Saturday, March 03, 2012

pilot Dean Martin’s affair with a hot stewardess (Jacqueline Bisset)

Hey pallies, likes how Dino-magical is this. Yester-Dino-day's post was 'bout the showin' of a super 8 version of "Airport" in South St. Louis at the Way Out Club, and likes today ilovedinomartin gets to share with you 'nother great review of said Dino-flick.

Today ilovedinomartin turns our attention to 'nother new-to-ilovedinomartin blog, "Filmbobbery," where movie affectionado Mr. Robert J. Lentz hangs his hat. In his own words Lentz is "a former movie theatre- / video store- / laserdisc store manager-turned-writer, and Filmbobbery is my personal vehicle to share my lifelong love of the movies."

Turns out that "Airport" is one of Lentz's all-time fav films, and he shares some great insights 'bout this great flick. While Mr. Lentz's prose on our Dino is much much less then the recent stellar "Airport" review posted here by Mr. Matt Cale, he none the less gives our most beloved Dino his due.

One of the totally totally rad Dino-details that Robert has failed to mention is the absolutely amazin' detail that our Dino was lured into doin' this blockbuster with the blockbuster salary of 7 cool million dollars! Simply shows how hot our Dino was in the late 60's and early 70's due to his fabulous TV show and his swingin' quartet of roles as spyster Matt Helm.

Anywho pallies, great to see Mr. Lentz's review so so close to the showin' of "Airport" at the swingin' Way Out Club in South St. Louie! Makes me wanna even more makes my pilgrimage there for this cool Dino-event! Thanks ever so much Mr. Robert Lentz for sharin' your thoughts on this great epic and helpin' others grow in their Dino-devotion! To view this in it's original format, likes just clicks on the tag of this Dino-gram. Dino-ever, DMP

March 2012: Airport (1970) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

I was just twelve when I saw Airport for the first time. On November 11, 1973 it became the highest-rated movie ever broadcast on television when it premiered on ABC. I was one of the millions who watched it, and I was enthralled. Since then I’ve read the book (five times) and, subsequently, all of Arthur Hailey’s other books. Hailey specialized in dense, intricately plotted, meticulously researched explorations of very specific environments in books like Hotel, Wheels, The Moneychangers and his biggest success of all, Airport.

It takes place at Lincoln International Airport in Chicago, a sort of whitewashed version of O’Hare, during a blizzard that leads to all sorts of complications on the ground, and later, in the air. Hailey’s book, and George Seaton’s movie, delve into the interior workings of the airport, which functions as a microcosm of a small city, and several personal stories that develop, bisect and collide as Trans Global Airlines’ Flight 2 prepares to leave for Rome.

Lincoln’s general operations officer (Burt Lancaster) is beset by the blizzard that threatens to cripple the airport, a jet stuck in the snow blocking its longest runway, an elderly stowaway (Helen Hayes) whose casual dishonesty rubs a passenger relations agent (Jean Seberg) the wrong way, a combative pilot (Dean Martin) who happens to be his brother-in-law, angry residents picketing because of the take-off noise generated by use of the shorter runway, and, eventually, the possibility of a mentally disturbed passenger with a bomb.

This doesn’t even mention the romantic complications between Lancaster and his socialite wife (Dana Wynter), furious that he spends so much time at the airport, or Lancaster’s affair with Seberg… or pilot Dean Martin’s affair with a hot stewardess (Jacqueline Bisset), who shocks him before the flight with the news that she is pregnant.

Naturally, the stowaway sneaks onto the Rome flight and sits right next to the desperate bomber. Naturally, the stewardess (yes, that is the term used in the film) is enlisted to get the bomb away from the suicidal man. Naturally, it doesn’t work, and all hell breaks loose.

All this drama (and melodrama) is delivered in grand style by an all-star cast. It was this movie that essentially jump-started the disaster film cycle, and ensured that the cinematic perils to follow put just about every famous name in Hollywood at risk in some way or another. In 1970 Airport made some $45 million, more than twice as much as the next biggest moneymaker. Producers saw what George Seaton had put together and followed the same formula for the next decade, with spectacular results.

The all-star cast certainly helped recruit audiences, but most everybody involved gives terrific performances, too. Helen Hayes won the Supporting Actress Academy Award as mischievous stowaway Ada Quonsett, and she is hilarious. Maureen Stapleton shines as the disbelieving wife of the bomber; she won a Golden Globe award for her performance. Every time I see this movie I am increasingly impressed with Stapleton’s performance, probably the best in the film. George Kennedy is great as Joe Patroni, the cigar-chomping maintenance chief called upon to remove the snowbound jet blocking the airport’s longest runway. Jean Seberg and Jacqueline Bisset are good, sometimes very good, in their less demanding roles.

Burt Lancaster is appropriately intense as the airport manager, juggling hundreds of concerns, requests and demands. Lancaster brings the movie together; everything revolves around his character, and he is excellent. Anyone who doubts this should visit the scene where Lancaster tells off the board member who wants to shut down the airport because of noise concerns — his soliloquy about the future that the airport will face is dynamic and heartfelt. The star whose performance is criticized in many circles is Dean Martin. Sadly, his reputation for tippling makes this an unfortunate role in which to take him seriously, but his performance is pretty good nonetheless. I’ve always liked him in it, much as I liked him in Rio Bravo and Some Came Running. He’s probably miscast, but I don’t think he detracts from the drama at all.

Beyond the star-gazing and the gloss provided by producer Ross Hunter that pervades the picture, it also boasts some genuinely solid filmmaking. Seaton’s use of split screen — and sometimes diamond screen, or panel screen, or insert screen — is superb, solving the practical issue of how to make telephone calls and radio-based conversations and even flashbacks entertaining without breaking the flow of the narrative. The film’s technical aspects are top-notch, as attested to by its ten Academy Award nominations. About the only thing it is missing is great model work in flight, as we never see the plane in flight with its hole facing the camera.

Perhaps my favorite technical aspect is the music. Alfred Newman devised a fabulous theme for the movie — maybe the best aviation music ever written — big and bold, exciting and triumphant. It is my all-time favorite title music, perfectly capturing all the drama that this particular evening at an airport promises. While Newman’s romantic music is too soggy for my taste, his theme for Ada Quonsett is absolutely delightful. It is surprising to me that Newman scored this Universal film, since he was the long-time head of the music department for 20th Century-Fox. Sadly, Newman died less than a month before Airport premiered to the public.

Anyway, I just love this movie, soap-opera romance and all. It is set in a fascinating place full of intricacies and excitement, from smugglers and lost children to security experts and suicidal bombers. Things have changed a great deal since this movie was made, which makes it a time capsule to remind us how open and innocent things were not so long ago. Most of all, I appreciate the figures who run the airport such as Lancaster’s and Seberg’s and Lloyd Nolan’s characters, devoting their time and energy to making sure things run efficiently and safely for all the people who pass through. The movie is a tribute to the real people in those positions.

Some of the book didn’t make it into the 137-minute film. Lancaster’s character has an emotionally-troubled brother, an air traffic controller, who is very important in the book. There is much more about the bomber’s personal problems and why he feels the need to try to provide an insurance payoff to his long-suffering wife. Perhaps someday another version, a longer version, will tackle these issues; many of Arthur Hailey’s later books were filmed as miniseries in response to their dramatic density.

When I tell people about my all-time favorite films, Airport, at number four, is the one that raises eyebrows. I don’t care. I get excited to see it every few years and when I do, like tonight, it never fails to thrill me. It boasts excellent writing, some great performances, wonderful title music and a situation tailor-made for a movie. Leonard Maltin says that its “Grand Hotel plot formula reaches [its] latter-day zenith in [this] ultraslick, old-fashioned movie that entertains in spite of itself.” I disagree; I think it has elements of greatness and doesn’t squander the opportunity. I love this movie and I will defend, and enjoy, it forever. ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰. 2 March 2012.


Kylie said...

I remember after seeing this movie for the very first time years ago, my dad bought me the book and the book was great, the cover had small pictures of the cast.
I was always very happy Dean played the role of the hero in this movie.
He was working with all the big stars.
I loved Helen Hayes and I thought Van Heflin was great as D. O. Guerro.
I had seen him in Shane and more recently in 3.10 to Yuma.
I have some photographs of Dean and Jacqueline attending an Airport Party and they both look great together.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, likes Miss Ky thanks ever so much for sharin' those lovin' Dino-memories...indeed our Dino and Miss Jacqueline make quite the amorin' couple. Keeps lovin' our Dino!