Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Airplane! (1980)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Airplane! (1980)

In this anarchic, manic comedy by the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams - entirely a spoof of Zero Hour! (1957) and later "Airport" films, filled with many effective puns, sight gags, parodies, wordplays, and other jokes:

  • in the opening, a plane's wing-tip or fin was viewed cutting through the clouds to the accompaniment of the theme from Jaws (1975) - it was a Trans-American Airlines passenger plane flying from Los Angeles to Chicago
  • at the LA airport, flight-phobic, ex-Air Force pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays) who was suffering from a drinking problem had taken a taxi-cab driver job, but then abandoned his taxi (with a passenger) at the curb to book a ticket on the Trans-American Airlines flight of his stewardess ex-girlfriend Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty); his intention was to repair their broken relationship, but Elaine initially rejected him
  • as the plane was taking off, there was continuing confusion between the flight's Captain Clarence Oveur (Peter Graves) and his own second co-pilot navigator Roger Murdock (basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar); there was continuing confusion about the Captain's reply "Roger" with his own co-pilot Roger and navigator Victor Basta (Frank Ashmore) (and other misappropriations, reminiscent of Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First?" routine in The Naughty Nineties (1945)) while talking to ground control during clearance for take-off; later there was a bit about "Vector Victor" and "Roger Roger" -- and further airplane cockpit talk: "We have clearance, Clarence. Roger, Roger. What's our Vector, Victor?"
  • a flashback scene spoofed the disco-era of Saturday Night Fever (1977) when Elaine and Ted were obliviously dancing to the Bee Gee's "Stayin' Alive" in the place where they first met - a Casablanca-style bar in Drambuie off the Barbary Coast; after Striker's lengthy exposition, he looked over at his elderly, long-suffering, bored seat-mate, the Hanging Lady (Ann Nelson) - who had killed herself by hanging
  • during meal service, a well-dressed, very mature Young Boy (David Hollander) carrying a tray offered an equally-mature Young Girl (Michelle Stacy) coffee, and then asked if she wanted cream - she replied: "I take it my men"
  • the in-flight meal (fish) led to numerous difficulties later in the flight - sick passengers and crew
  • Elaine recalled in a flashback how Ted had passionately kissed her on the beach while covered in kelp - a spoof of From Here to Eternity (1953)
  • Captain Oveur delivered dead-panned, sexually-prurient and provocative lines to young boy Joey (Rossie Harris) who was visiting in the cockpit, among others: "You ever been in the cockpit before...You ever seen a grown man naked?" and "Joey, do you ever hang around a gymnasium? Do you like movies about gladiators?" and "Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?"
  • air stewardess Randy (Lorna Patterson) sang River of Jordan with a guitar (borrowed from a nun) while she continually knocked out the I-V drip for heart-transplant patient Lisa Davis (Jill Whelan) - who was on the way to the Minneapolis Mayo Clinic and desperately struggled during the song (a spoof of the earlier film Airport 1975 (1974))
  • to deal with all the food-poisoned passengers, a doctor was obviously identified on board - a stethoscope was prominently hanging from his ears - Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen); navigator Victor Basta and co-pilot Roger Murdock succumbed to the ailment; when Captain Oveur also passed out, Elaine activated the "Automatic Pilot" - an inflatable blow-up, swivel-headed doll in a pilot suit named Otto (credited as HIMSELF) in Roger's seat, and then radioed about the distressed airliner to harried Chicago air traffic controller Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges)
  • drug-addicted Chicago air traffic control tower supervisor Steve McCroskey's running gag was: "Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit smoking / drinking /amphetamines / sniffing glue"
  • in the infamous "fellatio" scene, Elaine was given directions by air-traffic control in Chicago to manually reinflate Otto the Autopilot doll (an inflatable plastic man in a pilot suit, humorously credited as HIMSELF) by blowing air into a nozzle in his belt buckle: ("On the belt line of the automatic pilot there's a tube. Now that is the manual inflation nozzle. Take it out and blow on it") -- Otto suddenly sported a huge satisfied grin and later both Otto and Elaine smoked cigarettes
  • flight attendant Elaine asked a distressing question over the PA: ("By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?"); in the cockpit, Dr. Rumack interrogated Ted about his ability to fly - with plentiful punning: (Dr. Rumack: "Can you fly this plane and land it?" Ted: "Surely, you can't be serious!" Dr. Rumack: "I am serious, and don't call me 'Shirley'!")
  • Mrs. Hammen (Lee Bryant) became hysterical ("I've got to get outta here"); to calm her, Dr. Rumack and other passengers took turns to queue up in the aisle and shake her, slap her, and strike her with various implements (boxing gloves, a giant wrench, a gun, a baseball bat, a whip, etc.)

Dr. Rumack: "Don't call me 'Shirley'!"

Mrs. Hammen Calmed By Other Passengers - With Boxing Gloves, Wrench, etc.

Jive Lady: "I speak Jive"
  • one of the film's running gags involved two jive-talking passengers: Jive Man 1 Holm (Norman Alexander Gibbs) and Jive Man 2 Arthur (Al White); in the "Oh stewardess, I speak jive" scene, elderly passenger Jive Lady (Barbara Billingsley) offered to translate the jive talk of the two black passengers to the flight attendant: ("Cut me some slack, Jack!...Chump don't want no help, chump don't GET da' help!")
  • in the film's conclusion, Ted (with sweat streaming down his face) was coached by his ex-commanding officer Capt. Rex Kramer (Robert Stack) on how to land the plane; as the plane was preparing to land in Chicago, McCroskey ordered all emergency vehicles to race to Runway 9 - multiple vehicles raced by on the tarmac (a fire-truck, an ambulance, and a police car), followed by a Budweiser truck, an Alhambra water cooler truck, a cement mixer, and a tractor)
  • while struggling with the plane's controls, Ted worried to himself: "When Kramer hears about this, the s--t's gonna hit the fan" (literally it did in the air-flight control tower offices!)
  • after the plane landed safely and the passengers were evacuated, Ted and Elaine were reconciled to each other in their salvaged relationship - as "Otto" winked and saluted toward them before taking control of the plane for take-off with an inflated female auto-pilot companion next to him
  • a post-credits comment was made by a long-suffering, mostly-forgotten, abandoned taxi passenger (Howard Jarvis) at the LAX airport curb; he was still waiting for cab driver Striker who had left him at the beginning of the film: ("Well, I'll give him another 20 minutes, but that's it")

"Jaws" Airplane Fin

Saturday Night Fever Spoof

Captain Oveur With Young Boy Joey

IV Drip Knocked Out During Singing of "River of Jordan"

Otto the Autopilot Doll

Drug Addicted Chicago Air Traffic Controller Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges)

"Fly a plane?" Elaine's PA Announcement

S--t Literally Hitting the Fan


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