A skyscraper and an all-star cast go up in flames in Irwin Allen's classic disaster movie. To celebrate the construction of the Glass Tower, the world's tallest building, architect Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) and builder James Duncan (William Holden) hold a gala bash on the highest floors. Trouble is, Duncan's son-in-law and electrical subcontractor Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlain) installed faulty wiring throughout the 138-story behemoth to save money. While the guests -- including Doug's lady friend (Faye Dunaway), a rich widow (Jennifer Jones
), a con man (Fred Astaire), and a politico (Robert Vaughn) -- enjoy the party, and a security guard (O.J. Simpson) wonders why his equipment is on the fritz, a burnt-out circuit breaker ignites some garbage on the 85th floor, swiftly turning the high-rise into, well, a towering inferno. With the guests trapped on the 135th floor, it's up to Roberts and Fire Chief O'Hallorhan (Steve McQueen) to find a way to stop the blaze. Though not the first all-star '70s disaster movie (1970's Airport
and 1972's The Poseidon Adventure
preceded it), The Towering Inferno
was the most popular and the most spectacular. In a move that would become more common in late-'90s blockbuster Hollywood, The Towering Inferno
's mammoth production was mounted by two studios; screenwriter Stirling Silliphant combined the two novels owned by the studios into one saga. 1970s "shake 'n bake" maestro Allen, with co-director John Guillermin (Allen did the action sequences), tapped into deep fears about the fragility of modern life in the face of extreme natural phenomena, as well as into the envies and insecurities of middle-aged professional men. The Towering Inferno
packed theaters and earned eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture; it won for Cinematography, Editing, and Song. While its heroic, no-nonsense men provided some traditional comfort, The Towering Inferno
still might provoke second thoughts about going into a skyscraper.