Airport (1970 film)

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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, ASC
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. The film, which earned nearly $100 million,[2] focuses on an airport manager trying to keep his airport open during a snow storm, while a suicidal bomber plots to blow up a Boeing 707 airliner in flight. The story takes place at fictional Lincoln International Airport located near Chicago, Illinois. The picture was produced by Ross Hunter with a $10 million budget. Ernest Laszlo photographed it in 70 mm Todd-AO.

This was the last film scored by Alfred Newman, who died shortly before the movie's release. Airport was also the last film role for Van Heflin.

The film was a critical success and surpassed Spartacus as Universal Pictures' biggest moneymaker.[3] The movie won Helen Hayes an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as an elderly stowaway and was nominated for nine more Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design for renowned Hollywood designer Edith Head.

Airport originated the 1970s disaster film genre, establishing the convention of "microcosmic melodrama combined with catastrophe-oriented adventure".[4]


This film was based on the novel by Arthur Hailey. With attention 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.

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 Trans Global Airlines Flight 2, known as The Golden Argosy, a Rome-bound Boeing 707 intercontinental jet, from a snowbound Chicago-area airport. 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.

When the Golden Argosy crew is made aware of Guerrero's presence and possible intentions, Captain Vernon Demerest (Dean Martin), acting as a check pilot to evaluate Captain Anson Harris (Barry Nelson), goes back into the passenger cabin and tries to persuade Guerrero not to trigger the bomb, informing him that his insurance policy had been cancelled. Meanwhile, airport manager Mel Bakersfeld (Burt Lancaster) deals with personal, weather, runway and stowaway problems from the ground.

When confronted by Captain Demerest, Guerrero briefly considers giving the attaché containing the bomb until a male passenger yells out to a passenger exiting the lavatory that Guerrero has a bomb. Guerrero, holding the case close to him, runs into the lavatory at the rear of the aircraft and triggers the bomb. The detonation blows out a hole in the wall of the lavatory and Guerrero with it. Chief Stewardess Gwen Meighen (Jacqueline Bisset), who is having an affair with the married Demerest and is pregnant with Demerest's child, 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 another airliner stuck in snow has closed the primary runway. TWA (Trans World Airlines, an actual airline of the time) chief mechanic at Lincoln, Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) is enlisted by Bakersfeld to lead the efforts to move the stuck aircraft, another Boeing 707, even though it belongs to a different airline, TGA (Trans Global Airlines, a fictional airline and the parent company of the film's Golden Argosy jet) 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.

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.



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: N324F, a 707-349C 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.[5]


Box office[edit]

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.[6]


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."[7]

Modern critics have mostly panned it,[8][9] with the most generous reviews complimenting the film's influence on the disaster genre and its "camp value."[10][11]

Burt Lancaster himself dismissed the film as "the biggest piece of junk ever made".[12][13]

Awards and nominations[edit]




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.

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[edit]


  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. ^ a b "Airport, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  3. ^ Link, Tom (1991). Universal City-North Hollywood: A Centennial Portrait. Chatsworth, California: Windsor Publications. p. 87. ISBN 0-89781-393-6. 
  4. ^ Harpole, Charles. History of the American Cinema. University of California Press. pp. 251–252. ISBN 978-0-520-23265-5. 
  5. ^ "Accident description PT-TCS". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 14 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "Box Office Mojo: Airport". Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  7. ^ Variety, Review of Airport, Thursday, January 1, 1970
  8. ^ "Ebert's review of 'Airport'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  9. ^ "Airport review". Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  10. ^ 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. Retrieved 2009-08-31. [dead link]
  11. ^ "filmcritic: Airport". Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  12. ^
  13. ^,1786621
  14. ^ "The 43rd Academy Awards (1971) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-27. 
  15. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 31. 

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