The V.I.P.s (1963)


Bad weather at famous London’s Heathrow Airport prevents various elite passengers from leaving the country. This unexpected flight delay produces all sorts of unintended complications for anxious passengers.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I shall clearly arrive in Florida in an advanced state of drug addiction.”

Sometimes I just want to put my brain in neutral and enjoy something silly and fluffy. After all, a movie buff shall not live on masterpieces alone, right? MGM’s The V.I.P.s is admittedly nothing but glitzy crappola, but I dare you to turn it off — it’s a well-made and extremely entertaining comedy-drama with an all-star cast.

Written by award-winning playwright Terence Rattigan (The Browning Version and Separate Tables) and exquisitely directed by Anthony Asquith (Pygmalion and The Importance of Being Earnest), The V.I.P.s is divided into four interconnected stories — the film goes back and forth between these storylines.

One segment revolves around an overbearing tycoon (Richard Burton, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) trying to prevent his wife (Elizabeth Taylor, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) from taking off with a gigolo (Louis Jourdan, Gigi). This rather somber storyline is set against two funny vignettes: a grumpy film director (Orson Welles, The Third Man) deals with his messy lifestyle and an English Duchess (Margaret Rutherford, Blithe Spirit) faces bankruptcy. Lastly, a businessman (Rod Taylor, The Birds) attempts to save his company with the help of his faithful secretary (Maggie Smith, Gosford Park).

Thanks to the super-cast, all four episodes are equally fun to watch. Dick is brooding, Liz is poised, Louis is debonair and Orson is his usual flamboyant self. As you would expect, beloved Aussie actor Roddy is charmingly down-to-earth.

Although Rutherford won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her hilarious performance as the penniless Duchess (probably the beneficiary of the sentimental vote), I thought Dame Maggie gave the best performance in the entire film. It’s one of her very first film roles, but Smith already demonstrates how good she is at conveying all sorts of complex emotions. The cast also includes Elsa Martinelli (Blood and Roses) as a wannabe actress and Dennis Price (Kind Hearts and Coronets) as Cmdr. Millbank. Rutherford’s real-life husband, Stringer Davis (Murder She Said), has a cameo as a waiter.

The V.I.P.s is snazzier than any film deserves to be. It’s a high-gloss production from top to bottom. The producers didn’t spare any expenses. Pierre Cardin and Givenchy dressed the actors. Celebrated cameraman Jack Hildyard (The Bridge on the River Kwai) shot the movie in gorgeous widescreen. And the entire production is bathed in a powerful, smothering music score by Miklós Rózsa (Spellbound).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Today, The V.I.P.s feels like a pilot for a weekly TV series, not necessarily a bad thing. It also paved the way for Arthur Hailey’s highly popular nightstand books Hotel and Airport and their subsequent film/TV adaptations. Pop the champagne cork and enjoy! Asquith, Rattigan and Hildyard followed The V.I.P.s with The Yellow Rolls-Royce, another episodic, all-star extravaganza. Color, 125 minutes, Not Rated.

3 responses to “The V.I.P.s (1963)

  1. I watched this movie recently. It looks somewhat dated but is still enjoyable. Maggie Smith really stole the show from Taylor and Burton!!

    Liked by 1 person

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