New Jersey’s John Travolta was born on this day
On February 18th, 1954, John Travolta was born in Englewood; he attended Dwight Morrow High School, but dropped out his junior year. His first professional success was in a touring company of Grease and a role in the Broadway production of Over Here!. His theater success prompted a move to California to pursue his acting career. His first major role was in the Brian DePalma film Carrie; he played Billy Nolan, the ringleader of the group that dumped pig blood on Carrie, resulting in her pretty much destroying the town. Following that, he got his star-making role as Vinnie Barbarino on the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter; that part made him a household name. During the run of the tv show, he released a single, “Let Her In” which hit the Top Ten of the Billboard chart. In 1975 he converted his religion to Scientology.
Travolta then segued into big screen stardom, starring in two of the biggest box office hits of the decade, Saturday Night Fever and Grease, making him a worldwide sensation. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Saturday Night Fever at age 24; he also recorded some of the songs on the Grease soundtrack with two of them, “You’re the One That I Want” (#1) and “Summer Nights” #5): both hits also featured Olivia Newton-John. His next big movie role was in Urban Cowboy that spawned a national country music craze, with many bars installing mechanical bulls.
His career then hit a lull; he reportedly turned down roles in American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentleman. His lull ended in 1989 with a role in Look Who’s Talking and its two sequels and got a huge career boost in Quenten Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction; that role earned him another Academy Award. He worked steadily in the late 90s with roles in such films as Face/Off, Get Shorty, and Primary Colors. In 2000, he starred in and co-produced a film based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s novel, Battlefield Earth. The movie was a critical and commercial failure. He has worked steadily in the 2000s; he was in Swordfish, Wild Hogs, and The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3.
In 2016, he produced the television anthology series, American Crime Story. He lives in Florida with his wife, actress Kelly Preston.
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