Airport, released in 1970, marked the birth of the Golden Age of the Disaster film in the 1970’s. With it’s huge box office success, Airport was followed up by other disaster films including The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Earthquake (1974) and the mother of all disaster flicks, The Towering Inferno (1974). Airport established the classic disaster movie blueprint: overly cheesy dialogue, colliding within innumerable plot lines, and boasting an all-star cast. This films boasts the likes of Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, George Kennedy and Jacqueline Bisset, all of whom are awaiting their fates while a mad bomber (Van Heflin) threatens to detonate his bomb-riddled suitcase in a jet liner’s lavatory bound for Rome. The plane can’t land because (darn it), the city’s only airport is seeing it’s worst snow storm on record and a stranded plane is sitting on the only runway. Will the jet’s crew and passengers survive or perish? Well, once I found out flight attendant Jacqueline Bisset was pregnant with pilot Dean Martin’s baby (did they HAVE Viagra back then??), I found myself rooting for Van Heflin and that briefcase.
Anyway, on to the Best Supporting Actresses. Airport garnered 10 Academy Award nominations (tying for the most nominations that year with eventual Best Picture winner “Patton”). Two of those nominations from Airport went to two veterans of the Oscars. First up is Maureen Stapleton, nominee, (192), who played Inez Guerrero, the mad bomber’s distraught and somewhat gullible wife. This was Stapleton’s 2nd Best Supporting Actress nomination. She was previously nominated for her work in the film Lonelyhearts in 1958. Stapleton’s role in Airport is that of a “cash-strapped, hard working waitress, I’ll Support My Demolitions Expert Husband Who’s Getting on a Plane because he says he loves me and hey why did he buy all of that flight insurance at the last minute” kind that allows her to get all weepy and remoreseful at the end of the film. She was alright. Nothing special.
The real trooper to come through this snowstorm of a disaster flick was 70 year old veteran actress Helen Hayes, winner, (191) for her role as Ada Quonsett, the resourceful and coniving stowaway passenger onboard the doomed airliner. Hayes takes on the role of Ada with humor and intelligence. Hayes was a sentimental favorite to win the Oscar in 1970. Her competition was not terribly stiff and she had established herself as a gifted actor- even winning the Best Actress Oscar in 1931. Hayes is an Oscar, Tony and Emmy winner and her work in Airport was memorable enough to secure her another Oscar 38 years after her first win.