Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Stewardess, I think the man sitting next to me is a doctor."

Ed here: One of the great joys of my fourth decade was sitting in a theater with Carol watching "Airplane!" It was so relentlessly funny I remember nearly choking on my popcorn a few times. This broke all the rules for parody/satire.
Now one of my favorite blog spots brings a new insight into the movie.

Thoughts on Popular Culture and Unpopular Culture
by Jaime J. Weinman

With Zero Hour coming out on DVD, I wonder: does anyone else find it kind of shabby that Airplane! didn't give any credit to the writers of Zero Hour?

It's often said that Airplane! is a parody of the 1957 film, but it's actually a remake, and a very faithful remake at that: Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker followed Zero Hour almost scene for scene, and a majority of the dialogue comes directly from the three writers of the original script. (Zero Hour was based on a CBC television drama written by Arthur Hailey, Flight Into Danger; the movie script is credited to Hailey and the film's producer and director.) Airplane! is, in essence, a longer, more expensive version of an old staple from live comedy, which is taking the script of a "serious" movie or play and playing it for laughs. But as Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker have acknowledged, it also helped them because they didn't have any experience with story structure; by using the story and dialogue of Zero Hour, they had a decently-structured plot that they could pump full of jokes. When they had to actually create a story and characters from scratch, in Top Secret!, it was a huge flop (I love Top Secret!, but I'm not surprised it failed, because there's no story for the audience to hang onto). I think, on that basis, that Paramount should have given credit to Arthur Hailey and the other writers, because their work isn't just being spoofed in Airplane! -- their work helped make it successful.

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