The V.I.P.s (also known as Hotel International) is a 1963 British drama film in Metrocolor and Panavision. It was was written by Terence Rattigan, who said the film is based on the true story of actress Vivien Leigh's attempt to leave her husband, actor Laurence Olivier, and fly off with her lover, the actor Peter Finch, only to be delayed by a fog at Heathrow.
The film has an all-star cast, including Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Louis Jourdan, Elsa Martinelli, Maggie Smith, Rod Taylor, Orson Welles and Margaret Rutherford, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture.
The director of the film Anthony Asquith intended for Sophia Loren to play Elizabeth Taylor's role, remembering the box-office success of The Millionairess (1960) he did with Loren in the main role. However, Taylor, scared by the appeal Loren had for Burton, persuaded Asquith to hire her instead; "Let Sophia stay in Rome", she told him.
The film was produced by Anatole de Grunwald. It was shot entirely at MGM-British Studios, Borehamwood, Herts., with a few establishing shots filmed at what was then known as London Airport, later Heathrow. The terminal set was one of the largest ever constructed in the UK. The music score was by Miklós Rózsa.
Critical reaction to the film was mixed. It nevertheless did extremely well at the box office, helped by the enormous publicity attached to Burton and Taylor's Cleopatra, which was out on release.
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the film grossed $15,000,000 domestically, earning $7.5 million in U.S. theatrical rentals on a budget of $4 million. In addition to its North American success, it was one of the 12 most popular films in Britain in 1963. It had admissions of 765,804 in France.
Slightly in advance of the film's release, as was the custom of the era, a paperback novelization of the screenplay was published by Dell Books. The author was renowned crime and western novelist Marvin H. Albert, who also made something of a cottage industry out of movie tie-ins. He seems to have been the most prolific screenplay novelizer of the late '50s through mid '60s, and, during that time, the preeminent specialist at light comedy, though he adapted a few drama scripts as well. The V.I.P.s is what's known as an "inferred novelization" because, although screenwriter Terence Rattigan is not given attribution anywhere on or in the book, the copyright is assigned to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Whether this omission was an editorial error, or a marketing ploy to make Albert's novel seem to be the film's source material (with or without the complicity of Rattigan) is unknown.
The film is set within Terminal 3 of London Heathrow Airport during a fog. As flights are delayed, the VIPs (very important people) of the title play out the drama of their lives in a number of slightly interconnected stories. The delays have caused serious hardship for most of the characters and have plunged some of them into a deep personal or financial crisis.
The central story concerns famed actress Frances Andros (Elizabeth Taylor) trying to leave her husband, millionaire Paul Andros (Richard Burton), and fly away with her suitor Marc Champselle (Louis Jourdan). Because of the fog, Andros has the opportunity to come to the airport to persuade his wife not to leave him.
The Duchess of Brighton (Margaret Rutherford) is on her way to Florida to take a job, which will pay her enough money to save her historic home. Meanwhile, film producer Max Buda (Orson Welles) needs to leave London, taking his newest protégée Gloria Gritti (Elsa Martinelli) with him, by midnight if he is to avoid paying a hefty tax bill.
Les Mangrum (Rod Taylor), an Australian businessman, must get to New York City to prevent his business from being sold. His dutiful secretary, Miss Mead (Maggie Smith), is secretly in love with him. It being a matter of great urgency, she decides to approach Paul Andros and ask him to advance a sum of money that will save Mangrum's company.
Buda spots a poster picturing the Duchess's home. She is offered a sum of money if she will permit Buda to use it as a location in a film, enough to keep the house she loves. Andros, meanwhile, about to lose the woman he loves, is spared a possible suicide at the last minute when he and his wife reconcile.
Elizabeth Taylor as Frances Andros
Richard Burton as Paul Andros
Louis Jourdan as Marc Champselle