ISSUE DATE: Apr. 3, 1978
ALSO APPEARED: Mar. 16, 1998
When Travolta first appears in Saturday Night Fever, there’s an instant charge—a shock of recognition, of excitement, of acceptance. He has the moves, the presence, the princely mystique. No one can fully define star quality, but you can find illustration enough. And, in 1978, that walk is the best one around.
First, you are astonished. Off the tube, in the rarefied, unsparing light of the large screen, this long-lashed poster boy from Welcome Back, Kotter with the hundred-watt blue eyes and the scimitar smile that promises even more than it insinuates, ought to flounder. Instead, Travolta fills up all that space and pushes at the boundaries.
Then you start thinking of comparisons: Robert De Niro blowing the star-spangled mailbox to smithereens in Mean Streets; Al Pacino in uniform at his sister’s wedding in The Godfather, telling Diane Keaton how his father enforced a contract, his voice full of casual, measured menace; Dustin Hoffman end-running out of the church in The Graduate. At moments like those, you expect the film to freeze and to see a title appear: “The legend starts here.” Travolta’s walk said that.
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