolan, Maureen Stapleton, Jesse Royce Landis, Whit Bissell and the original "Jimmy Bond 007" of the CIA, Barry Nelson. Sadly, setting something of an unfortunate pattern for the series, the 707 used in the film crashed in 1989, somewhat disproving the constant accolades the plane's abilities receive throughout the film ("The only thing a 707 can't do is read!").
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