Travolta marathon a fun experience
By Larry Hook
The Lookout Adviser
Last November, I decided to try to collect all of the movies ever made by John Travolta. My goal was to get them all, and then watch them in chronological order
“Why Travolta?” you ask. Well, I sort of grew up with him. I watched him on TV in a comedy called “Welcome Back Kotter” in the mid-‘70s. I listened to him on the radio when he released hit songs like “Let Her In” and “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again” during that same era.
I then followed Travolta’s career as he rose to stardom in films such as “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease” and “Urban Cowboy.” In 1989 it was Travolta’s performance in “Look Who’s Talking” that made me feel like I was ready for fatherhood. I thought, “Heck, if that goofball can be a dad, I can too!”
Another reason I picked Travolta for my planned movie marathon was because I already had quite a few of his flicks. What I didn’t realize was that he has made 58 movies. I knew it would take some work and quite a few bucks to try to find them all, but it would also be a lot of fun.
So I started buying used DVDs of all of the Travolta movies I could find. I went to rummage sales, Goodwill stores, Disc Traders and, of course, eBay and Amazon to find them.
By early January I had gathered around 40 of the movies, including most of the early releases. I was ready to start watching. I planned to order the rest of the movies while the marathon was underway.
From Jan. 11 through March 4, I watched 54 Travolta movies in chronological order. That’s 54 movies in 53 nights. The only ones I didn’t watch were “Moment By Moment,” a 1978 romance co-starring Lilly Tomlin (I was unable to find that one), and his three newest releases, from 2018 and 2019.
Travolta’s first movie is almost certainly his worst. He plays a Satan worshipper in a flick called “The Devil’s Rain.” Travolta has only one or two unmemorable lines, and he wears a mask throughout the show and is barely recognizable. Amazingly, the cast of this horrible movie is filled with big stars: William Shatner, Ernest Borgnine (as Satan) and Eddie Albert (from “Green Acres”) are among the cast members.
I rated each movie on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. “The Devil’s Rain” was one of the two I rated as 1’s. The other was “Criminal Activities,” from 2015.
Nine of his movies earned perfect 10 scores from me. These included “Grease,” “Urban Cowboy,” “Perfect,” “Look Who’s Talking,” “Mad City,” “Domestic Disturbance,” “Ladder 49,” “Hairspray” and the FX miniseries “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” which Travolta co-directed.
Four other movies earned scores of 9: “Saturday Night Fever,” Phenomenon,” “Lonely Hearts” and “Life on the Line.”
I think two of Travolta’s finest performances came in “Ladder 49,” in which he plays a firefighter, and “Life on the Line,” in which he repairs electrical power lines. Both of those movies are tributes to people who put their lives in jeopardy on a regular basis to help others.
Throughout the 54-movie marathon, I was surprised to find that Travolta’s character ends up dead in a good portion of his movies. He plays a villain as often as he plays a good guy. And sometimes, even when he is the protagonist (like in “Saturday Night Fever” and “Urban Cowboy”), he still comes off as kind of a jerk.
Travolta is very funny in some of his movies, particularly as a dad in the “Look Who’s Talking” trilogy, as a biker in “Wild Hogs” and as the heavyset mom in “Hairspray.”
He only sings in a couple of his movies, but seems to find a way to mix in a dance scene in at least half of his movies (yes, the man can dance – just watch “Saturday Night Fever”). I especially love his dance scene with Uma Thurman in “Pulp Fiction” to the Chuck Berry tune “You Can Never Tell.”
It was a lot of fun to follow John Travolta’s career, chronologically, through his films. I would still like to get my hands on “Moment by Moment,” the one film in his career that I am missing. If you have a copy of “Moment by Moment” on DVD or VHS, let me know.
I am thinking of sending this column to Travolta and asking him if he could provide me with a copy of “Moment by Moment,” or at least an autograph. I bet he doesn’t have many fans who have watched 54 of his movies in less than two months – let alone chronologically.