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Born: Feb. 18, 1954 Englewood, New Jersey, USA
John Travolta’s career has had such interesting ups and downs that you may as well charge admission and call it a thrill ride.
He first came to our attention as Vinnie Barbarino, the dim-witted leader of the Sweathogs on TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter. During the run of that show he played one of the jerks that ticked the title character off in Carrie.
It was in 1977 that Travolta permanently etched himself into film history when he took the role of Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever. His swagger and his dancing was the biggest reason the film became a huge hit and Travolta earned an Oscar® nomination for his work. The rollercoaster dipped, however, when he made Moment By Moment with Lily Tomlin. The negative reviews were as loud as the box office was quiet.
Of course, Travolta bounced back, again landing a role in a landmark film. He played Danny Zuko in Grease. The character, a singing, dancing romantic lead helped make the film one of Hollywood’s highest grossing film musicals. Travolta traded his leather jacket in for a cowboy hat when he starred in Urban Cowboy, a film that tapped into America’s growing interest in country-and-western culture as Fever tapped into disco.
Travolta then played the complex role of a sound recordist who tapes an assassination in Brian De Palma’s Blow Out. His career then bottomed out as he appeared in a string of forgettable films. He bounced back a bit with the talking baby flicks Look Who’s Talking, Look Who’s Talking Too, and Look Who’s Talking Now. He was back on the public’s radar.
Travolta moved from a blip on the radar to a name on the A-list when he received great reviews for his role of Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Though he worked for a small check on that film, he was catapulted into the $20 million club and got a second Oscar® nomination for Best Actor.
John has worked steadily since then appearing in Get Shorty, Broken Arrow, Phenomenon, Michael, and Face/Off. He stumbled just a bit with Mad City, but again did well in A Civil Action.
In 1999, Travolta made The General’s Daughter. He followed that up with 2000’s Battlefield Earth, a sci-fi bomb based on a novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Critics tripped over themselves to find new adjectives to describe how bad it was and the film topped several “worst” lists for the year. He then appeared opposite Lisa Kudrow in the quickly forgotten Lucky Numbers. In 2001, co-star Halle Berry’s breasts received better reviews than the rest of Swordfish and John did not fare much better for Domestic Disturbance.
Hopefully Travolta can carefully choose his next projects and get back to the good part of the rollercoaster ride.
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