PERFORMING ARTS

Surely You Can’t Be Serious: The True Story of Airplane!

St. Martin’s Oct. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9781250289315. $35. FILM
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The 1980 comedy film Airplane! was notable for its surprise success and because it was directed by three people who had little film experience—the authors of this book (Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker). The three hailed from Milwaukee, WI, where they established a comedic trio called Kentucky Fried Theater. When they developed their independent sketch comedy Kentucky Fried Movie in 1977, it was a minor hit but big enough to get them noticed by Hollywood executives. They worked for more than five years writing and producing Airplane!, which parodied the 1957 film Zero Hour as well as many other films from the then-trending disaster-film genre of the 1970s. This book is an affectionate oral history from the directors, cast members, crew, and many famous people who love the film. They share stories from the pre-development days, including convincing non-comedic actors Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, and Leslie Nielsen to sign on.
VERDICT Generously illustrated with stills from Airplane! , this book covers stories about its production and discusses how some of the funniest scenes originated. Fans of the film will likely enjoy this engaging behind-the-scenes look.
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