Airport was widely lambasted by critics for its tried-and-true technique of showcasing a raft of Grand Hotel-style big-name box-office stars in a melodramatic thriller; Judith Crist called it "the best film of 1944." But no one could argue with its success or its influence. Director/screenwriter George Seaton displayed a masterful old hand's touch for showcasing stock characters in a soap opera format, adapting Arthur Hailey's blockbuster novel with Dean Martin as the pilot and a cast top-heavy with stars. Airport won huge audiences and six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, with veteran Helen Hayes, one of the first Oscar winners in 1932, winning a supporting award. The crowd-pleasing behemoth spawned almost a decade's worth of big-budget disaster films, including three inferior sequels, and then another round of disaster spoofs, beginning with 1980's Airplane!