|Saturday Night Fever|
US movie poster for Saturday Night Fever
|Directed by||John Badham|
|Produced by||Robert Stigwood|
|Written by||Nik Cohn (magazine article)
Karen Lynn Gorney
|Music by||Barry Gibb
|Cinematography||Ralf D. Bode|
|Editing by||David Rawlins|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||December 14, 1977
March 1978 (PG Version)
|Running time||119 min.
113 min. (PG Version)
|Followed by||Staying Alive|
Saturday Night Fever is a 1977 film starring John Travolta as Tony Manero, an immature young man whose weekends are spent visiting a local Brooklyn discothèque; Karen Lynn Gorney is his dance partner and eventual girlfriend. While in the disco, Tony is the king. His care-free youth and weekend dancing help him to temporarily forget the reality of his life: a dead-end job, clashes with his unsupportive and squabbling parents, racial tensions in the local community, and his associations with a gang of macho friends.
A huge commercial success, the movie significantly helped to popularize disco music around the world and made Travolta, already well known from his role on TV's Welcome Back, Kotter, a household name. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, featuring disco songs by the Bee Gees, is the best selling soundtrack of all time. The film is the first example of cross-media marketing, with the tie-in soundtrack's single being used to help promote the film before its release and the film popularizing the entire soundtrack after its release. The film also showcased aspects of the music, the dancing, and the subculture surrounding the disco era: symphony-orchestrated melodies, haute-couture styles of clothing, pre AIDS sexual promiscuity, and graceful choreography.
The story is based upon a 1976 New York magazine article by British writer Nik Cohn, "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night." In the late-1990s, Cohn acknowledged that the article had been fabricated. A newcomer to the United States and a stranger to the disco lifestyle, Cohn was unable to make any sense of the subculture he had been assigned to write about. The characters who became Tony Manero and his friends were based on Mods, an English youth movement that also placed great importance on music, clothes and dancing.
A coming-of-age tale set contemporaneously in 1977 about 19-year-old Tony Manero (John Travolta), a skirt-chasing Italian American from (and possessing the heavy accent of) the New York City community of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. Tony lives at home and works at a dead-end job in a small hardware store. He lives paycheck to paycheck and often finds himself short on the weekends. But he rules the dance floor on Saturday nights with his frequent appearances at 2001 Odyssey, a local disco.
Tony is surrounded by three close friends, Joey (Joseph Cali); Double J (Paul Pape); and the diminutive Bobby C. (Barry Miller), the only one of them who is still in high school. Presumably the younger Bobby C. is part of the group because he is the only one with a car (a run-down 1964 Chevrolet Impala). An informal member of their group is Annette (Donna Pescow), a chubby neighborhood girl who has been Tony's partner in previous dance competitions and longs for a more permanent relationship with him. They officially dated once, but Tony was unsatisfied by the date because Annette spoke only of her three married sisters.
Knowing Annette has the right moves to win an upcoming dance competition, Tony agrees to be her partner when she recruits him for the contest, much to Annette's delight. Her happiness is short-lived, however, when Tony abruptly terminates their partnership after seeing Stephanie Mangano (Karen Lynn Gorney) dance at the disco and later at a neighborhood dance studio. Stephanie is a tall, attractive, talented dancer and Tony believes she could help him win the competition. Despite her initial frosty and undeservedly superior attitude toward Tony, and after much urging, Stephanie agrees to partner with him in the contest, but not otherwise.
Stephanie works as a secretary for a magazine publisher in Manhattan, and she is poised to move there, where she has more opportunities to work her way up. She even talks about meeting celebrities like Joe Namath and David Bowie at the offices of the magazine she works for. These discussions awaken Tony's desire to transcend his Bay Ridge, Brooklyn working-class roots, but do not overcome his reluctance to change. However, Stephanie ultimately reveals her own vulnerabilities to Tony.
The release Tony obtains through his weekend clubbing is examined through the prism of Tony's sometimes pathetic day-to-day existence, including his utterly failed relationship with his bickering parents and his lapsed relationship with Father Frank Jr., Tony's much older brother who became a Catholic priest and is clearly his parents' favorite for having been successful. Tony's mother dotes on Frank Jr., yet the particular moment of the story becomes transformative when Frank Jr. shatters his parents' dreams of what he refers to as "pious glory" by abandoning the priesthood. This may be partly because Frank Jr. no longer wishes to spend his life in celibacy, but mainly, as he obliquely explains to Tony, because he has doubts about his faith and is disillusioned with the Church.
The confidence Tony exudes because of dance also allows him to hide his demons from his friends and to be an authority figure to them. Bobby C., who looks up to Tony, asks him for advice for getting out of his relationship with his devoutly Catholic girlfriend, Pauline, who is pregnant with his child. Though Tony tells him to dump her, Bobby C. faces pressure from his family and others to marry her, which he clearly does not wish to do. After she refuses to get an abortion, Bobby asks Frank Jr. if Pope Paul VI would grant him dispensation for an abortion. Bobby's feelings of despair deepen when Frank tells him dispensation would be highly unlikely.
Double-J and Joey are Tony's more like-minded friends; macho, foul-mouthed, bigoted, chauvinistic, and with hair-trigger tempers. They engage in wild behavior including balancing themselves along the dangerous railing of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge while in varying states of drunkenness. When another member of their clique is beaten up and put in a hospital, apparently by some Puerto Rican youths, Tony, Double-J and Joey vow revenge and brawl with the Puerto Ricans in a bar frequented by the rival Barracuda gang, only finding out later that they may have targeted the wrong people.
On the evening of the dance competition at 2001 Odyssey, Tony and Stephanie finish their dance to wild applause. The last competitors, however, are a dazzling Puerto Rican couple. After seeing their spectacular performance, Tony knows that he and Stephanie have been outclassed. Nonetheless, Tony and Stephanie take the top prize, which Tony immediately dismisses (realizing they didn't deserve it), claiming the contest was rigged in his favor (because of his popularity at 2001). He grabs the trophy and prize money from Stephanie and presents them to the Puerto Rican couple (who took second) instead, telling them they deserve it.
This seems to end Tony's concerted ability to hide his rage at his situation. Tony begins his rant by accusing his friends of being phonies who will not be honest with him. Dragging Stephanie with him, he makes a crude attempt to force himself on her in the car, an effort that ends when she fights him off and escapes. He then sullenly takes off with the gang, along with a drunk and high Annette, who Joey says is going to "give everybody a piece," evidently as retribution for Tony's refusal to be with her. Double-J and Joey both take turns with Annette, but Annette starts to cry (perhaps suggesting she was a virgin prior to this incident) and to struggle as she comes down from the drugs she had been given and comes to realize she did not want to have sex with them.
They pull the car off onto the shoulder at the Verranzano Narrows Bridge once more, but this time, Bobby C., who normally stays in the car, joins them, and is attempting more dangerous stunts than Tony, Double-J, and Joey had tried on the supporting structure of the bridge. Realizing that Bobby is recklessly acting out, Tony tries to coax him off the railing. But upset at his lonely life, his situation with Pauline, and a broken promise from Tony earlier that he would call him, the needy Bobby issues a tirade at Tony's lack of care before slipping and falling to his death in the Narrows more than one hundred feet below. The friends are shocked and grief-stricken. When a detective investigating the incident asks Tony if he thinks Bobby C. committed suicide, Tony responds, "There are ways of killin' yourself without killin' yourself."
After leaving his friends behind, a distraught Tony spends the rest of the night riding the subway. He finally shows up at Stephanie's apartment in Manhattan, apologizing for his earlier bad behavior. He tells her that he plans on leaving Brooklyn and coming to Manhattan to escape from his family and friends, and what he considers to be a fake life. He also tells her that he wants to try to salvage their relationship by being friends first and see what develops from there. Recognizing Tony's honest wish to change, Stephanie takes his hand in hers, and then him into her arms in this final scene.
As with many coming-of-age tales, the crux of the story lies in the specific choices that are presented and made, but the eventuality and the nature of those critical choices are plainly foreshadowed by various plot devices.
Early on, as Tony and Stephanie feel each other out for partnering in the dance contest, their coffee-shop discussion turns to Stephanie's opportunity to see the 1968 Zefferelli film "Romeo and Juliet." This serves as a clue to the upcoming brawl between the Italian-American boys and the Puerto Ricans, an event that parallels the story line of the musical "West Side Story," a tale acknowledged by the authors to have been derived from "Romeo and Juliet" that substituted Italians and Puerto Ricans for Montagues and Capulets. The reference also foreshadows the eventual escape of the main characters from their unhappy lot: Romeo and Juliet (and their West Side counterparts, Tony and Maria), by means of death; Stephanie and Tony by means of U-Haul to Manhattan.
Later on, as Annette continues to push for Tony's physical affections, he is forced to confront her about her choices.
Tony: "Are you a nice girl or are you a cunt?" Annette: "Can't I be both?" Tony: "No. It's a decision a girl's gotta make early in life, if she's gonna be a nice girl or a cunt."
But these self-same choices will come to Tony too, and soon. He must ultimately decide if he is to continue as a nasty, predatory, womanizer, or if he will settle into a more responsible, respectable and loving creature, and thus be all grown up.
His choice seems to have been reached after that fateful subway ride, the phallic nature of trains in tunnels notwithstanding.
Even so, Tony's apparent election to live a life of conformity and obscurity and presumably mediocrity filled with middle class values presents a depressing, ambiguous finish. Eventually viewers were invited back in to Tony's life in the 1983 sequel, "Staying Alive."
Two theatrical versions of the film were released: the Original R-rated version and an edited PG-rated version. The R-rated version released in 1977 represented the movie's first run, and totaled 118 minutes. After the success of the first run, in 1978 the film was re-edited to a PG-rated version and re-released during a second run to attract a wider audience. The R-rated version contained profanity (the word fuck was used 76 times), nudity, drug use and a rape scene, all of which were de-emphasised or completely removed from the PG version.
The retooled PG-rated version totaled 112 minutes, and featured some deleted content. Numerous profanity-filled scenes were replaced with alternate takes of the same scenes that substituted milder language, initially intended for the network television cut. Other PG-inappropriate scenes were simply shortened or deleted. To maintain runtime, a few deleted scenes were added (including Tony dancing with Doreen to "Disco Duck" and Tony running his finger along the cables of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge).
Both theatrical versions were released on VHS, but only the R-rated version has been released on Laserdisc and DVD. The two special edition widescreen DVD releases include some of the deleted scenes present in the PG version. The DVD also includes a director's commentary and "Behind the Music" highlights. Starting in the late 1990s VH1 and TNT started showing the original R-rated version with a TV-14 rating. The nudity and stronger profanity were edited, but the cut included some of the innuendos from the original film that were cut out of the PG version.
A December 2002 ABC network television version, based largely on the PG version, contains several minutes of outtakes normally excised from the theatrical releases. It is among the longest cuts of the film.
A blu-ray edition was released on May 5, 2009 in the United States and was released across Europe the following week.
In 1985, Princess Diana sought out John Travolta for a White House Waltz.
Donna Pescow was almost considered 'too pretty' for the role of Annette. She corrected this by putting on 40 pounds and training herself back to her native Brooklyn accent, which she trained herself away from while she was studying drama at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After production ended, she immediately lost the weight she gained for the role and dropped the accent.
John Travolta's mother Helen and sister Ann both appeared in minor roles in this movie. Travolta's sister is the pizzeria waitress who serves him the pizza slices, and his mother is the woman he sells the can of paint to early in the film.
John G. Avildsen was signed to direct but was fired three weeks prior to principal photography over a script dispute with producer Robert Stigwood.
(*) "Jive Talkin'" was not contained in the film.
According to the DVD commentary for this movie, the producers intended to use the song "Lowdown" by Boz Scaggs for use in the rehearsal scene between Tony and Annette in the dance studio, and choreographed their dance moves to the song. However, representatives for Scaggs' label, Columbia Records, refused to grant legal clearance for it, as they wanted to pursue another disco movie project, which never materialized. Composer David Shire, who scored the film, had to in turn write a song to match the dance steps demonstrated in the scene and eliminate the need for future legal hassles. However, this track does not appear on the movie's soundtrack.
The song "K-Jee" was used during the dance contest with the Hispanic couple that competed against Tony and Stephanie. Some VHS cassettes used a more traditional Latin-style song instead. The DVD restores the original recording.
Saturday Night Fever received mostly positive reviews and is regarded by many as one of the best films of 1977. The film currently holds an 89% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate review website Rotten Tomatoes. It also holds a score of 77/100 (generally favorable) on a similar review website Metacritic. It was eventually added to the New York Times "Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made," which was published in 2004.
John Belushi parodied the film as "Samurai Night Fever", one of his "Samurai" sketches. Belushi spoofed it again in the film Neighbors, during a scene in which tilted camera angles show Belushi combing his hair in front of the mirror as "Stayin' Alive" plays in the background.
The 1980 film Airplane! contained a parody scene, with Robert Hays mocking the famous pose and the clothing shown on the poster and album cover, to the tune of "Stayin' Alive" slightly sped up (the actual song used for that scene in Saturday Night Fever was "You Should Be Dancing").
The Children's Television Workshop published a record album of music from Sesame Street under the title Sesame Street Fever, the cover of which spoofed the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album cover, with muppet Grover wearing the white three-piece disco suit in the famous Travolta pose and Bert, Ernie, and Cookie Monster taking the place of the Bee Gees. Robin Gibb (of the Bee Gees) sings on two tracks for this album "Sesame Street Fever" Trash" and has a dialog with cookie monster on the into for "C Is For Cookie."
On June 25, 2002, in an episode of Son of the Beach, David Arquette guest-starred as Johnny Queefer in a send-off episode entitled "Saturday Night Queefer", which also included parodies of the Bee Gees songs sung by a quartet of guys breathing helium balloons to get the high voices like the Gibb brothers.
On May 5, 2009, Paramount Pictures released Saturday Night Fever on Blu-ray Disc in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
Saturday Night Fever is a 1977 film (2010 in Beanie Island) about Tony Manero, a Brooklyn working-class youth who feels his only chance to get somewhere is as king of the disco floor.
|John Travolta||Tony Manero|
|Karen Lynn Gorney||Stephanie Mangano|
|Barry Miller||Bobby C.|
|Julie Bovasso||Flo Manero|
|Val Bisoglio||Frank Manero Sr.|
Saturday Night Fever is a 1977 movie. It stars John Travolta as a young man named Tony Manero, who tries to escape his problem-filled life in Brooklyn by dancing at a dance club in New York City. The soundtrack (an album that has songs that were heard in the movie) of the movie was provided by The Bee Gees and many other artists and both the album and movie were very popular. There are two versions of the movie: the original R-rated version and the PG-rated version which came out a year later so the movie could be popular with younger people. A sequel called Staying Alive was released in 1983.[needs proof]