40 Years of “Airport”: “Airport” (1970)

40 Years of “Airport”: “Airport” (1970) (photo)

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In 1970, one movie invented the modern disaster film. After grossing more than $100 million at the domestic box office (adjusted for inflation, it made more than any of the “Lord of the Rings”), it spawned three sequels that stretched through the entire decade. But this landmark series is now almost totally forgotten, long eclipsed by the film that so brilliantly spoofed the genre tropes it helped define. In honor of its fortieth anniversary, we’re looking back at the “Airport” franchise this week, one film at a time. Today, the movie that started it all, based on the novel by Arthur Hailey.

Airport (1970)
Directed by George Seaton

Nature of Air Emergency: A distraught man detonates a crude suicide bomb on a commercial jet in the hopes that his wife will collect his life insurance. Captain Vern Demerest (Dean Martin) has to land the damaged plan in the middle of a brutal Chicago snowstorm at an airport where the main runway is closed.

George Kennedy Plays: Joe Patroni, Chief Mechanic of Trans Global Airlines.

11082010_airport2.jpgMost Surprising Subplot: Flight attendant Gwen’s (Jacqueline Bisset) unwanted and out-of-wedlock pregnancy, which prompts a weirdly frank discussion about abortion between Bisset and Martin. “I stopped taking the pills because they were making me gain weight,” she tells him. “So instead of being plump I’m pregnant.” His response: “I’ll make sure you don’t go to some butcher two flights up over a drug store. I hear Sweden’s the best place. Good doctors, good hospitals. Medically safe.” Call me naive, but I wasn’t prepared for the silly disaster picture about the plane that gets blown up and still lands safely to set aside a few minutes for a sincerely moving conversation about family planning. Go ahead. Call me naive.

If “Airport” Were Made Today: it would be hard to play Helen Hayes’ stowaway character as the comic relief. Mrs. Ada Quonsett is a widow who hitches rides on airplanes whenever she feels like it. Everything she does is illegal and immoral, but she’s a little old lady and she’s having a lot of fun being bad; even after she’s caught, she still tries to talk her way into the admiral’s club with a “borrowed” membership card. In 1970, people sneaking onto airplanes with forged documents could be kind of charming (talk about being naive). In 2010, people sneaking on airplanes with forged documents, even little old lady types, not so charming.

11082010_airport3.jpgCharacter You Kind of Want To Die: This one random passenger who keeps screwing things up for everyone else. When the flight crew get wind of the bomber’s plan, they hatch an elaborate scheme to grab his explosives, hidden in a briefcase, away from him. The plan works, until this one random guy sees what’s happening and sticks his nose in where it doesn’t belong; he stops the flight attendant with the case, and the bomber is able to grab it back. Then a few minutes later, just as Dean Martin is about to convince him not to blow himself up, a man comes out of the bathroom and bumps into the bomber, and the same random douchebag screams out “He’s got a bomb!” That starts a scuffle that results in the bomb going off. That one idiot is indirectly responsible for everything that goes wrong on that airplane! Is it weird that I kind of enjoyed watching him struggle for air when the cabin depressurized? Also: how intense does a trip to the bathroom have to be to not hear a guy threatening to blow up an airplane right outside the door?

Line That Makes You Wonder Whether The Whole Film Was An Informercial For The Air Travel Industry: “Remind me to send a thank you note to Mr. Boeing.” — Capt. Harris (Barry Nelson), inspecting the damaged plane after its safe landing.

Parodied in “Airplane!”: The opening credits of “Airplane!” are an obvious parody of “Jaws”: a model 747 tail fin snakes through lines of clouds while ominous John Williams-esque music plays. You assume the model looks so cheap because the Zuckers couldn’t afford anything fancier until you watch some of the flying sequences in “Airport,” which actually tries to pass off an incredibly phony toy plane skimming through cotton balls as a real plane in flight.

11082010_airport4.jpgHow Does It Hold Up? Better than I expected. “Airport” may have helped invent the modern disaster movie, but it’s a lot less over-the-top than many of the films that would follow (I’m looking at you, movie about Michael Caine fighting millions of angry bees). Most of the movie isn’t even about the airplane disaster; it really does focus on this airport and the tough decisions that have to be made by its manager, Mel Bakersfeld (Burt Lancaster). Even amidst all the movie stars and the big action set pieces, the movie has a nice working-class vibe. While Martin’s romancing Bisset, Lancaster and Kennedy are doing the unglamorous stuff: dealing with corporate bureaucracy, fielding complaints from angry customers, and digging planes out of snow banks, all on their nights off. For the people in the sky, air travel is exotic and exciting. Even though their flight gets attacked, it’s all this grand adventure that works out in the end. For the people on the ground, it’s just a job, and a pretty crappy one at that; it destroys at least one marriage before the picture’s over. I guess the powers that be at Universal felt that the movie stars and big action set pieces were what put asses in the seats, not the promise of tough management decisions. That would have a major impact on the tone and plot of the sequels.

Strange But True: According to Wikipedia, the plane that Universal leased to double for the damaged Trans Global jet was later sold to a Brazilian airline. On March 21, 1989, it was involved a real-life air disaster resulting in over twenty-five fatalities. Creepy.

Tomorrow: “Airport 1975″
Wednesday: “Airport ’77”
Thursday: “The Concorde… Airport ’79”
Friday: “Airplane!”

Gigi Rotblum, Ricky – Photo Credit: Adam Rose/IFC

Cooking With Gigi

5 Ways to Prepare For Tonight’s Gigi Does It and Become a Culinary Expert

Get in the kitchen with Gigi Mondays at 10:30P on IFC.

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It’s Monday, so you know what that means: Break out the turquoise eye shadow and bedazzled sweater! Tonight’s all new Gigi Does It at 10:30P ET/PT will keep you charged for the rest of the week. But before you forge headlong into septuagenarian hilarity, here are five ways to get ready for tonight’s episode.

1. Brush up on your culinary skills.

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According to Gigi, every dish should be prepared with a lotta love and a little bit of lust. But be sure to keep the ecstasy to a minimum and all bodily fluids outside the pot.

2. Experience the Great White North’s signature dish.

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French fries, cheese curds and gravy — poutine is a delicacy that isn’t for everyone. Love it or hate it, you should have at least a few bites if you want to be considered a true Canadian.

3. Whip up some “special” cookies.

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Competition is fierce when Gigi and her friends vie for the affections of eligible bachelor Melvin. Cookies are always a good idea to win someone’s heart — particularly if they’re baked with love and a little “extra” ingredient.

4. Watch the video Facebook doesn’t want you to see.

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Deemed “Too Hot for Facebook,” this montage of Gigi-isms removes the bleeps and blurs for a raw, NSFW look at the foul-mouthed granny in action.

5. Crack open Gigi’s book.

Gigi Does It Book Cover

Like most seniors, Gigi knows how little appreciation grandparents receive from their grandkids. Which is why the saucy old broad penned a children’s book reminding today’s youth to call their dear grandmothers. Give it a read here.


Todd Margaret at Comic Con

David Cross Wrote a Hilarious Letter to Todd Margaret Fans at New York Comic Con

Todd Margaret returns on January 7th, 2016 at 10P on IFC.

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As you may have heard, David Cross is returning to IFC for a third season of Todd Margaret. If you were lucky enough to be at New York Comic Con, you may have seen a sneak peek of the first three episodes of the six-episode series. (Everyone else will have to wait until Thursday, January 7th, 2016 at 10p ET/PT.)

David Cross was really sorry that he couldn’t be at the New York Comic Con Todd Margaret panel, but as he explains in a personal letter to fans below, his contract very clearly states that he won’t get out of bed for less than $2,500. He had no choice but to prolong his stay in bed by writing you, the loyal fans, a letter to explain what he’s been up to and why you should watch the new season of Todd Margaret. He even gives a few hints about Season three and how you could possibly win a car. Not really, but you should read David’s very funny letter below.


Donna That 70s Show

Donna Rules

Love Donna From That ’70s Show? Take the Quiz!

Catch That '70s Show Mons & Tues 6-11P on IFC.

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Photo credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Donna is the strongest (and probably the smartest) member of the That ’70s Show gang. But how well do you know the sassy redhead? Take the ultimate Donna fan quiz and find out!


Judy Greer Arrested Development

Cheer for Greer

10 Roles That Prove Judy Greer Is a National Treasure

Catch Judy Greer on an all-new Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P on IFC.

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Judy Greer is basically the human equivalent of bacon — she makes everything better. In the last year alone she’s appeared in Tomorrowland, Entourage, Ant-Man and Jurassic World, doing her best to elevate often underdeveloped characters. With Greer stopping by Comedy Bang! Bang!, we thought it was high time to celebrate the roles that have made her a national treasure. And to see how she scores so many great roles, check out her universal audition tape.

10. Bran Lowenstein, Love Monkey

This show only lasted three episodes for hit factory CBS, but it was enough to earn a cult following. The story of a bunch of young New Yorkers navigating life and love could’ve been yet another Friends clone, but Greer and an all-star cast gave it a funky flavor that would be more at home on cable today.

9. Shannon, Addicted to Fresno

Greer earned rave reviews for her role in this 2015 film about a sex addict who accidentally kills a guy and needs her sister (Natasha Lyonne) to help her get rid of the body. Combining big, broad comedy with some real pathos, this is Greer at her absolute best.

8. Fern Mayo, Jawbreaker

TriStar Pictures

TriStar Pictures

Greer went from geek to glam in this dark cult comedy that proved she was destined for big things.

7. Alice the Waitress, Adaptation.

Is it any wonder that Greer was the dream girl for writer Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage), considering her mix of beauty, brains and being approachable while also being fierce?

6. Lucy Wyman, 13 Going on 30

Here is Greer in one of her patented best friend roles, showing us that even when she doesn’t drive a scene, we can’t take our eyes off of her.

5. Lina Bowman, Married



Greer can currently be seen surviving marriage on this FX series, which allows her to showcase a wide variety of hilarious faces.

4. Julie Speer, The Descendants

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Fox Searchlight Pictures

As home in Oscar-winning dramas as she is in comedy, Greer nails this role of an aggrieved wife who’s just trying to keep her family from falling apart in Alexander Payne’s 2011 film.

3. Ingrid “Fatty Magoo” Nelson, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Greer is perfectly cast as Sweet Dee’s arch rival, who always seems to know the exact wrong thing to say to her.

2. Kitty Sanchez, Arrested Development

Imagine Television

Imagine Television

Greer, with the help of the always on Spring Break Kitty Sanchez, helped show the world and Michael Bluth that she was a force to be reckoned with.

1. Cherly Tunt, Archer

FX Productions

FX Productions

And then there’s Cheryl, a bondage loving secretary who moonlights as a world famous country singer. If ever there was a role Greer was born to play, this is it.

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