The Anniversary of Airplane

Hard to believe, but 35 years ago today “Airplane!” premiered in movie theaters across the country. The plot concerned the inane flight crew and a motley group of passengers; the movie made air travel and human condition raucously funny – and not the grueling, uncomfortable process it is today.

The anniversary of Airplane, as CNN notes, brings us back to the summer of 1980. The film grossed a surprising $83 million (about $240 million in today’s money) and ranked as the No. 4 film of the year, behind “Empire Strikes Back,” “9 to 5” and “Stir Crazy.”

The movie’s manic energy, running gags and stupid, laugh-out-loud dialog have only become more ingrained in pop culture consciousness. People still recite lines such as:

“You’d better tell the Captain we’ve got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.” “A hospital? What is it?” “It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.”

And: “Surely, you can’t be serious?” “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”

Who can forget the little girl who, upon being offered cream with her coffee, says “No, thank you, I take it black, like my men.”

Or the elegant older woman who speaks jive and translates for the stewardess and a jive dude:  “He said that he’s in great pain and he wants to know if you can help him.” “…tell him to just relax and I’ll be back as soon as I can with some medicine…” [To the jive dude:] “Jus’ hang loose, blood. She gonna catch ya up on da rebound on da med side.” [Jive dude:] “What it is, big mama? My mama no raise no dummies. I dug her rap!” “Cut me some slack, Jack! Chump don’ want no help, chump don’t GET da help!” “Say ‘e can’t hang, say seven up!” “Jive-*** dude don’t got no brains anyhow!”

Serious, well-regarded actors of the day such as Robert Stack, Peter Graves and Leslie Nielsen deadpanned their way through the movie. Somehow, writers/directors Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker managed to make outrageous fun and not offend.

The mayhem present in “Airplane!” is actually not that far off from what transpires on many flights today. But it was funnier then!

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