V.I.P.’S The (1963): Anthony Asquith’s Airport Melodrama, Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Margaret Rutherford in Oscar-Winning Performance

An all-star cast camouflages this routinely plotted but mildly enjoyable adventure-melodrama, directed by Anthony Asquith (who had done better in the past) and scripted by playwright Terence Rattigan (“Separate Tables”), about a group of diverse passengers stranded at a London airport during a fog.

Scribe Rattigan later claimed that the film is based on the true story of actress Vivien Leigh’s attempt to leave her husband, actor Laurence Olivier, and fly off with her lover, the actor Peter Finch, only to be delayed by a fog at Heathrow.

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

The V.I.P.s
The V.I.P.s film poster.jpg

Original film poster


The delays have caused problems for all of the characters, some of whomd have plunged into a deep financial crisis and emotional depression.

Elizabeth Taylor plays famed actress Frances Andros trying to leave her husband, millionaire Paul Andros (Richard Burton), and fly away with her suitor Marc Champselle (Louis Jourdan). But, alas, Andros grabs the opportunity of being able to come to the airport to persuade his wife not to leave him.

Margaret Rutherford is the Duchess of Brighton, on her way to Florida to take a job, which will pay her enough money to save her historic home.

Film producer Max Buda (Orson Welles) takes his newest protégée Gloria Gritti (Elsa Martinelli) with him in his forced departure from London, motivated by his wish to avoid paying a hefty tax bill.

The most sympathetic couple is played by the likable Rod Taylor, as Les Mangrum, an Australian businessman, who must get to New York City to prevent his business from being sold, and Maggie Smith as his loyal secretary, Miss Mead, who is in love with him. To that extent, she asks Paul Andros to advance a sum of money that will save Mangrum’s company.

Spotting s a poster of the Duchess’s home, Buda offers her money in order to be able to use it as  location in a film, enough to keep the house she loves.

At the last minute, Andros, who is depressed, is spared suicide when his wife decides to stay with him–“Take me home,” she says.

Better known for her Agatha Christie film series, “Miss Marple,” Rutherford shines as the Duchess of Brighton, a dandy and dotty old woman. She’s traveling to Miami to be a hotel hostess and make enough to keep her stately home in England–it’s her first time on a plane

Winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, Rutherford practically steals the picture from her fellow actors.

The movie was hugely successful at the box -office due to the casting of Taylor and Burton, the hottest couple in international cinema, who made this picture right after their scandalous affair (both were married to other partners), which began on the set of Cleopatra.

Oscar Alert

In 1963, Margaret Rutherford competed for the Supporting Actress Oscar with Lilia Skala in “Lilies of the Field,” for which Sidney Poitier won the Best Actor Oscar, and no less than three other British actresses, all nominated for “Tom Jones”: Diane Cilento, Dame Edith Evans, and Joyce Redman.

Elizabeth Taylor as Frances Andros
Richard Burton as Paul Andros
Louis Jourdan as Marc Champselle
Elsa Martinelli as Gloria Gritti
Margaret Rutherford as The Duchess of Brighton
Maggie Smith as Miss Dee Mead
Rod Taylor as Les Mangrum
Orson Welles as Max Buda
Linda Christian as Miriam Marshall
Dennis Price as Commander Millbank
Richard Wattis as Sanders
David Frost as Reporter
Ronald Fraser as Joslin
Robert Coote as John Coburn
Michael Hordern as Airport Director
Martin Miller as Dr. Schwutzbacher
Lance Percival as B.O.A.C. Official
Joan Benham as Miss Potter
Peter Sallis as Doctor
Stringer Davis as Hotel Waiter
Clifton Jones as Jamaican Passenger
Moyra Fraser as Air Hostess



Directed by Anthony Asquith
Produced by Anatole de Grunwald
Written by Terence Rattigan
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography Jack Hildyard
Edited by Frank Clarke (editor)
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: September 14, 1963 (U.S.)

Running time: 119 minutes
Budget $4 million
Box office $15,000,000