A look back at this day in film history
December 16
Sigourney Weaver October 8, 1949
Sigourney Weaver Born

Weaver was born Susan Alexander Weaver in New York City on October 8, 1949 into a true entertainment family. Her mother was an English-born actress and her father, a TV executive, was at one time the president of NBC. Despite growing up among affluence and privilege, she remained a very private person. After her family moved to San Francisco, she asked to be sent back East to attend the prestigious Ethel Walker school in Simsbury, Connecticut. A voracious reader and remarkably bright, Weaver was often ostracized because of her height and reserved behavior. Desiring a new identity, she renamed herself Sigourney after a character in The Great Gatsby. She later commented, “To my ear, Sigourney was a stage name…long and curvy." To go with her stage name, she needed an acting career. While she started performing in high school, she ended up studying English literature at Stanford University, reserving her dramatic urges to off-campus, local productions. But after college, she turned whole-heartedly to the stage, enrolling in the Yale School of Drama, where she competed with her classmate Meryl Streep for parts. Despite her beauty, grace and intelligence, Weaver had a hard time getting cast since many directors and casting agents considered her too tall. In 1978, nearly 30 years old, her career seemed to be going nowhere when she received a call to meet producer Walter Hill about a sci-fi thriller. She recalls that the thought of playing opposite a “blob of yellow jelly" was so unappealing that "I didn't want to play this awful part in this awful movie.” But the part of Lt. Ellen Ripley in the film ALIEN changed her life. In 1986, she would receive her first Oscar nomination for that film’s sequel ALIENS. Indeed from being un-castable, Weaver went on to deliver remarkable performances in both comedies, like GHOSTBUSTERS and WORKING GIRL, and serious dramas, like THE ICE STORM and THE GUYS.

More Flashbacks
Dec. 16, 1977
Saturday Night Fever opens

When Saturday Night Fever was released on December 16, 1977, the movie made John Travolta a star and prompted the start of a global disco revolution.

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December 16, 1967
America catches Saturday Night Fever

In December 1977, people lined up to see newcomer John Travolta dance his way into American history as Tony Manero, the paint-store clerk with a white leisure suit, a major attitude and the dance moves back it up. The idea for the film began as a 1975 investigative article in New York Magazine called “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” by British rock journalist Nik Cohn. Interested in the emerging disco scene, Cohn detailed a group of Bay Ridge working-class kids who lived to dance on the weekends at their favorite disco. Unfortunately, just before the film came out, Cohn came clean that he had made up the whole story. But such a confession could not stop the juggernaut that was about to become Saturday Night Fever. Media mogul Robert Stigwood saw the film as a perfect cross-promotional vehicle between his music company RSO (Robert Stigwood Organization) and his emerging film productions. The idea paid off, as both film and movie seemed to reinforce the other’s popularity. Travolta shot into stardom, and the album sold over 20 million copies, becoming the top selling album in history until Michael Jackson's Thriller six years later. The dance/music concept was repeated with John Travolta: first in a 1980 country version, Urban Cowboy; and then in a less than successful 1983 sequel Staying Alive, directed by none other than Sylvester Stallone.

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