Tim here. Now we come to the sad part of our centennial tribute to Mercedes McCambridge. For like so many movie stars, her career ended with a damp fizzle, not with any last triumphs. Worse yet, her career started rolling to a close in the 1970s, when Hollywood hit upon its most degrading scheme ever for what to do with its old legends and workhorses: stuff them into the enormous ensembles of tacky disaster films. At its most prestigious, this phenomenon resulted in Fred Astaire getting his solitary career Oscar nomination for The Towering Inferno. At its least prestigious, you have living legends Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland, and Fred MacMurray in a death race to see who can embarrass themselves the worst in The Swarm.
Or, for that matter, you have McCambridge herself, grossly misused and discarded in The Concorde... Airport '79. It's the fourth and final film in the rather dimwitted Airport franchise, which had once upon a time been kinder to its storied old troupers: 1970's Best Picture nominee Airport, the film that essentially got the disaster movie cycle rolling, netted Helen Hayes her second Oscar. But those days were long gone by the time McCambridge was called up to squander her talents along with the rest of a distressingly high-quality cast, including Alain Delon, Cicely Tyson, and David Warner. [More...]