Written and directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Stephen Stucker as Johnny Henshaw
This is someone’s edited selection of Stephen Stucker’s scenes and one-liners from the film “Airplane!”
Stucker’s performance would appear to be fondly remembered by many fans of the film, his role perfectly capturing the film’s off-the-wall one-liner style.
Over the course of the film, Stucker’s brief appearances paint a portrait in camp: exuberant, blithe, mischievous, inconsequentially and randomly silly playing off the more serious delivery of lines from other actors.
If you want to delve deeper into the gags Stucker delivers, you can just about snuffle out a few gay mannerisms: childish, trivial, bitchy, fashion-obsessed, and a Wizard of Oz reference. But I’ll admit I’m really straining to make that work.
How much Stucker is acting or whether this performance encompassed his range is hard to tell since he did not appear in many films. He had played an insane gay fashion designer Bruce (yes that stereotypically American gay name again) Wilson in a 1975 sexploitation film “Delinquent School Girls” aka “Carnal Madness”.
“Delinquent School Girls” trailer
Although mainstream American prejudices at the time liked to believe gay men were fairies, such flamboyant camp has never had a ready home on US screens, and Stucker’s style of performance may not have led to the career opportunities provided in the UK. Stucker’s equivalent in the UK would probably be someone like Christopher Biggins. Biggins played a number of coded or explicitly gay comedy cameos throughout the ‘70s (besides starring in ‘70s sex comedies like The Sex Thief, Eskimo Nell, It Could happen to You, and Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate). Panto also gave Biggins’ style of performance a regular home, and Biggins had occasional roles in serious dramas as villains and oddballs. Biggins of course has survived, and become a minor national figure in the process. Stucker was less lucky. Stephen Stucker was one of the first Hollywood actors to publicly announce he was HIV-positive. Here he is as part of a panel discussing AIDS on the “Phil Donahue Show” in 1985. Stucker died of AIDS on April 13, 1986.