Bad weather at London’s Heathrow Airport prevents various elite passengers from leaving the country. This unexpected flight delay produces all sorts of unintended complications for the anxious passengers.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Mindless, ultra-stylish trinket with a dandy, all-star cast. 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? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s The V.I.P.s, written by Prize-winning playwright Terence Rattigan (The Browning Version and Separate Tables), directed by Anthony Asquith (Pygmalion), is admittedly nothing but glitzy crappola, but I dare you to turn it off — it’s extremely well-made and very, very entertaining.
The V.I.P.s is divided into four interconnected stories: an overbearing tycoon (Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) tries to prevent his wife (Elizabeth Taylor, Cleopatra) from taking off with a gigolo (Louis Jourdan, Gigi), a grumpy film director (Orson Welles, Citizen Kane) wants to avoid paying high taxes, a penniless English duchess (Dame Margaret Rutherford, Blithe Spirit) is about to lose her castle, and a businessman (Rod Taylor, The Time Machine) attempts to save his company with the help of his faithful secretary (Maggie Smith, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie). There’s never a dull moment in the entire movie.
The Burtons’ vignette is heavy melodrama (the segment was allegedly inspired by the real-life love triangle between Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, and Peter Finch), while Welles and Rutherford provide mostly comic relief. Personally, I liked the Taylor-Smith section best, but all four stories are equally fun to watch.
Dick is brooding, Liz is poised, Louis is debonair and Orson is his usual flamboyant self. Rod is charmingly down-to-earth. Although Dame Margaret won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, I thought 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 — she’s the heart of the movie. 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 (Summertime and 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 and Ben-Hur).
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.