Airport is a 1970 American disaster–drama film starring Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin, directed and written by George Seaton, and based on Arthur Hailey‘s 1968 novel of the same name. It originated the 1970s disaster film genre. It is also the first in the Airport film series.
Produced on a $10 million budget, it earned nearly $100 million. The film is about an airport manager trying to keep his airport open during a snowstorm, while a suicidal bomber plots to blow up a Boeing 707 airliner in flight. It takes place at fictional Lincoln International Airport near Chicago, Illinois. The film was a commercial success and surpassed Spartacus as Universal Pictures‘ biggest moneymaker. The movie won Helen Hayes an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as an elderly stowaway and was nominated for nine other Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design for designer Edith Head.
Most of the filming was at Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport. A display in the terminal, with stills from the field and the film, says: “Minnesota’s legendary winters attracted Hollywood here in 1969, when portions of the film Airport were shot in the terminal and on the field. The weather remained stubbornly clear, however, forcing the director to use plastic ‘snow’ to create the appropriate effect.”
Only one Boeing 707 was used: a model 707-349C (registration N324F ) leased from Flying Tiger Line. It sported an El Al cheatline over its bare metal finish, with the fictional Trans Global Airlines (TGA) titles and tail. This aircraft later crashed during a landing while in service with Transbrasil, killing three crew members and 22 persons on the ground.
Where’s This Going? Oh.
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.
This movie Is a classic.
Author: dbr7474 from Washington
18 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.
The First Real “Disaster” Film…
Author: Isaac5855 from United States
2 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.
Author: clydestuff from United States
18 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
Airport scales the lofty heights
Author: krorie from Van Buren, Arkansas
16 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.