Watch John Travolta do the robot dance in a deleted scene from ‘Saturday Night Fever’
“There’s ways of killing yourself without killing yourself.” – Tony Manero
In the mid-1970s America, one relatively unknown television personality was propelled to crazed international stardom following the success of two of his most noted screen roles: as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever and Danny Zuko in Grease. These films were among the most commercially successful pictures of the decade, with Saturday Night Fever also earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, which made him, at the age of 24, one of the youngest performers to be ever nominated for the prized award. The actor in question, of course, is John Travolta.
His performance as the working-class young man Tony Manero, who spends his weekends dancing and drinking at a local Brooklyn discothèque, made him an inescapable component of the then-popular culture, especially helping popularize disco music all around the world. The accompanied and equally iconic Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, featuring disco songs by the Bee Gees, has since gone on to become one of the most popular and best-selling soundtracks of all-time.
“I got the script, I read it that night,” Travolta recalls. “I wondered if I could give it enough dimension. This Tony, he’s got all the colours! First, he’s angry about something. He hates the trap that Brooklyn and his dumb job are. There’s a whole glamorous world out there waiting for him, which he feels only when he dances. And he grows, he gets out of Brooklyn.” Travolta remembers answering, “He’s also king of the disco. I’m not that good a dancer.”
Now emblematic and quintessential of all the glitters and sparkle identified with the gloriously nostalgic 1970s disco days, Saturday Night Fever had two theatrical versions of the film released: the original R-rated version and an edited PG-rated version in 1979. The R-rated version released in 1977 represented the movie’s first run and totalled 119 minutes.
After the success of the first run, the film’s content was re-edited into 112 minutes, toned down, PG-rated version, not only to attract a wider audience, but also to capitalise on attracting the target audience of the teenagers who were not old enough to see the film by themselves, but who made the film’s soundtrack album a monster hit. Producer Robert Stigwood, in an A&E Documentary of The Inside Story: Saturday Night Fever about the PG-rated version, later said: “It ruined the film. It doesn’t have the power, or the impact, of the original, R-rated edition.”
Nevertheless, you can watch the iconic John Travolta essentially define the decade doing the Robot in one deleted scene from Saturday Night Fever that was later edited down from the original cut.