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The third film in the popular Airport series was Airport '77. It dispensed with mid-air collisions to feature a crisis which was unusual for airplanes. In it, billionaire James Stewart is transporting his priceless art collection from Florida to Washington, D.C. on the jetliner when hijackers decide to steal the valuable collection. Instead, they end up dunking the jet 50 feet underwater in the midst of "The Devil's Triangle." That's when a rescue crew races against the clock to remove the survivors before their air runs out.
Airport '77 was a hit grossing over $16 million and was even nominated for two Oscars: Best Costume Design and Best Art/Set Direction. Much of the attraction is due to its all-star cast including Jack Lemmon, James Stewart, Olivia de Havilland and Lee Grant. Even Christopher Lee, who played Dracula in the Hammer Studios series, appears. As Lemmon stated, "I did it because I thought it might be fun to do a blatantly commercial 'cartoon,' which is something I felt I hadn't done." Lemmon's son, Chris, appears as a radio operator and you can catch several future and former TV stars like Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers), Pamela Bellwood (Dynasty) and Darren McGavin (The Night Stalker). By the way, George Kennedy reprises his character of Joe Patroni from the first two Airport films (He would also appear in the final sequel).
The underwater sequences were filmed at Wakulla Springs in Florida. That wasn't an entirely predictable experience. For one scene, four thousand gallons of water were released on the actors which was later blamed for the cause of co-star Brenda Vaccaro's pneumonia. So much for the safety of not shooting on location.
Holding all this together was director Jerry Jameson, who'd been busy working in TV for shows like Ironside, Cannon and The Six Million Dollar Man. However, he undoubtedly got this job because he'd directed several TV disaster films already such as Heat Wave!, Hurricane and Terror on the 40th Floor (all 1974). Jameson still continues to work in television.
Producer: William Frye
Director: Jerry Jameson
Screenplay: Michael Scheff, David Spector
Production Design: George C. Webb
Cinematography: Philip H. Lathrop, Rexford Metz
Costume Design: John A. Anderson, Edith Head, Sheila Mason, Burton Miller
Film Editing: Robert Watts, J. Terry Williams
Original Music: John Cacavas, Tom Sullivan
Principal Cast: Jack Lemmon (Don Gallagher), Lee Grant (Karen Wallace), Brenda Vaccaro (Eve Clayton), Joseph Cotten (Nicholas St. Downs, III), Olivia de Havilland (Emily Livingston), Darren McGavin (Stan Buchek), Christopher Lee (Martin Wallace), Robert Foxworth (Chambers), Kathleen Quinlan (Julie), Robert Hooks (Eddie), Monte Markham (Banker), Gil Gerard (Frank Powers), James Booth (Ralph Crawford).
By Lang Thompson