Helen Hayes, the ‘First Lady of the American Theatre’ won her second Oscar for her funny performance as Ada Quonsett, a loveable old stowaway on a plane with serious troubles in the blockbuster Airport.
Yes, it’s a very memorable performance that is also very easy to love – but at the same time, it’s a little hard to respect her. Most of the humour comes from the fact that Helen Hayes is a loveable old lady doing things we wouldn’t expect a loveable old lady to do. The scene when she fakes a faintness to get rid of her guardian is also a little too much and maybe somebody should have told Helen Hayes to not distort her face so many times – at various moments, Helen Hayes lets it become too obvious that she is playing for the camera and constantly winking at the audience to love her for being so loveable and funny. This works to an extent, especially because Airport is the kind of movie that benefits from this kind of performance, but it’s not necessarily a towering achievement in acting.
So, it’s a nice and charming performance by Helen Hayes that gets as much benefit from me as possible for breathing life into Airport every time she appears but this appreciation can only go so far considering the overall acting quality and role.