My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 68: Helen Hayes as Ada Quonsett in "Airport" (Best Supporting Actress Ranking)

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.

Helen Hayes’s performance is one of those cases when a supporting player saves a whole movie from failing completely. Airport is a disaster flick that wants to see itself as a serious character study and while Van Heflin and Maureen Stapleton give impressive dramatic performances, it’s Helen Hayes who gives the movie some much-needed humour. The scene when she first enters the screen, with a friendly smile on her face, is a comedy highlight alone because we surely didn’t expect the stowaway to be a little old lady. The following scene, when she explains how she gets aboard, is also priceless. The way she talks with Burt Lancaster is just hilarious: the way she is certain that she won’t be punished because ‘it wouldn’t be good publicity for an airline to prosecute a little old lady just because she wanted to visit her daughter.’ Or the following scene when she wants to get into the Commander’s Club with the card of another woman. Later on the plane, Helen Hayes can show more talent for comedy and who can’t love her at the end whenshe tries to walk away in another woman’s coat.

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.


dinasztie said...

I like her much more.

Louis Morgan said...

I liked enough to put her higher than this.