In 1980, the actor who had captured the hearts and eyes of viewers across North America and the world chose his third film to showcase the love for the country world with Urban Cowboy.
Starring John Travolta, this film was similar to his previous role in Saturday Night Fever, as the story line was based on a magazine article about the burgeoning fixation of urbanites on the country life.
Directed by James Bridges, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Aaron Latham (who wrote the original magazine article for Esquire), Urban Cowboy centered on Travolta, playing Bud, a young Texan who wants to earn enough money from the oil industry to buy his own ranch.
He moves to the bigger town to get the job and starts spending all his time at Gilley’s, the local bar. There he meets feisty Sissy (played by Debra Winger) who begin a combative relationship, debating the roles of men and women and challenging him to be a real cowboy and ride the mechanical bull.
But their combative relationship hits a point where the two break up, finding solace in others, but still are drawn back to Gilley’s atmosphere, to dance, fight, ride the mechanical bull and blow off steam. And in the end, Bud and Sissy realize what they had and how to be together.
Released in June 1980 by Paramount Pictures for the summer movie market, this film was hyped since it was the third blockbuster starring Travolta. Paired with another stellar soundtrack including songs by Joe Walsh, Charlie Daniels, Linda Ronstadt, Dan Fogelberg, Mickey Gilley, The Eagles and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, the movie and soundtrack were on track to make millions.
The film hit box office gold with $53.3 million in ticket sales, including $47 million in the US, cementing Travolta’s movie career and spawning a nation-wide obsession with all things country and western styles.