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The IMDb trivia page about 1970 Airport says that

Critic Judith Crist famously dubbed this "the best film of 1944"

and so do many other pages and posts around the web. However I cannot find the original source nor what she intended to say with this commentary.

I am asking because I would like to better understand her comment and what she tried to say about the film. Did she mean it as a generic humorous remark? Had she in mind specific films of the 1940s (or precisely from 1944)? Was it a reference to other more “modern” films released in 1970 or soon before?

Pinning down where she originally wrote that might help clarify what she meant with this line. Was it in a film review that Crist wrote when the movie first was released? If so in which paper or magazine? Or at a later time?

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  • I am confused. Why am I being downvoted and the question proposed for closure? Isn't criticism about films on topic here?
    – DaG
    Feb 26, 2019 at 20:40
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    I have not downvoted or marked this for closure, but I looked into the reason others voted to close it. They both consider this trivia. Here's the text of the option they chose: "Trivia questions that do not add to the understanding or appreciation of a movie/TV-show are off-topic; We're not trying to duplicate IMDB. Please try to explain why your question is relevant for understanding the work beyond banal minutiae." Feb 26, 2019 at 20:49
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    Thanks, @BrettFromLA! I have expanded my question to clarify why this isn't (meant as) just a trivia question.
    – DaG
    Feb 26, 2019 at 20:56
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    The clarification and concentration on why she said it rather than just where sure helps to highlight the significance of the question as well as connects it better to the film rather than making it just a source location request. Thank you. +1
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Feb 26, 2019 at 21:25

2 Answers 2

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According to the book Van Heflin: A Life in Film by Derek Sculthorpe:

For all its modernity, there was something decidedly old-fashioned about Airport. The all-star cast and two veteran directors (George Seaton and Henry Hathaway) ensured that the venture harked back to the golden age of Hollywood. As one critic observed, it was "The Best Film of 1944".

According to Disaster Movies: The Cinema of Catastrophe by Stephen Keane:

Particularly in light of the new, alternative, film-making which had begun to transform Hollywood in the late 196os (for example Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Easy Rider (1969)), Airport has always been regarded as old-fashioned. Judith Crist recognised as much at the time by calling it "the best film of 1944".

According to "Apocalypse wow: how Hollywood fell for disaster movies" by Robbie Collin:

Even in 1970, Airport felt old-fashioned. Writing in TV Guide, the film critic Judith Crist called it “the best film of 1944”. Others likened it to Grand Hotel, MGM’s 1932 confection, in which Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford and many more famous names had been corralled into the same ensemble picture for a nuclear display of star power from the studio.

According to this blog post:

Yes, Airport. A movie whose clichés are piled higher than those snow drifts disabling a Boeing 707 in the middle of a busy runway, and whose production values, dialogue, characters, and soap opera complications are all so cobwebby and old-fashioned, movie critic Judith Crist was inspired to dub Airport: “The best film of 1944.”

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  • Thanks, but this sheds only a partial light on what Crist said, and none on where and why she wrote it. According to those two authors, she meant to say that Airport was old-fashioned, but, unless hers was, say, a joke at a party, I assume her actual text made a more complete argument.
    – DaG
    Feb 27, 2019 at 17:17
  • Her comment doesn't need to be taken in context, her statement is quite clear. The only requirement to know is how films were made in the 40s. Feb 27, 2019 at 18:38
  • @morbo: “Her comment doesn't need to be taken in context”. It's indeed a clear statement, and as such often quoted, but we should know the context to assess whether it is relevant, shouldn't we? And in any case, it would be interesting to see what else she said in her review or essay.
    – DaG
    Feb 27, 2019 at 20:52
  • @DaG I've added more posts expressing a similar opinion as Crist. Unless someone manages to unearth her review from that 1970 issue of TV Guide and discovers she didn't intend this interpretation at all, this is as best as it's going to get.
    – BCdotWEB
    Feb 28, 2019 at 10:59
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Crist was known as a scathing film critic in her time, earning the nickname "Judas Crist" from many in the Hollywood circle. Here's a blurb on her:

when the newspaper strike ended in 1963, Crist was named film critic at the Herald Tribune. She was the first woman to become a full-time film critic at a major American newspaper.

From the beginning, she gained notoriety as a gutsy critic who pulled no punches.

In a scathing review of "Spencer's Mountain," a family drama starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara, she blasted Radio City Music Hall for its Easter-time showing of a film "that for sheer prurience and perverted morality disguised as piety makes the nudie shows at the Rialto look like Walt Disney productions."

The review touched a nerve:Warner Bros.sent her a telegram barring her from its screenings, and Radio City withdrew its advertising from the paper.

"Was I fired — or moved elsewhere in the paper?" Crist said in a 1997 speech. No, she said, the Herald Tribune "simply ran an editorial decrying my nemeses as childish and declaring that the Tribune's critic, right or wrong, had the right of free speech."

Crist continued to exert that right in her reviews, including offering this assessment of the over-budget 1963 epic "Cleopatra," starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton: "At best a major disappointment, at worst an extravagant exercise in tedium." [1]

Crist, however, reportedly did like the movie and her reference was meant as a compliment. Considering it felt like a 1940's movie, Crist was stating that if it had been released at that time (1944), it would have won a Best Picture award.

I couldn't find the original review online, but you can request a copy of it from here: https://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/c/crist_j.htm

[1] Judith Crist dies at 90

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