Thursday, May 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Ross Hunter

The other night, I had the extreme pleasure of going to the Heights Theatre and attending a 4oth anniversary showing of Airport. (This presentation was a benefit for Angel Flight Central, a lovely group of volunteers that transport children and families for a plethora of compassionate reasons.)

I can't recall how many times I've seen Airport, though I imagine I saw it originally in the theatre when it was released in 1970. Seeing it today (and on the big screen) was quite a hoot. I hadn't realized that it was produced by Ross Hunter, you know, the Ross Hunter that produced:

Magnificent Obsession
All That Heaven Allows
Tammy and the Bachelor
Back Street
Imitation of Life
Pillow Talk
Flower Drum Song
Madame X
The Chalk Garden
Thoroughly Modern Millie

Born Martin Fuss (what a good name for a queen of yore) Ross spent time in Army intelligence during World War II. After a short acting career in B-pictures, he began his true career at Universal-International. Hunter, surely an aesthete, adored glamour and strove to bring this ideal to his films. "I gave audiences what they wanted - a chance to dream, to live vicariously, to see beautiful women, jewels, gorgeous clothes, melodrama."

Columnist Rona Barrett with Ross

with his Madame X

Shit-for-brains husband, Doris and Ross

I hadn't remembered what a soap opera Airport was, but then I hadn't realized Ross had produced this picture. Airport was simply all those 50s tearjerkers, slightly updated for the late 60s....with a big plane.

There was Dana Wynter, playing steel bitch, screaming at Burt Lancaster because she didn't give a fuck if a plane load of people died, she didn't want to go to some damn dinner without him! (Speaking of eating, Burt got to taste Jean Seberg's scrambled eggs later on.)

Jackie Bisset, stewardess (whose ample breast is flashed) dropped a bombshell on married Dean Martin, pilot....she was pregnant with his baby! Dean more or less told her to get an abortion, but by the time the film ends, he's done a 180. His wife, Barbara Hale knew he had affairs, but was comforted by the fact that he always came home to her. It was ice cold comfort when Dino came off the plane with the injured Bisset and never saw Barbara waiting and aching for him.
Then there was poor, poor Maureen Stapleton, living in a state of squalor only a set decorator could dream up. Her apartment appeared to have been underwater at one time....the wallpaper so stained and ripped. And only a blind man wishing ptomaine would choose to sup at the coffee shop/diner she worked at. All she had to give desperate Van Heflin were a few measly bills and coins. Van, who sat in his plane seat and clutched his attache case with the bomb inside, Van, who overacted more than anyone else. Poor Van, it was his last movie. And George Kennedy and his romantic scene? Don't ask....it was smarmy. And yes, you remember correctly, Helen Hayes won a supporting Oscar for her Ada Quonset. If you've never seen Jackie Bisset slap Helen Hayes, you haven't lived.

Because I was able to view this on a lovely large screen, I was able to really see the faces of the actors/actresses playing the passengers on the plane. I can't give you names (other than Marion Ross, uncredited) but y'all would know these folks. It really blew me away that so many familiar character people garnered spots in this cast. (You know how I love nameless character people!) I also learned that the location filming was done at the Minneapolis-St.Paul Airport (though referred to as "Lincoln" in the film). Filming was done at night since the airport was busy being an airport during the day, duh. Tons of local extras were needed to fill long shots, making the airport appear normal, bustling with people. From what I was told, chosen women were quite excited about all this, getting their hair done and donning their Sunday best to be "in the movies". Back in 1970, a believable customer was coiffed, dressed and ready for their close-up, unlike today where a usual traveling ensemble could easily find itself here.

Can you tell I enjoyed it? When it pops up on television, maybe you should watch it?


  1. If you've never seen Jackie Bisset slap Helen Hayes, you haven't lived.

    You would be the ideal candidate to put together a montage of all the best cinematic bitch-slapping scenes.

  2. God no, not me.

    Remember that as a six or seven year old I was taken by my father (the lousy son of a bitch) to see this on a winters afternoon and being told it was a comedy. That he fucked with mind (and that ain't the only thing that bastard fucked with) left me scarred for year to come. Even today I have nightmares, so I'll pass on this soaper and stick to my Camey.

  3. sorry darling, didn't mean to cause a flashback.


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