The Concorde...Airport '79 (1979)

PG | 113 mins | Drama, Adventure | 1979

Director:

David Lowell Rich

Producer:

Jennings Lang

Cinematographer:

Philip Lathrop

Editor:

Dorothy Spencer

Production Designer:

Henry Bumstead

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

       Concorde…Airport '79 was the fourth and final film in Universal Pictures’ series of “airport” disaster films, preceded by: Airport (1970, see entry), Airport 1975 (1974, see entry), and Airport ‘77 (1977, see entry). As stated in production notes in AMPAS library files, actor George Kennedy was the only cast member to appear in all four films, playing his recurring character, “Joe Patroni.”
       An 8 Nov 1978 Var brief mentioned a production start date of 16 Nov 1978 in France. According to a 15 Feb 1979 LAT news item, filming was completed on 16 Feb 1979. Location scenes in and near Paris, France included: Charles de Gaulle Airport, Le Bourget Airport, Champs-Élysées, the Palais de Justice, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Seine River and the Place de l'Étoile. The Toulouse Airport in southwestern France was also used. In the U.S., filming took place at the following sites: the Washington Monument and Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.; the Naval Air Station at Point Mugu in Oxnard, CA; the Snowbird ski resort in UT, which stood for the Alps; and various locations in Los Angeles, CA, including Universal Studios.
       Through arrangements with Air France and Aérospatiale, owner and manufacturer of the Concorde, the filmmakers leased one supersonic aircraft, as stated in a 3 Apr 1979 Us magazine article. According to an interview with actor Alain Delon in a 28 Dec 1978 LAT article, Air France insisted on script changes before granting permission. The airline wanted the pilots to be portrayed as professionals while they were operating the aircraft, ... More Less

       Concorde…Airport '79 was the fourth and final film in Universal Pictures’ series of “airport” disaster films, preceded by: Airport (1970, see entry), Airport 1975 (1974, see entry), and Airport ‘77 (1977, see entry). As stated in production notes in AMPAS library files, actor George Kennedy was the only cast member to appear in all four films, playing his recurring character, “Joe Patroni.”
       An 8 Nov 1978 Var brief mentioned a production start date of 16 Nov 1978 in France. According to a 15 Feb 1979 LAT news item, filming was completed on 16 Feb 1979. Location scenes in and near Paris, France included: Charles de Gaulle Airport, Le Bourget Airport, Champs-Élysées, the Palais de Justice, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Seine River and the Place de l'Étoile. The Toulouse Airport in southwestern France was also used. In the U.S., filming took place at the following sites: the Washington Monument and Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.; the Naval Air Station at Point Mugu in Oxnard, CA; the Snowbird ski resort in UT, which stood for the Alps; and various locations in Los Angeles, CA, including Universal Studios.
       Through arrangements with Air France and Aérospatiale, owner and manufacturer of the Concorde, the filmmakers leased one supersonic aircraft, as stated in a 3 Apr 1979 Us magazine article. According to an interview with actor Alain Delon in a 28 Dec 1978 LAT article, Air France insisted on script changes before granting permission. The airline wanted the pilots to be portrayed as professionals while they were operating the aircraft, which meant no alcohol or discussion of workplace romance on board. Delon stated that one of the deleted speeches involved his character “Metrand” discussing his intoxicated father. The filmmakers shot the aircraft for two days at Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris and one day at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. An 18 Jul 1979 DV article noted that scenes of the Concorde in flight were filmed from a Lear Jet while the aircraft was traveling at subsonic speeds.
       The real Concorde featured in the film contains the registration number F-BTSC, which is visible in several shots. The same aircraft, as Air France flight 4590, crashed on 25 Jul 2000 as it took off from Charles De Gaulle Airport. The registration number F-BTSC was confirmed in reports by the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la sécurité de l'aviation civile (BEA), the French authority for aviation accident investigations. The disaster was the only fatal crash in the history of the supersonic aircraft, as reported in a 4 Jul 2008 NYT article, killing over 100 people.
       Exterior footage of the real, airborne Concorde was intercut with models and miniatures filmed at Universal Studios and created by the studio’s special effects facility, Universal Hartland. The 18 Jul 1979 DV article explained that Hartland and Abe Milrad, credited for special visual effects, devised a new computerized motion control process named Cinesonic, whereby the models of the plane were photographed against backdrops of water, skies and clouds, instead of the customary black background often employed in science fiction films.
       As described in production notes, a replica of the Concorde’s interior, able to accommodate sixty passengers, was built on stage 12 at Universal Studios. The main cabin and cockpit could be rotated and flipped upside down to represent the plane’s aerobatic maneuvers, while cast members were locked in their seats through invisible harnesses.
       In the 18 Jul 1979 DV article, the budget was mentioned as $15 million, $4 million of which was for special effects.
       According to a 11 Jun 1981 DV brief, twenty-five minutes of footage was added for the television broadcast on American Broadcasting Company (ABC). Actors Sybil Danning, Eddie Albert and George Kennedy were brought back for extra scenes directed by Peter Rich, son of Concorde’s director, David Lowell Rich.
      End credits include "Thanks to”: United States Department of Defense; 8th and 12th Fighter Squadrons of the French Air Force; Dulles International Airport, Washington, D.C.; United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Wasatch National Forest; Alta, Utah, Ski Lift Corporation. The following written statement also appears in the end credits: "Technical Assistance Provided by: Air France; The Paris Airport Authority; Société Nationale Industrielle Aerospatiale."
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Jul 1979.
---
Daily Variety
11 Jun 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
28 Dec 1978
Section IV, p. 12, 16.
Los Angeles Times
15 Feb 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Aug 1979
p. 1.
New York Times
3 Aug 1979
p. 13.
New York Times
4 Jul 2008
Section C, p. 3.
Us
3 Apr 1979.
---
Variety
8 Nov 1978.
---
Variety
1 Aug 1979
p. 20.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Guest Starring:
And
As "Patroni"
American Olympics athletes:
[and]
Russian Olympic athletes:
Pilots:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Jennings Lang production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Key grip
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Cost supv
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd rerec
Sd eff ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Miniature seq
Spec photog
Spec aerial backgrounds
Spec visual photog
Titles and opt eff
Spec photog eff
Spec visual eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt balloonist
Stunt balloonist
Stunt balloonist
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
SOURCES
LITERARY
Inspired by the film Airport written by George Seaton (Ross Hunter Productions, Inc. and Universal Pictures, 1970) and the novel of the same name by Arthur Hailey (Garden City, 1968).
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Titles:
Airport '79
Airport '79 Concorde
The Concorde -- Airport '79
Release Date:
1979
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 3 August 1979
Production Date:
16 November 1978--16 February 1979
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
14 September 1979
Copyright Number:
PA43846
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
113
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25694
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Television anchorwoman Maggie Whelan reports from Washington D. C. on the following news stories: Concorde flight twenty-eight, America’s first supersonic carrier, will depart for a goodwill flight to Moscow, Russia via Paris, France, in honor of the upcoming Olympic Games; and Harrison Industries, a munitions manufacturer for the U.S. military, will be testing the Buzzard, a new attack missile, by targeting an unmanned, radio-controlled plane over the ocean. At home that night, Maggie relaxes before her next morning flight on the Concorde when the doorbell rings. It is Carl Parker, assistant sales director for Harrison Industries, insisting on speaking with her. Parker discloses that Harrison Industries has sold illegal arms to American enemies for the past fifteen years, including deals with terrorist groups. Maggie expresses doubt, but Parker claims he has documents verifying the transactions, locked away for safekeeping. Since Parker must leave town immediately, he has instructed his wife, Mary, to deliver the documents to Maggie tomorrow morning. Suddenly, a stranger enters and shoots Parker dead. He aims at Maggie, but she manages to escape by hiding on the roof until a neighbor hears her cry for help and sounds an alarm, scaring off the attacker. Early the next morning, a shaken Maggie meets with her lover, Dr. Kevin Harrison, the tycoon chairman of Harrison Industries, to inform him about the incident. Harrison is baffled that Parker, a loyal employee for twenty years, would sabotage the company, and denies knowledge of illegal arms dealing, explaining that someone is trying to blackmail him. Reassured, Maggie leaves to prepare for her trip. Meanwhile, Harrison notifies William Halpern, ... +


Television anchorwoman Maggie Whelan reports from Washington D. C. on the following news stories: Concorde flight twenty-eight, America’s first supersonic carrier, will depart for a goodwill flight to Moscow, Russia via Paris, France, in honor of the upcoming Olympic Games; and Harrison Industries, a munitions manufacturer for the U.S. military, will be testing the Buzzard, a new attack missile, by targeting an unmanned, radio-controlled plane over the ocean. At home that night, Maggie relaxes before her next morning flight on the Concorde when the doorbell rings. It is Carl Parker, assistant sales director for Harrison Industries, insisting on speaking with her. Parker discloses that Harrison Industries has sold illegal arms to American enemies for the past fifteen years, including deals with terrorist groups. Maggie expresses doubt, but Parker claims he has documents verifying the transactions, locked away for safekeeping. Since Parker must leave town immediately, he has instructed his wife, Mary, to deliver the documents to Maggie tomorrow morning. Suddenly, a stranger enters and shoots Parker dead. He aims at Maggie, but she manages to escape by hiding on the roof until a neighbor hears her cry for help and sounds an alarm, scaring off the attacker. Early the next morning, a shaken Maggie meets with her lover, Dr. Kevin Harrison, the tycoon chairman of Harrison Industries, to inform him about the incident. Harrison is baffled that Parker, a loyal employee for twenty years, would sabotage the company, and denies knowledge of illegal arms dealing, explaining that someone is trying to blackmail him. Reassured, Maggie leaves to prepare for her trip. Meanwhile, Harrison notifies William Halpern, his long-time ally, reporting that not only are the documents still missing, but Maggie is now involved. Reminding Halpern that their life’s work is at stake, Harrison asks if the next missile test can be reprogrammed. At Dulles International Airport, French pilot Paul Metrand boards the Concorde with veteran American pilot, Joe Patroni, who is on his first official flight as captain of the supersonic aircraft. Inside the terminal, Harrison arrives in time to say goodbye to Maggie, who tells him that the “mysterious documents” were never delivered, but just as Maggie boards the runway shuttle vehicle, Mary Parker unexpectedly appears and hands her a travel pouch. Unable to intervene, Harrison watches from windows near the gate as Maggie leafs through the incriminating evidence. As other Concorde passengers board, including Markov, coach of the Russian Olympic weightlifting team; and his deaf daughter, Irina; Russian star gymnast, Alicia, and her coach, Nelli; Robert Palmer, an American sports journalist dating Alicia; Elaine and Dr. Stone, who are transporting a donor heart for Elaine’s sick son in Paris; Eli Sande, President of Federation World Airlines, the owner of the plane; and jazz singer Gretchen Carter accompanied by her saxophonist, Boisie. As the pilots prepare for departure, a distraught Maggie telephones Harrison from the cockpit to tell him that she has the documents that implicate him and threatens to call the newsroom. However, Harrison persuades Maggie to meet him in Paris during her overnight layover so he can explain before she breaks the story. When Harrison arrives at the test facility, Halpern, who designed the Buzzer missile, assures him that the reprogramming is set and cannot be traced. In the control room, the engineers launch and monitor the missile as it closes in on the unmanned plane. Then, Halpern secretly redirects the Buzzard’s course and disengages the self-destruct function. While only Harrison and Halpern know that the new target is the Concorde, the rest of the control room tries not to panic while they alert U.S. Defense about a malfunctioning missile. Soon after takeoff, Joe and Paul receive information about military traffic in their airspace. They see a guided missile and quickly veer the aircraft out of harm’s way until U.S. Air Force jets blow up the drone. In the meantime, Harrison persists in his plan to stop Maggie, and issues confidential orders to Andre Robelle, his Paris associate to arrange an attack by one of the company’s unmarked fighter jets. Once again, Joe and Paul evade missile fire and narrowly avoid a nosedive into the ocean, just as the French Air Force arrives to destroy the rogue fighter. Despite damaged brakes, the Concorde lands safely in Paris, aided by runway nets. Leaving the terminal, Maggie is barraged by press, reporting that various terrorist groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks as a protest against the Olympics. When Harrison arrives in Paris by private jet, Robelle updates him on a plan to bribe an aircraft mechanic. During dinner with Maggie, Harrison presents a draft of a press release, acknowledging the company’s illegal activities, but Maggie remains unwavering in her decision to publicize the documents as soon as she gets to Moscow. Meanwhile, the mechanic, Froelich, rigs the cargo door of the Concorde to open during the flight to Moscow, which will cause the plane to break apart. The next day, the crew and passengers settle in after a routine takeoff, when Joe and Paul hear a noise. Cracks appear in the floorboards. The cargo door opens, and the plane undergoes explosive decompression creating a wind tunnel through the cabin. Eli Sande almost falls through a gaping hole in the bottom of the plane, which drops 20,000 feet before the pilots can regain control. Leaking fuel means the plane must make an emergency landing in the Alps, but Paul remembers a snowfield near the ski resort Patscherkofel. As the engine stalls, Joe and Paul slide the plane across the makeshift runway, and it comes to a stop buried in snow. An alpine ski patrol rescues the passengers and crew before the Concorde explodes. On a television set aboard his private jet, Harrison watches the news report about the crash. As he listens to Maggie’s audio broadcast from the rescue site, he realizes he can longer prevent the documents going public and shoots himself. +

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

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