Mr. Saturday night, the latest documentary in the Bill Simmons-produced anthology series on HBO, takes a look at music and media impresario Robert Stigwood, who put the Bee Gees in a nightclub room, added John Travolta , did Saturday night fever, and raked piles of dough with his keen sense of vertically integrated income streams. Mr. Saturday night Director John Maggio also directed the HBO docs The perfect weapon and The journalist.
The essential: Music world manager Robert Stigwood turned his early successes running bands like Cream and the Bee Gees into a larger media empire, guiding the multiplatform phenomenon that has become Jesus Christ Superstar and channel the cultural moment of 1970s disco into the soundtrack and blockbuster film Saturday night fever. Director John Maggio begins Mr. Saturday night in 1975, when Stigwood was installing his own shingle in New York City after leaving a fractured business relationship with the Beatles in the UK and moving forward with the solo return of Eric Clapton, in 1974 461 Boulevard de l’Océan, and encouraging the struggling Bee Gees to focus on R&B. The Robert Stigwood organization also had some success with the concert tour, the Broadway show and the film which included Jesus Christ Superstar, and it became RSO’s modus operandi to operate across all platforms, retaining not only the artists but the broader publishing rights attached to a given media product. And that was the strategy that Stigwood envisioned when he first read a New York magazine article about the bustling disco scene of Brooklyn’s Bay Shore neighborhood. To Stigwood, it already looked like a movie. And he only had the band to create his soundtrack.
Mr. Saturday night details how Stigwood sparked interest in Saturday night fever the movie by first releasing its soundtrack, and as Bee Gees singles like “Stayin ‘Alive”, “Night Fever” and “You Should Be Dancing” became hits, moviegoers responded. He also had a featured vehicle in John Travolta, and RSO followed the massive success of Saturday night fever with the equally huge success of Travolta Fat. Time and time again, former company executives remark that Stigwood was a master of synergy, of knowing what bets to take; he was also, like his fellow music impresario Clive Davis, adept at bringing the right creative people together in a room and monetizing that union.
There are no talking head interviews in Mr. Saturday night, and Stigwood himself is only heard and seen in archival footage. (Stigwood died in 2016 at the age of 81.) Instead, the doc is an oral history patois of various voice overs – people who knew him, people who worked with him, and people. who have found their own success on the projects he produced – in the form of footage and photographs. of the time combine on-screen with graphics and typography.
What movies will this remind you of? The Bee Gees: How to mend a broken heart debuted on HBO in December 2020, and Mr. Saturday night fills the Robert Stigwood Organization’s side of the band’s career trajectory and disco ancestry. There is also the wide array of productions from Stigwood and RSO that crossed the cultural scene of the 1970s. Saturday night fever, of course, but also Jesus Christ Superstar, the film version of The Who Tommy, and Fat.
Performances to watch: John Travolta was only 21 in 1975 when Robert Stigwood signed the TV actor for a three-movie, and it’s interesting to see the young idol in action, that he splashed the cover of Tiger beat, dancing like a galoot like Sweathog Vinnie Barbarino on Welcome to Kotter, or emerging disco as Tony Manero in Saturday night fever, strutting under the sparkling ball at the 2001 Odyssey.
Memorable quotes: Nik Cohn, the writer including 1976 New York magazine piece “Tribal Rites of Saturday Night” became the basis of Saturday night fever, remembers Robert Stigwood’s talent for leveraging talents and business opportunities that “existed by smell.” And he had a wonderful sense of smell.
Gender and skin: Only the runaway libido at play in footage from the first disco scene in Manhattan in the 1970s.
Our opinion : In his introductory note, which recurs regularly in these Music Box films, Mr. Saturday night Director John Maggio says he was originally making a disco movie when all the lines from the era started tracing back to “The Wizard of Oz in the 1970s” Robert Stigwood. This decade certainly gives the focus to his film – Stigwood arrives fully educated in the mid-1960s in Britain, at the age of 37 already a millionaire and working alongside Beatles manager Brian Epstein, and the action quickly moves to New York City. , disco and the synergistic rumblings of RSO. There’s no time spent on childhood or a past career, and once nightclub hell burns down, he goes to his luxury Bermuda hermitage. And so, in a way, Maggio has always made a movie about disco, as it was the cash-making potential of the genre that sparked Stigwood’s interest and sparked his piece to incorporate the Bee Gees. , his young star in Travolta and the character-driven nightlife. tale of Saturday night fever in a huge slot machine. Stigwood becomes a background character for entire expanses of Mr. Saturday night, as Deney Terrio remembers learning to dance in Travolta, where the Bay Ridge locals who filled the stages in 2001 Odyssey gush to be a part of the production. Stigwood’s homosexuality is addressed, but not explored, and his oscillations and failures as an impresario are only mentioned in passing, from films like the 1978 flop with Travolta. Moment by moment. But if Mr. Saturday night will almost exclusively relate to the meteoric marketing success of Stigwood with Saturday night fever and the Bee Gees disco-fication, so at least he’s got these electric grooves to back him up. And that’s not a jive talkin ‘.
Our call: Stream it. Mr. Saturday night dances the business acumen of its main subject, Robert Stigwood, with many disco grooves and an assemblage of photos and images from the era.
Johnny Loftus is a freelance writer and editor living in Chicagoland. Her work has been published in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges
look Mr. Saturday night on HBO Max