“Saturday Night Fever,” a scintillating period piece of 1970s cinema that transcends generations with its pulsating soundtrack, dramatic disco dance scenes and timeless teenage coming-of-age story, made its world premiere on this day in history, December 14 . 1977.

The film premiered at Mann's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles before being distributed nationally two days later.

“Well-cast, well-acted and well-directed, 'Saturday Night Fever' received positive reviews from many critics, including the late Gene Siskel, who called it his favorite film of all time,” writes History.com.

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“But whatever its other cinematic merits, even the film's strongest defenders would agree that it was Saturday Night Fever's pulsating disco soundtrack that made it a work of lasting historical significance.”

The film opens with one of the great “a star is born” moments in Hollywood history.

The film “Saturday Night Fever”, directed by John Badham. Seen here, John Travolta as Tony Manero on the dance floor at the 2001 Odyssey disco. Screenshot, Paramount Pictures. (CBS via Getty Images)

John Travolta, slim, handsome and just 23 years old, with a majestic feather topknot, plays nightclub king Tony Manero.

He struts gloriously through the streets of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, wearing a red open-neck shirt, black pants and a black leather jacket, to the soundtrack's title song “Stayin' Alive” as the opening credits roll.

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“Well, you can tell by the way I walk / I’m a man woman, I don’t have time to talk,” the Bee Gees sing as Manero’s heels click on the asphalt and his arms swing in time to the beat.

“A minute after 'Saturday Night Fever' you know that this film is on the right track, that it knows what it's talking about”, Siskel, the famous film critic, praised the production.

The film opens with one of the great “a star is born” moments in Hollywood history.

“Travolta on the dance floor is like a peacock on amphetamines. He struts like a madman.”

Travolta was a goofy comedy star back in the day, known for his role as the dim-witted Vinnie Barbarino on the television hit “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

Soundtrack for "Saturday Night Fever"

View of the cover of the soundtrack to the film “Saturday Night Fever”, 1977. Published by RSO Records, the album features a large framed portrait of the Australian pop group the Bee Gees as they look at a photo of American actor John Travolta as he strikes a pose on a disco dance floor. (Blank Files/Getty Images)

“Saturday Night Fever” made him an international celebrity.

Manero was the uneducated black sheep son of a struggling working-class Italian-American family who rose to nobility on the dance floor of 2001's Odyssey, a real Bay Ridge nightclub.

The infectious soundtrack featured a series of radio hits from KC and the Sunshine Band (“Boogie Shoes”), Broadway star-turned-disco diva Yvonne Elliman (“If I Can't Have You”) and the famous creator of period hits The Trammps. (“Disco Inferno”).

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The album was loaded with a series of classic dance club songs by the Australian band Bee Gees, including, in addition to the title track, “Night Fever”, “Jive Talkin'” and “How Deep is Your Love”, among others.

The “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack remains one of the best-selling albums of all time, with more than 40 million units sold, according to Billboard.

Travolta as Vnnie Barbarino

Gabe Kaplan (right) played Gabe Kotter, the teacher of a class of delinquents called Sweathogs at his old school; Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta) was his student. (ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

The film “Saturday Night Fever” was the first in a trio of Hollywood hits, driven by dance and best-selling soundtracks, that made Travolta one of the biggest stars of the era.

It was followed in quick succession by his roles as high school bad boy Danny Zuko in “Grease” (1978) and Houston tough guy Bud Davis in “Urban Cowboy” (1980).

It turns out that “Saturday Night Fever” was a pop culture sensation that never should have been.

The film was based on an article by British reporter Nik Cohn, “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night”, published in New York Magazine.

“A minute after 'Saturday Night Fever' you know this picture is on the right track.” -Gene Siskel

“Vincent was the best dancer in Bay Ridge,” Cohn wrote on June 7, 1976.

“Everyone knew him. When Saturday night arrived and he entered the 2001 Odyssey, all the other faces automatically backed away from him, making room for him to float, right in the center of the dance floor.”

"Saturday Night Fever" party

John Travolta, Travolta's mother, and producer Robert Stigwood (far left) at a “Saturday Night Fever” premiere afterparty in December 1977. Bearded is British rock journalist Nik Cohn. The hit film is based on what years later proved to be a fabricated magazine article by Cohn. (Ron Galella Collection/Ron Galella via Getty Images)

The scene was recreated, almost down to the dance moves, in the film, with “Vincent” replaced by Travolta’s Manero.

The Brit later admitted he made up the whole story after witnessing a fight outside a nightclub one night.

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“My story was a fraud,” Cohn told The New York Times in 1996.

“I had recently arrived in New York. Far from being immersed in Brooklyn street life, I barely knew the place. As for Vincent, the hero of my story, he was largely inspired by a Shepherd's Bush mod I I met in the 60s, an old road king Goldhawk.”

“Saturday Night Fever” was based on a magazine article by British reporter Nik Cohn that proved to be a fraud.

Despite its manufactured origins, the story has stood the test of time.

“'Saturday Night Fever' has endured… because its narrative is as flexible as 23-year-old John Travolta was,” wrote Entertainment Weekly in an insightful look back at the 1990s, shortly after the fraud was revealed.

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It is “the story of a working-class palooka who thinks he has just one thing special – his dance – and his struggle to understand whether being a man means using it or transcending it, remaining a boy or growing up, behaving like a lover, a country bumpkin or a gentleman.”

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