The Towering Inferno. 1974. USA. Directed by John Guillermin. Screenplay by Sterling Silliphant, based on the novel by Richard Martin Stern, Thomas N. Scortia, Frank M. Robinson. With Jennifer Jones, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen. 165 min.
In the 1970s, producer Irwin Allen was known for disaster-themed blockbusters—including The Poseidon Adventure and this film—that melded frenzied action, crumbling sets, and a cast chock-a-block with Hollywood celebrities both old and new. A 135-story San Francisco skyscraper designed by a star architect (Newman) and built by a cost-cutting contractor (William Holden) becomes a raging inferno after a small fire starts during the opening-night celebration, before the requisite safety measures are in place. Jones is joined by Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlin, Robert Wagner, and O.J. Simpson as endangered party attendees, and McQueen is the fire chief tasked with extinguishing the blaze. The Towering Inferno was Jennifer Jones’s final feature.