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Sometimes when a celebrity runs into trouble, people may begin to lose sight of their work. With John Travolta facing several sexual misconduct allegations, the accusations may begin to overshadow Travolta’s career, which has spanned several decades. Just as a refresher, we take a look back at some of the highlights throughout the actor's long career.
10. “Let Her In”
Although Travolta has been a part of a few musicals and music related films, he is mostly known as an actor. Despite that, he has a slew of albums under his belt. In 1976, he released the single, "Let Her In," which was the beginning of his musical career. The song was a hit for Travolta, peaking at No. 10 on the Billboard charts.
Hairspray was Travolta’s first musical since he did Grease back in the 1970s. He played the role of Edna Turnblad, the main character’s mother and agent. Edna was an agoraphobe who was ashamed of her weight, but learned to overcome it and be happy with herself. Casting Travolta in the role continued the tradition of having a male play the role, which originated in the original Hairspray film and the subsequent musical adaption. The film opened to positive reviews, and was a huge success. When it opened, Hairspray took the record for the biggest opening weekend for a musical. It also went on to become the fourth biggest movie musical of all time, after Mamma Mia!, Chicago, and another Travolta film, Grease. Above, you can see Travolta performing as part of the film’s final number, “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”
08. Look Who’s Talking
In 1989, Travolta appeared in the romantic comedy, Look Who’s Talking. At the time, the film was Travolta’s highest grossing movie since Grease, taking in almost $297 million worldwide. It also spawned two sequels, Look Who’s Talking Too and Look Who’s Talking Now. More importantly, Look Who’s Talking provided an upturn in Travolta’s career, which had begun to falter after a string of flops.
Travolta ventured into the world of animation in 2008 with Bolt. Bolt marks Travolta’s first animated movie, where he lent his voice to the character of Bolt, the story’s protagonist. Bolt is the titular character of a television show where he has super powers. Growing up in this world, he believes that he actually has powers and that his owner, Penny, was kidnapped, so he tries to save her. The film was a success, generating close to $310 million worldwide. Bolt was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. In addition to that, Travolta’s duet with Miley Cyrus, “I Thought I Lost You,” appeared in the film, garnering a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song.
06. Travolta wins a Golden Globe for Get Shorty
Get Shorty was released in 1995 to great critical acclaim. It debuted at the No. 1 spot at the box office and stayed there for three weeks. His role as Chili Palmer, a loan shark in Miami, was a career high for Travolta, earning him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. Above, you can see Travolta's Golden Globe acceptance speech.
05. Vinnie Barbarino
Debuting on September 9, 1975, Welcome Back, Kotter ran on ABC until June 8, 1979. The show centered around Gabe Kotter, who came back to teach at the high school he graduated from. Travolta played Vincent “Vinnie” Barbarino, a cocky Italian-American and leader of the Sweathogs, who were a group of unruly remedial students. Vinnie Barbarino was an important role in Travolta’s career, since it was the role that turned Travolta into a star.
04. John Travolta flies Oprah's audience to Australia
During her time on the air, Oprah was known for giving lavish gifts to her studio audience. On the first episode of her final season, she did it again, this time with the help of her good friend, John Travolta. On the September 13, 2010 episode of her show, Oprah announced that she would be taking her entire studio audience on an 8-day, expenses paid trip to Australia. Travolta had helped Oprah plan the trip for over year. As a licensed pilot who owns five aircraft, Travolta also served as the pilot for the lucky audience members.
03. Pulp Fiction
Although Look Who’s Talking was a step in the right direction for Travolta’s career, a proper career revival did not come until his role as Vincent Vega in the Quentin Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction. Travolta was only cast because Michael Madsen was too busy to take on the role, but the studio was pushing for Daniel Day-Lewis. Travolta ended up with the role, after reportedly taking a pay cut. It was reported that he only earned between $100,000-$140,000 for the role. In May 1994, Pulp Fiction won the Palm d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and when it opened, it became the first indie film to surpass $100 million at the box office. The film received widely favorable reviews and Travolta garnered his second Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards.
02. Saturday Night Fever
Although Travolta was already well known thanks to Welcome Back, Kotter, it was his role as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever that turned him into a household name. Tony Manero is the king of the disco dance floor, who uses his nights at the club to forget about his dead-end job, troubled home life, and racial tensions within his community. In 2010, the film was chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Saturday Night Fever helped popularize the disco genre and it also was a career high for Travolta. This role not only catapulted Travolta to stardom, but it also scored him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Travolta garnered the nomination at the age of 24, which makes him one of the youngest actors to score the prestigious nomination.
In 1978, Travolta starred as Danny Zuko in the film adaptation of Grease. Upon its release, it received positive reviews and it went on to gross almost $190 million in the U.S. alone, making it the biggest musical ever. Its worldwide gross nears $395 million. Travolta appears on several songs from the soundtrack, including the No. 1 hit, “You’re the One That I Want,” a duet with Olivia Newton-John. The soundtrack was also successful in the UK, where “You’re the One That I Want” reached the No. 1 spot and stayed there for nine weeks. Another duet by Travolta and Newton-John, “Summer Nights,” reached the summit of the UK single charts, staying at the spot for seven weeks. “Sandy,” one of Travolta’s solos, also became a top three UK hit. The Grease soundtrack remains one of the best selling albums in history, selling 28 million to date. With the soundtrack and movie being massive success stories, Grease may arguably be the highlight of Travolta’s career.