Movie: Saturday Night Fever
Release Date: December 16, 1977
Director: John Badham
Starring: John Travolta, Karen Gorney.
Tag Lines: “…Catch it!”
“He is Tony Manero, king of the discos. Every guy wants to dance like him. Every girl wants to be with him.”
“John Travolta. If you’re not sure you know him now after Saturday Night Fever, you’ll say you always did.”
“For Tony Manero, freedom comes once a week. It comes on Saturday night… it’s called Saturday Night Fever.”
“Catch the Fever! If you’re not sure you have the Fever now after tomorrow, you’ll say you always did.”
“Where do you go when the record is over…”
Relevance: I have always loved everything about the 1970’s. The music, the movies, the TV shows, the fashion, the hair. Everything. Although I lived through most of it, I only really remember the last few years. But they were glorious years.
I was only six years old when ‘Saturday Night Fever’ was released in theaters. So of course, I was not one of the lucky theater goers that got to see it on the big screen. What I was lucky enough to participate in was the music. My parents were big music fans. My dad loved mostly Country and Western as well as some old fashioned Rock ‘n Roll. My mom on the other hand loved Broadway and everything that could make her dance. There was always music playing in our house from either the radio, our record player or our 8-track player.
Whether my mom was cooking, ironing or cleaning the house, music was playing on the background. My favorites that my mom would play were her ABBA 8-tracks. She loved ABBA and owned every one of their releases. While she was in the kitchen doing her motherly chores, I was listening and dancing to the sounds of “Mamma Mia,” “Take a Chance on Me” and “S.O.S” reverberating from the kitchen. I had full on dance routines and choreography. I even used a blanket as a costume/cape that was of course integrated into the dance. I even had the “channel” breaks timed. Channel breaks? Let me explain to you youngsters out there. We had a 4 channel 8-track player that would have two or three songs on each channel. When it came to the end of one of the channels, it would switch to the next with a “cha-chink” sound even if it was in the middle of a song. So I just incorporated some sort of “cha-chink” movement and moved on with the song. One thing a child of the 1970’s and 1980’s learned was how to adapt.
Thanks to ABBA I loved the pop-disco sound that their music encapsulated. It was infectious and joyful. And it made me dance. And I loved to dance. Listening to the radio while doing my homework, I would hear other sounds like ABBA that intrigued me. Most of those sounds were coming from a group called Bee Gee’s. “Staying Alive” and “Night Fever” were great but “You Should Be Dancing” was my jam. The elaborate dance I had to that song was energetically fantastic, if I do say so myself. Every time I heard those songs I wanted to get up and boogie.
Although ‘Saturday Night Fever’ was released in 1977 and was the fourth highest grossing film of that year, it was re-released again in 1979 with an edited PG-version. But even then at eight years old, I wasn’t allowed to go see it. I was still just fantasizing about it through the music. It wasn’t until the movie popped up on HBO in the early 1980’s did I finally get to see it. And once I did, I was in love. It was a full on adult drama with things I probably shouldn’t have been seeing or hearing but honestly all of that stuff went right over my head. All I remember about the film were those dance sequences and that funky music. I forgot about my choreographed dances I had created and imitated every move that John Travolta was doing on the screen. My dances were good, but John Travolta was god-like. Man alive, could he dance. And every time I watched the film I wanted to be him.
As I got older and watched and re-watched ‘Saturday Night Fever’ I grew to love it even more. I was fascinated by the story, the characters and Mr. Travolta’s performance. He has always been hit or miss with me, but when he hits it, it is a grand slam. This is his second movie on my list of most influential films (see 301. Two of a Kind) and he has three more that will be showing up later this year. However his performance in this film is beyond brilliant and probably my favorite. He was Tony Manero. And I still want to be Tony Manero.
Today’s Thoughts: As soon as the 1970’s Manhattan skyline showed up on the screen with nothing but city noises coming from the speakers, a smile appeared on my face. Then ‘Stayin’ Alive’ started with the now iconic “walking scene” by Mr. Travolta down the Brooklyn streets and I grinned from ear to ear. I loved watching every second of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ today.
I adore this movie. The performances, directing, music and dancing are fantastic making this more than just a movie. It’s a classic. I wouldn’t change a thing about it. There are definitely some cringe-worthy slurs used throughout that make my 2020 self a little uneasy, but you have to surrender to the time. It was 1977. Things were different back then. And thankfully the screenplay tackles those themes head on. These aren’t necessary likable characters and the cathartic realization that the lead character has at the end of the film justifies all of the words and actions used in the film.
Now one does not simply sit and watch ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ one dances to it. I just can’t help it. First my feet were tapping, then I was swaying, then I was up out of my chair trying to be Tony Manero again. As much as I hate to admit it, my dreams of being him are far gone. My forty-nine year old body can’t even pretend, but my mind can. And every time I watch this film, in my imagination I am him. And that is why I will always find the time to re-watch this classic.
Awards: Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, John Travolta (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, John Travolta (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb, David Shire (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture, “How Deep is Your Love?,” Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Michael Colgan, Les Lazarowitz, John Wilkinson, Robert W. Glass, Jr., John T. Reitz (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Actor, John Travolta (winner), National Film Registry (2010), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor, John Travolta (nomination), New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor, John Travolta (nomination), New York Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress, Donna Pescow (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen, Norman Wexler (nomination).
Ways to Watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Hulu, DVD Availability.