Catching the ‘Fever’ with Travolta and The Bee Gees

By Judy Berman

 That swagger. Those dance moves. John Travolta, as Tony Manero, turned heads and captivated an audience from the opening scene of “Saturday Night Fever” (1977).

The film brings back memories of the discoera and the music of The Bee Gees. Even today, 35 years later, any of their hit songs from the soundtrack – “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” – make me yearn for a return of mirror balls, strobe lights and bad suits made of polyester.

I’m not even a disco fan. But I loved the dance music in that movie. There’s no way I could hit the high notes that Barry Gibb did in his falsetto voice. In my mind, I came a little closer to imitating his brother Robin’s vibrato.

Their music and the movie spoke to a time many can relate to. Many guys like Tony worked dead-end jobs during the week. But, on the weekend, Tony owned the dance floor. Others would step aside just to watch his skillful, stylish moves.

Movie critic Gene Siskel praised Travolta’s energetic performance: “Travolta on the dance floor is like a peacock on amphetamines. He struts like crazy.”

Tony lives for the moment. He’s on top of his game when he’s dancing. Outside the Brooklyn disco, life is less satisfying. He bickers constantly with his parents, and he becomes disenchanted with his job and his friends.

Tony decides to enter a dance competition. He ditches his partner, Annette (played by Donna Pescow), when he sees Stephanie Mangano (Karen Lynn Gorney) dance. She’s not interested in a relationship with him, only in being his partner in the competition – something Tony hasn’t experienced before.

Tony begins to question his views on life thru his talks with Stephanie, who is wiser but not much older, and with his brother, a disillusioned priest. He begins to see that there is more to life than his appearances at the local nightclub, 2001 Odyssey.

Stephanie and Tony win the dance contest. But Tony feels the outcome was rigged. He believes the Puerto Rican couple performed better and suspects the judges rejected them out of racial bias. Tony hands them the prize. Outside, he and Stephanie fight. She runs away from him, and he gets in more skirmishes with his friends.

When the “Night Fever” had passed, Tony recognized that Stephanie was “More Than a Woman.” She wasn’t just another conquest. She could occupy a spot that no other girl had filled: She could be his friend.

After spending the night on the subway, Tony went to Stephanie’s apartment and apologized. She agreed to be friends with him.

It’s a bittersweet moment.

This movie and the creators of the soundtrack make me feel like I’ve got the moves like Travolta. I wish the dancing would never end, but, like Tony, we all had to move on.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Photo: The Bee Gees performing in 1968 (from left to right: Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb)

* music video: The Bee Gees performing “Night Fever”

* music video: John Travolta’s ritual preparing for dance, then dancing

* music video: John Travolta (as Tony Manero) dancing with Karen Lynn Gorney (as Stephanie) to “More Than a Woman”

  1. Love the way you retell the story. Can’t help but think how many people are facing dead-ends today, and, how they are keeping their chins up.

    1. Maybe it’s being handled today as it was yesterday in decades past. We find a way to focus on something that we excel at. That’s what Travolta’s character did in the movie. Those who persevere work for the luck they achieve. May we all attain the goals we strive for. Tina, thanks for visiting my blog and for commenting.

  2. For me your post was timely. We just watched a dvd of the Bee Gees performing and I loved all of their music. I have been singing their songs all week (along with some not so fancy dance steps). Unfortunately, Robin Gibb is dying of cancer. There will only be one brother left. So sad.
    Travolta was fabulous (and skinny!).

    1. Thanks, Kate. My daughters and I really enjoy John Travolta, The Bee Gees and Saturday Night Fever. The music and dancing just fills me with joy. Unfortunately, much of the earlier part of the film is dark. So I’m glad it had the ending it did. I was so sad to hear about Robin Gibb and wanted to write something about his influence.

    1. What are some of your favorite artists, Carl? Great idea to engage your creative muse while listening to music. I was/am a huge Beatles’ fan. But I also love rock ‘n’ roll and the music my daughters grew up with in the 80s and 90s.

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