“Saturday Night Fever,” the glitzy silver screen era of the 1970s rocked generations with a soundtrack, dramatic disco dance scenes and a timeless coming-of-age story, on this day in history, December 14, 1977.
The film debuted at the Mann Chinese Theater in Los Angeles before enjoying national distribution two days later.
Story.com wrote: “Well-acted, well-acted and well-directed, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ has received positive reviews from many critics.”
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But whatever else, regardless of its cinematic significance, it was the catchy disco soundtrack of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ that made it a work of enduring historical significance, even for the film’s staunchest fans.”
The film opens with one of the greatest “A Star Is Born” moments in Hollywood history.
John Travolta, lean, handsome and just 23 years old, with a majestic feathered pompadour, plays nightclub king Tony Manero.
Dressed in an open-collared red shirt, black pants, and a black leather jacket, he galloped down the streets of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, belting out the soundtrack’s title tune, “Stayin’ Alive,” as the opening credits rolled.
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“Well you know the way I use my walk/I ain’t got no time to talk,” sings Bee Gees as Manero’s heels press into the pavement and his hands swing to the beat.
One minute into “Saturday Night Fever,” you know this picture is on to something and knows what it’s talking about.
The film opens with one of the greatest ‘a star is born’ scenes in Hollywood history.
“Travolta on the dance floor is like a peacock on amphetamines. He runs like crazy.”
Travolta was a goofy sitcom star up to that point, best known for his role as dim-witted Vinny Barbarino on the hit TV show “Welcome Back, Cotter.”
“Saturday Night Fever” made him an international celebrity.
Manero was the untrained black sheep of an Italian-American family who rose to prominence on the dance floor of Odyssey, a real Bay Ridge nightclub, in 2001.
The infectious soundtrack features radio hits from Casey and the Sunshine Band (“Boogie Shoes”), Broadway star-turned-disco diva Yvonne Elliman (“If I Can’t”) and the all-time greats The Tramps. (“Disco Inferno”).
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The album is packed with classic dance club hits by Australian act The Bee Gees, in addition to the title track, including “Night Fever,” “Jive Talkin'” and “How Deep Is Your Love,” among others.
The “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack remains one of the best-selling albums of all time, with more than 40 million units sold, according to Billboard.
“Saturday Night Fever” was the first of three Hollywood hits, accompanied by dance and best-selling vocal tracks that made Travolta one of the biggest stars of the era.
He quickly followed with roles as high school bad boy Danny Zuko in “Grease” (1978) and Houston roughneck Bud Davis in “Urban Cowboy” (1980).
“Saturday Night Fever” turned out to be the pop-culture sensation it never should have been.
The film is based on an article in New York magazine by British reporter Nick Cone entitled “The New Saturday Night Tribal Ritual”.
A minute after “Saturday Night Fever” kicks in, you know this picture is onto something. – Gene Siskel
“Vincent was the best dancer in Bay Ridge,” Cohn wrote on June 7, 1976.
“Everybody knows him. When he came on ‘On the Round’ on Saturday night and walked into 2001’s Odyssey, all faces immediately fell in front of him and cleared a spot for him to float, right in the middle of the dance floor.”
The scene was recreated, right down to the dance moves, in the film, with “Vincent” replaced by Travolta’s Manero.
Brittain admitted to making up the story after witnessing a fight outside a nightclub one night.
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“My story was a hoax,” Cohn told The New York Times in 1996.
“I recently arrived in New York. I don’t know the place, far from being immersed in the street life of Brooklyn. As for the hero of my story, Vincent, he was mainly inspired by Shepherd Bush Mode, who I knew in the ’60s, the one-time king of Goldhawk Street.
“Saturday Night Fever” is a hoax, according to a magazine article by British reporter Nick Cohn.
Despite its manufactured origins, the story has stood the test of time.
“‘Saturday Night Fever’ endures … because the narrative is as smooth as a 23-year-old John Travolta,” Entertainment Weekly wrote shortly after the fraud was revealed in a deep look at the 1990s.
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It’s “the story of a working-class paloka who thinks he has something special – the dance – and to be a man means using it or transcending it, missing or growing a boy, behaving like a lover, a loo or a gentleman.”