Airport


2h 17m 1970
Airport

Brief Synopsis

A mad bomber plots to blow up a jet on a snowy night.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Adventure
Disaster
Thriller
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 5 Mar 1970
Production Company
Ross Hunter Productions; Universal Pictures
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Minnesota, USA; Minnesota, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Airport by Arthur Hailey (Garden City, New York, 1968).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 17m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints), 70 mm 6-Track (Westrex Recording System) (70 mm prints), Mono (35 mm optical prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.20 : 1

Synopsis

Mel Bakersfeld, general manager of Lincoln International Airport, is beset with problems during one of the worst snowstorms in the history of the Midwest. A disabled jet has blocked the major runway, and the auxiliary runway is too short for takeoffs in bad weather conditions, forcing Mel to call maintenance chief Joe Patroni to solve the crisis; Mel's wife, Cindy, informs him that she wants a divorce; and Tanya Livingston, the Trans Global Airlines passenger agent with whom Mel is having an affair, is distracted by the mischievous Ada Quonsett, an elderly woman who is trying to stow away on a jet to Rome. Meanwhile, the emotionally disturbed D. O. Guerrero comes on board with a bomb in a briefcase, intending to blow up the plane so that his wife, Inez, can collect on the life insurance policy he has just purchased. The jet is piloted by Mel's brother-in-law, Vernon Demerest, who has just learned that his lover, stewardess Gwen Meighen, is pregnant. Shortly after departure, he is warned that Mel and Tanya have determined that Guerrero is carrying a bomb. With Ada's help, Vernon attempts to get the briefcase, then nearly succeeds in persuading Guerrero not to open it, but Guerrero runs into the bathroom and explodes the bomb. Guerrero is blown out of the jet, Gwen suffers a serious eye injury, and the aircraft is severely crippled, but Vernon and co-captain Anson Harris manage to land on Lincoln's runway, which Patroni has just cleared. As the passengers and crew enter the terminal, Vernon's wife, Sarah, observes her husband's obvious concern for Gwen and realizes that he has been unfaithful.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Adventure
Disaster
Thriller
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 5 Mar 1970
Production Company
Ross Hunter Productions; Universal Pictures
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Minnesota, USA; Minnesota, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Airport by Arthur Hailey (Garden City, New York, 1968).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 17m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints), 70 mm 6-Track (Westrex Recording System) (70 mm prints), Mono (35 mm optical prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.20 : 1

Award Wins

Best Supporting Actress

1970
Helen Hayes

Best Supporting Actress

1970
Maureen Stapleton

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1970

Best Cinematography

1970

Best Costume Design

1970
Edith Head

Best Editing

1970
Stuart Gilmore

Best Music Original Dramatic Score

1971

Best Picture

1970

Best Sound

1970

Best Writing, Screenplay

1971
George Seaton

Articles

Airport


The disaster film became a unique and profitable film genre unto itself in the early seventies, thanks to the box office success of Airport (1970). Based on the best selling novel by Arthur Hailey, the film is a contemporary update of Grand Hotel (1932) for the jet age. And like most good soap operas, the plot focuses on several characters over a seven-hour period during the worst Midwestern blizzard in thirty years. Although the film takes place at the fictitious Lincoln International Airport (it was modeled on Chicago's O'Hare Airport), most of the action takes place aboard a Boeing 707 carrying 110 passengers, including a mad bomber who precipitates one of many disasters that almost doom the flight.

A veritable "who's who" of the top box office stars and prominent character actors of its era, Airport was trashed in reviews by many prominent critics but proved to be a major hit with the public. It also earned a total of ten Academy Award nominations including one for Best Picture. This was probably the first time since Cecil B. DeMille's circus epic, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), that such a blatantly commercial film had received so many Oscar nominations. Airport soon became a franchise and three sequels followed: Airport 1975 (1974), Airport '77 (1977), and The Concorde: Airport '79 (1979). Since each sequel got progressively sillier and more outlandish, it was only a matter of time until a parody of the series appeared which eventually happened in 1980 with the release of Airplane! from comedy writers David and Jerry Zucker and director Jim Abrahams. It was followed by Airplane II: The Sequel (1982).

Despite the end result, Airport was not an easy film to shoot. Screenwriter-turned-director George Seaton was unable to get permission to film at either the LAX or O'Hare airports so he resorted to shooting all interiors at the Universal soundstages and some exteriors at the St. Paul Airport in Minneapolis. Seaton also had to contend with Burt Lancaster's forceful personality on the set (Gregory Peck had been the original choice for the role). Lancaster was used to much more creative control on films and would occasionally question the director's decisions. Lancaster also was unsatisfied with the performance of his co-star Jean Seberg and later admitted that he only chose to do the film for commercial reasons. Although it would prove to be the most profitable film of his career, Lancaster would refer to it later as "the biggest piece of junk ever made." Seberg, for her part, hated her role and her gray, mini-skirted uniform that she thought made her look like a clown. It was quite a step-down from her critically acclaimed performances in such films as Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1960) or Robert Rossen's Lilith (1964). On a more positive note, however, Airport was a great career move for George Kennedy who got to play the hero of the film - airport maintenance chief Joe Patroni, the man who clears the snowbound runway so the Boeing 707 can safely land. Helen Hayes also profited from the film, winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Ada Quonsett, a mischievous stowaway.

Director: George Seaton
Producer: Ross Hunter
Screenplay: George Seaton
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
Editor: Stuart Gilmore
Art Direction: E. Preston Ames, Alexander Golitzen
Music: Alfred Newman
Cast: Burt Lancaster (Mel Bakersfeld), Dean Martin (Vernon Demerest), Jean Seberg (Tanya Livingston), Jacqueline Bisset (Gwen Meighen), George Kennedy (Joe Patroni), Helen Hayes (Ada Quonsett), Van Heflin (D.O. Guerrero), Maureen Stapleton (Inez Guerrero).
C-137m. Letterboxed.

by Jeff Stafford
Airport

Airport

The disaster film became a unique and profitable film genre unto itself in the early seventies, thanks to the box office success of Airport (1970). Based on the best selling novel by Arthur Hailey, the film is a contemporary update of Grand Hotel (1932) for the jet age. And like most good soap operas, the plot focuses on several characters over a seven-hour period during the worst Midwestern blizzard in thirty years. Although the film takes place at the fictitious Lincoln International Airport (it was modeled on Chicago's O'Hare Airport), most of the action takes place aboard a Boeing 707 carrying 110 passengers, including a mad bomber who precipitates one of many disasters that almost doom the flight. A veritable "who's who" of the top box office stars and prominent character actors of its era, Airport was trashed in reviews by many prominent critics but proved to be a major hit with the public. It also earned a total of ten Academy Award nominations including one for Best Picture. This was probably the first time since Cecil B. DeMille's circus epic, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), that such a blatantly commercial film had received so many Oscar nominations. Airport soon became a franchise and three sequels followed: Airport 1975 (1974), Airport '77 (1977), and The Concorde: Airport '79 (1979). Since each sequel got progressively sillier and more outlandish, it was only a matter of time until a parody of the series appeared which eventually happened in 1980 with the release of Airplane! from comedy writers David and Jerry Zucker and director Jim Abrahams. It was followed by Airplane II: The Sequel (1982). Despite the end result, Airport was not an easy film to shoot. Screenwriter-turned-director George Seaton was unable to get permission to film at either the LAX or O'Hare airports so he resorted to shooting all interiors at the Universal soundstages and some exteriors at the St. Paul Airport in Minneapolis. Seaton also had to contend with Burt Lancaster's forceful personality on the set (Gregory Peck had been the original choice for the role). Lancaster was used to much more creative control on films and would occasionally question the director's decisions. Lancaster also was unsatisfied with the performance of his co-star Jean Seberg and later admitted that he only chose to do the film for commercial reasons. Although it would prove to be the most profitable film of his career, Lancaster would refer to it later as "the biggest piece of junk ever made." Seberg, for her part, hated her role and her gray, mini-skirted uniform that she thought made her look like a clown. It was quite a step-down from her critically acclaimed performances in such films as Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1960) or Robert Rossen's Lilith (1964). On a more positive note, however, Airport was a great career move for George Kennedy who got to play the hero of the film - airport maintenance chief Joe Patroni, the man who clears the snowbound runway so the Boeing 707 can safely land. Helen Hayes also profited from the film, winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Ada Quonsett, a mischievous stowaway. Director: George Seaton Producer: Ross Hunter Screenplay: George Seaton Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo Editor: Stuart Gilmore Art Direction: E. Preston Ames, Alexander Golitzen Music: Alfred Newman Cast: Burt Lancaster (Mel Bakersfeld), Dean Martin (Vernon Demerest), Jean Seberg (Tanya Livingston), Jacqueline Bisset (Gwen Meighen), George Kennedy (Joe Patroni), Helen Hayes (Ada Quonsett), Van Heflin (D.O. Guerrero), Maureen Stapleton (Inez Guerrero). C-137m. Letterboxed. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

My late husband played the violin. Not professionally, but he was very good. He once played the Minute Waltz in 58 seconds.
- Ada Quonsett
Hold on, we're goin' for broke!
- Joe Patroni
I'll be back in time if I have to pull that plane out with my teeth!
- Joe Patroni
Let us put it this way: You promised me a box of cigars if I pull this off, right? Well, what're you standing here for? Go get 'em!
- Joe Patroni
Don't talk to me about consequences! When Congress voted to cut airport appropriations, you never even sent in a letter of protest. And where were you when the airlines and the pilots and the rest of us were... were pleading for... for more airports and better traffic control? You were picking out the colors in the ladies' lounge. So now you've got your consequences!
- Mel Bakersfeld

Trivia

The real star of the show, the Boeing 707 (a 707-349C, serial no. 19351[503rd 707 off the production line], originally registered N324F), was leased to MCA/Universal Pictures from Flying Tiger Line (now merged with Fedex) for the filming of the exterior shots. After filming was completed, the aircraft returned to Flying Tigers and was later sold, going through various owners before meeting a tragic end in a takeoff accident on 21 March 1989 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Trans Global Airlines was the name of the notional airline for the film. For many years it was not unusual to see props from the movie (with the fictional TGA logo) in other Universal films where airliner interior scenes were shot.

Expanded from a Canadian TV production Hailey wrote called Flight Into Danger (1956) (TV).

At 'Dean Martin' 's request, Petula Clark was originally offered the role of Gwen Meighen.

Dean Martin received 10% of the film's gross which added an additional $7,000,000 to his salary.

Notes

Location scenes filmed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Hathaway directed some scenes during Seaton's illness.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970

Released in United States March 5, 1970

Released in United States on Video January 12, 1994

Released in 35mm and 70mm prints.

Henry Hathaway directed some scenes while George Seaton was ill.

Todd-AO

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970

Released in United States March 5, 1970

Released in United States on Video January 12, 1994