Airport (1970)

G | 137 mins | Melodrama | 5 March 1970

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HISTORY

Airport, based on Arthur Hailey’s best-selling 1968 novel of the same name, was announced in the 2 Oct 1968 Var as an upcoming 70mm “roadshow attraction” to be made by producer Ross Hunter for Universal Pictures in late 1968, at a budget of $10-$14 million. An item in the 17 Feb 1970 LAT later described it as Universal’s most expensive project, to that time. Arthur Hailey was reportedly paid $500,000 for the screen rights. Ross Hunter stated in a 6 Apr 1969 LAT interview that he had initially wanted to option Hailey’s 1965 novel, Hotel, but he had been outbid by Warner Bros. Pictures. Hunter had maintained an interest in Hailey’s work, however, and had read a galley proof of Airport prior to its release.
       An item in the 31 Oct 1968 LAT stated that Hunter was determined to sign “a dozen major stars” to the ensemble cast, headed by Dean Martin and Burt Lancaster. For the role of “Ada Quonsett,” veteran actress Helen Hayes made a return to feature films after a twelve-year hiatus, as noted in the 27 Dec 1968 DV.
       Airport was said to be Universal’s first film shot using the Todd-AO process. The 3 Jan 1969 DV also noted that director of photography Ernest Laszlo would use a Todd-AO “hand camera” during location shooting. Principal photograpy began on 31 Jan 1969 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, as announced in that day’s DV. For the first two weeks of filming, Henry Hathaway served as director while writer-director George Seaton endured a bout of ... More Less

Airport, based on Arthur Hailey’s best-selling 1968 novel of the same name, was announced in the 2 Oct 1968 Var as an upcoming 70mm “roadshow attraction” to be made by producer Ross Hunter for Universal Pictures in late 1968, at a budget of $10-$14 million. An item in the 17 Feb 1970 LAT later described it as Universal’s most expensive project, to that time. Arthur Hailey was reportedly paid $500,000 for the screen rights. Ross Hunter stated in a 6 Apr 1969 LAT interview that he had initially wanted to option Hailey’s 1965 novel, Hotel, but he had been outbid by Warner Bros. Pictures. Hunter had maintained an interest in Hailey’s work, however, and had read a galley proof of Airport prior to its release.
       An item in the 31 Oct 1968 LAT stated that Hunter was determined to sign “a dozen major stars” to the ensemble cast, headed by Dean Martin and Burt Lancaster. For the role of “Ada Quonsett,” veteran actress Helen Hayes made a return to feature films after a twelve-year hiatus, as noted in the 27 Dec 1968 DV.
       Airport was said to be Universal’s first film shot using the Todd-AO process. The 3 Jan 1969 DV also noted that director of photography Ernest Laszlo would use a Todd-AO “hand camera” during location shooting. Principal photograpy began on 31 Jan 1969 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, as announced in that day’s DV. For the first two weeks of filming, Henry Hathaway served as director while writer-director George Seaton endured a bout of pneumonia. Seaton officially returned to the production on 17 Feb 1969, according to an item in that day’s DV. Nearly two months later, on 6 Apr 1969, LAT reported that filming had moved to Universal Studios in Universal City, CA. Production was scheduled to continue there until 1 Jun 1969, but according to the 26 May 1969 DV, the studio portion of the shoot had ended. For the final days of filming, Hunter and Seaton were scheduled to go to Lancaster, CA, and back to Minneapolis.
       The airplane interior seen in the film was built using “the 19-foot pilot’s compartment and some 58 feet of fuselage” from a Mexican DC-8 plane that crashed sometime in 1966, according to a 4 Dec 1968 Var brief. The cost for shipping and reconstructing the aircraft, which was made over to look like a Boeing 707, was estimated at $80,000.
       Airplane’s world premiere was scheduled to take place on 5 Mar 1970 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. A benefit premiere was also scheduled on 18 Mar 1970 at the Cooper Theatre in Minneapolis, with a reception to follow at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport where the picture was shot, as noted in the 18 Feb 1970 DV.
       Despite mixed critical reception, the film went on to become the highest-grossing American release of 1970, according to a 6 Jan 1971 Var box-office chart, which cited cumulative film rentals of $37,650,796, to date. Helen Hayes won an Academy Award for Actress in a Supporting Role, and the picture received eight other Academy Award nominations in the following categories: Actress in a Supporting Role (Maureen Stapleton); Art Direction; Cinematography; Costume Design; Film Editing; Music (Original Score); Sound; Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium); and Best Picture. Maureen Stapleton won a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture, and the film received Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture—Drama, Best Original Score—Motion Picture, and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture (George Kennedy).
       Airport was the first in a series of four films released by Universal, based on the Hailey novel. The others were Airport 1975 (1974, see entry), Airport ‘77 (1977, see entry), and The Concorde…Airport ’79 (1979, see entry). The picture was spoofed in the successful 1980 comedy, Airplane!, and 1982’s Airplane II: The Sequel (see entries).
       The following actors were named as cast members in DV items published between 9 Apr 1969 and 4 Jun 1969: Michael Stearns; Marc Hannibal; Benny Rubin; Robert C. Ross; Don Nagel; Ron Stokes; Jim Bradley; Towyna Thomas; Larry Barton; Adrienne Marden; Tamar Cooper; Fredricka Myers; Bud Walls; Art Hern; Rick Warick; Tom Pace; Mark Russell; Fred Scannell; Marco Antonio; Nadine Arlyn; Bill Hudson ; Jill Jackson; Damian London; Frank Boone, Jr.; John N. Denend; Richard Matthews; and James Parker. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
27 Dec 1968
p. 1.
Daily Variety
3 Jan 1969
p. 1.
Daily Variety
23 Jan 1969
p. 6.
Daily Variety
31 Jan 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
7 Feb 1969
p. 26.
Daily Variety
17 Feb 1969
p. 6.
Daily Variety
9 Apr 1969
p. 8.
Daily Variety
9 Apr 1969
p. 19.
Daily Variety
11 Apr 1969
p. 9.
Daily Variety
17 Apr 1969
p. 6.
Daily Variety
23 Apr 1969
p. 6.
Daily Variety
1 May 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
2 May 1969
p. 16.
Daily Variety
13 May 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
15 May 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
26 May 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Jun 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
16 Feb 1970
pp. 3-4.
Daily Variety
18 Feb 1970
p. 8.
Daily Variety
20 Feb 1970
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
31 Oct 1968
Section C, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
6 Apr 1969
Section P, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
26 May 1969
Section D, p. 24.
Los Angeles Times
17 Feb 1970
Section D, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
19 Mar 1970
Section G, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
8 Apr 1970
p. 28.
New York Times
6 Mar 1970
p. 34.
Variety
2 Oct 1968
p. 22.
Variety
4 Dec 1968
p. 24.
Variety
5 Feb 1969
p. 26.
Variety
5 Mar 1969
p. 58.
Variety
6 Jan 1971
p. 11.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir addl seq
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
Mus ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Airport by Arthur Hailey (Garden City, New York, 1968).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
5 March 1970
Premiere Information:
World premiere and New York opening: 5 March 1970
Los Angeles premiere: 19 March 1970
Los Angeles opening: 20 March 1970
Production Date:
31 January--June 1969
Copyright Claimant:
Ross Hunter Productions
Copyright Date:
5 March 1970
Copyright Number:
LP38968
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
gauge
35 & 70
Widescreen/ratio
Todd-AO
Duration(in mins):
137
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
22114
Passed by NBR:
No
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, Italy. 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 ... +


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, Italy. 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. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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