Airport (1970 film)

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File:Airport film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Seaton
Produced by Ross Hunter
Screenplay by George Seaton
Based on Airport 
by Arthur Hailey
Starring Burt Lancaster
Dean Martin
Jean Seberg
Jacqueline Bisset
George Kennedy
Helen Hayes
Van Heflin
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Ernest Laszlo
Edited by Stuart Gilmore
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
March 5, 1970
Running time
137 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10.2 million[1]
Box office $100,489,151[2]

Airport is a 1970 American 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.[3] It is also the first in the Airport film series.

Produced on a $10 million budget, it earned nearly $100 million.[2] 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 critical success and surpassed Spartacus as Universal Pictures' biggest moneymaker.[4] 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.

With attention paid to the detail of day-to-day airport and airline operations, the plot concerns the response to a paralyzing snowstorm, environmental concerns over noise pollution, and an attempt to blow up an airliner. The film is characterized by personal stories intertwining while decisions are made minute-by-minute by the airport and airline staffs, operations and maintenance crews, flight crews, and Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers.

Ernest Laszlo photographed it in 70 mm Todd-AO. It is the last film scored by Alfred Newman and the last film roles for Van Heflin and Jessie Royce Landis.


Chicago is paralyzed by a snowstorm affecting Lincoln International Airport. A Trans Global Airlines (TGA) Boeing 707 flight crew misjudge their turn off of Runway 29 on to the taxiway, becoming stuck in the snow and closing Runway 29, forcing airport manager Mel Bakersfeld (Burt Lancaster) to work overtime. This causes tension with his wife, Cindy (Dana Wynter). Divorce is looming as he nurtures a closer relationship with a co-worker, TGA customer relations agent Tanya Livingston (Jean Seberg). Bakersfeld's brother-in-law, Vernon Demarest (Dean Martin), is a TGA captain scheduled to be the checkride captain for TGA to evaluate Captain Anson Harris (Barry Nelson) during TGA's Flight 2 to Rome. Flight 2 is aboard TGA's flagship service craft, a Boeing 707 known as The Golden Argosy. Although Demarest is married to Bakersfeld's sister, Sarah (Barbara Hale), he is secretly having an affair with Gwen Meighen (Jacqueline Bisset), chief stewardess on Flight 2, who informs him before the flight that she is pregnant with his child.

Bakersfeld borrows TWA mechanic Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) to assist with TGA's disabled plane. Bakersfeld and Livingston also deal with Mrs. Ada Quonsett (Helen Hayes), an elderly lady who is a habitual stowaway.

Demolition expert D.O. Guerrero (Van Heflin), down on his luck and with a history of mental illness, buys life insurance with the intent of committing suicide by blowing up The Golden Argosy. He plans to set off a bomb in an attaché case while over the Atlantic with the intent that his wife, Inez (Maureen Stapleton), will collect the insurance money of $225,000.

Mrs. Quonsett slips away from Bakersfeld and Livingston, and makes it through airport security, boards Flight 2 and happens to sit next to Guerrero. When the Golden Argosy crew is made aware of Guerrero's presence and possible intentions, they circle the plane back toward Chicago without divulging this change of course to the passengers. Once Quonsett is discovered, her help is enlisted by the crew to get to Guerrero's briefcase, but the ploy fails when an obnoxious male passenger unwittingly returns the case to Guerrero.

Captain Demerest then goes back into the passenger cabin and tries to persuade Guerrero not to trigger the bomb, informing him that his insurance policy will be useless. When confronted by Demerest, Guerrero briefly considers giving the attaché containing the bomb, until the same obnoxious male passenger yells out to a passenger exiting the lavatory at the rear of the aircraft that Guerrero has a bomb. Guerrero, holding the case close to him, runs into the lavatory. Gwen tries the door and finds it locked, and moments later Guerrero sets off the device. The detonation blows out a hole in the wall of the lavatory and Guerrero with it. Gwen is injured in the explosion and subsequent rapid decompression.

With all airports east of Chicago unusable due to bad weather, the plane returns to Lincoln International for an emergency landing, even though the runway is still closed due to the stuck airliner. Patroni, who is "taxi-qualified" on Boeing 707s, is trying to move the stuck aircraft in time for Demerest's damaged aircraft to land. By exceeding the Boeing 707 flight manual's engine operating parameters, Patroni frees the stuck jet, allowing Lincoln International's primary runway to be reopened just in time to permit the crippled Golden Argosy to land.


Production notes

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[5]) 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.[6]


Box office

Airport was released on March 5, 1970. It made $100,489,151, and adjusted for inflation this was equivalent to $558 million in 2010, the 42nd highest-grossing film of all time.[7]


Variety magazine wrote: "Based on the novel by Arthur Hailey, over-produced by Ross Hunter with a cast of stars as long as a jet runway, and adapted and directed by George Seaton in a glossy, slick style, Airport is a handsome, often dramatically involving $10 million epitaph to a bygone brand of filmmaking" but added that the film "does not create suspense because the audience knows how it's going to end."[8]

Modern critics have mostly panned it,[9][10] with the most generous reviews complimenting the film's influence on the disaster genre and its "camp value."[11][12][13][14]

Awards and nominations




This film was the final project for composer Alfred Newman. His health was failing and he was unable to conduct the sessions for his music's recording. The job was handled by Stanley Wilson, although the cover of the 1993 Varèse Sarabande CD issue credits Newman. Newman did conduct the music heard in the film. He died before the film's release. Newman received his 45th Academy Award nomination posthumously for this film, the most received by a composer at that time.


Soundtrack album listing:

  1. Airport (Main Title) (3:11)
  2. Airport Love Theme (3:30)
  3. Inez' Theme (1:29)
  4. Guerrero's Goodbye (2:37)
  5. Ada Quonsett, Stowaway (1:26)
  6. Mel And Tanya (2:27)
  7. Airport Love Theme #2 (2:40)
  8. Joe Patroni Plane Or Plows? (2:22)
  9. Triangle! (3:50)
  10. Inez-Lost Forever (1:45)
  11. Emergency Landing! (1:38)
  12. Airport (End Title) (2:36)


Airport spawned three sequels, the first two of which were hits in the Airport film series.

The only actor in all four films is George Kennedy as Joe Patroni. Patroni's character evolves and he goes from a chief mechanic in Airport to a vice president of operations in Airport 1975, a consultant in Airport '77, and an experienced pilot in The Concorde ... Airport '79.

See also


  1. Freddie Fan of Filmdom Finds Lost Audience: The Lost Audience Discovered Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 21 June 1970: q1.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Airport, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 29, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Harpole, Charles. History of the American Cinema. University of California Press. pp. 251–252. ISBN 978-0-520-23265-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Link, Tom (1991). Universal City-North Hollywood: A Centennial Portrait. Chatsworth, California: Windsor Publications. p. 87. ISBN 0-89781-393-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "FAA Registry". Federal Aviation Administration.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Accident description PT-TCS". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 14 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Box Office Mojo: Airport". Retrieved 2009-08-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Variety, Review of Airport, Thursday, January 1, 1970
  9. "Ebert's review of 'Airport'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-08-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Airport review". Retrieved 2009-08-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Canby, Vincent (1970-03-06). "The Screen: Multi-Plot, Multi-Star 'Airport' Opens: Lancaster and Martin in Principal Roles Adaptation of Hailey's Novel at Music Hall". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 1, 2008. Retrieved 2009-08-31. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Airport". Retrieved 2009-08-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Stafford, Jeff. "Airport". Turner Classic Movies.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Airport 'junk' — Lancaster". The Montreal Gazette. Google News. March 8, 1971.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "The 43rd Academy Awards (1971) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links