Did you know that the 1980 classic comedy "Airplane!" is actually a remake of a 1957 film called "Zero Hour!" based on a story by British/Canadian novelist Arthur Hailey?
After serving in the RAF during the war Mr. Hailey moved to Canada where he began his writing career. One of his first stories "Flight into Danger" (AKA Runway Zero Eight) was made into a teleplay broadcast on the CBC on April 3, 1956 starring Vancouver-born James Doohan who later became Commander Montgomery Scott in the original Star Trek series.
In 1957 Paramount Pictures reworked the screenplay and changed character names turning the story into the feature film “Zero Hour!”. I recently caught the original on a classic movie channel and was quite surprised at how the comedy (Airplane!) remained close to the script of the drama (Zero Hour!). Even keeping the exclamation point that was in the original title for dramatic effect.
In the original, Ted Stryker is an RCAF veteran dealing with personal issues whose wife leaves him and boards a flight from Winnipeg to Vancouver with their young son. Stryker discovers the plan and rushes to the airport to board the same flight to try to reconcile with her.
As in the remake, both pilots have fish for dinner and are incapacitated with food poisoning. Ted Stryker is the only person on board with flying experience and is pressed into service. In the context of seeing this film today; it is unintentionally funny and it is easy to see how the makers of Airplane! were inspired to rework it into a hilarious spoof.
Click Here for a YouTube video that compares the two films.