Awaiting London's Heathrow Airport for a flight to New York City, Frances Andros (Dame Elizabeth Taylor), seen off by her tycoon husband, Paul Andros (Richard Burton), plans to leave her spouse for the arms of an aging international playboy, Marc Champselle (Louis Jourdan). Les Mangrum (Rod Taylor), a self-made Australian businessman travelling with his loyal secretary, Miss Mead (Dame Maggie Smith), must be in New York City the following day to arrange the loan that will help him repel a hostile takeover of his tractor company. Max Buda (Orson Welles), a movie mogul travelling with starlet Gloria Gritti (Elsa Martinelli), must get out of England immediately or face ruinous British income tax. The Duchess of Brighton (Dame Margaret Rutherford) has taken a job as a hostess at an American holiday resort, thinking she will be able to keep her family estate on her new income. Fog descends and blurs the future for them all, forced now to wait in the airport hotel for morning and fair ...Written by
At 36:51 camera shadow on Sanders, Frances and Marc. See more »
[Talking on the phone]
No, I want to speak to Dawkins.
[Walks into the Director's office]
Excuse me, sir.
[Talking on the phone]
Dawkins? Airport Director, here. I want the royal lounge made ready by 10 hundred hours for the Russian delegation. Oh, about 20 of them, I think. Lay out caviar, champagne and cake. Oh, some kind of Russian-looking cake. Well, how should I know what makes a cake look Russian! Use your imagination, Dawkins.
May I speak to you sir? Its extremely urgent.
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Wildly entertaining, and stolen by the two Maggies
Seven years before "Airport," there was this similarly laid out, lush MGM soap, which wasn't produced by Ross Hunter but looks like it could have been. The stars, the fashions, the mid-century-modern sets, the Miklos Rosza themes grinding and repeating in the background, all speak to a more innocent, more optimistic time. And best of all, while Hunter had only Perlberg and Seaton to bring Arthur Hailey's novel to the screen, MGM had the super-literate, super-crafty Terrence Rattigan to provide his own original story, expertly plotted out to afford a plethora of wide-screen star-gazing. Elizabeth Taylor, resplendent in St. Laurent, is about to leave Richard Burton for lounge lizard Louis Jourdan, but their plane is fogged in at Heathrow and Burton catches up to them, allowing for some civilized sniping between the two men, neither of whom seems good enough for her. Meantime, Dino di Laurentiis-like producer Orson Welles has to be out of Britain by midnight to escape some tax burdens; duchess Margaret Rutherford is headed unhappily to a new job in Florida to pay expenses for her Brighton mansion; and tractor maker Rod Taylor, subject to a hostile takeover, needs 150,000 pounds to cover a bad check, in which he's ably assisted by his plain-Jane secretary, Maggie Smith (all Janes should be this plain). Rattigan's epigrammatic screenplay darts dazzlingly between the four story lines, and he's instinctively fair-minded; nobody's all good or all bad, and even Linda Christian, as Rod Taylor's shallow girlfriend, isn't entirely reprehensible. Everybody's great fun to watch, and interesting people like Michael Hordern and Robert Coote and David Frost can be glimpsed in supporting roles, but the movie really belongs to the two Maggies. Rutherford picked up a supporting Oscar for playing essentially what she'd been playing for the previous 25 years, but who deserved it more, and she's not only pricelessly funny but unexpectedly touching. And Smith, silently loving her boss Rod Taylor (and who wouldn't), effortlessly steals a particularly good scene from Burton, bringing on the third act and walking off with the rest of the movie. Deep it isn't, and Rosza's themes feel a little obvious (I grew to hate that cutesy-English strain underlying every Rutherford scene), but what a luxuriously entertaining ride. That the prime storyline is based on Rattigan's own observation of the Vivien Leigh-Laurence Olivier-Peter Finch triangle being played out at the airport a few years before only adds to our sumptuous enjoyment.
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