This precursor to later “epic” 70’s disaster films illustrates 12 hours in the lives of the personnel and passengers at the “Lincoln Airport.” Endless problems, professional and personal, are thrown at the various personnel responsible for the safe and proper administration of air traffic, airline management and aviation at a major US airport. Take one severe snowstorm, add multiple schedules gone awry, one elderly Trans Global Airlines stowaway, shortages, an aging, meretricious pilot, unreasonable, peevish spouses, manpower issues, fuel problems, frozen runways and equipment malfunctions and you get just a sample of the obstacles faced by weary, disgruntled personnel and passengers at the Lincoln Airport. Toss in one long-suffering pilot’s wife, several stubborn men, office politics and romance and one passenger with a bomb and you have the film “Airport” from 1970.
User Reviews: Airport is a film that has been unfairly tarnished by having spawned three `sequels’ which were really just variations on the aviation disaster plot-line with little in common with this film. In fact there is a whole lot more to this film than aviation disaster but at no point is there the feeling of `gee I wish the plane would hurry up and crash’. Much of the running time is taken with exploring the personal dramas of the various personalities of Lincoln Airport; Mel Bakersfield (Burt Lancaster) must contend with stacked up planes and a snow-bound airport, a bitter wife, and philandering and antagonistic brother-in-law Vernon Demerest (Dean Martin). Between dealing with complaints by nearby residents and airport officials, Mel loves Tania Livingstone (Jean Seberg), the calm and efficient Airport administrator who spends her time at the airport dealing with complaining customers, customs cheats, and little old lady stowaway Ada Quonset (Helen Hayes). Meanwhile Vernon, married to Mel’s sister Sarah also loves flight attendant Gwen Mieghan (Jacqueline Bissett) who has just announced her pregnancy. Much sympathy is generated for struggling older woman Inez Guerrero (Maureen Stapleton, who is excellent) who discovers that her heavily insured husband D O Guerrero (Van Heflin, also excellent in one of his last roles) who has claimed to have found demolition work in Milwaukee, has actually booked a one-way ticket to Rome. Inez frantically travels to the airport but arrives after the plane has taken off… with Vernon, Gwen and Ada amongst those on board.
The film is an classy, old-fashioned drama which does not feel at all like the wave of disaster films that followed. The acting and characterisation is good and the subplots genuinely involving. There is also an interesting use of split-screen type devices, and a nice line in comedy. A great film if you can ignore all those silly disclaimers insisting that Boeing 707s are excellent aeroplanes, etc. (Not that they aren’t good planes or anything…)