The Boy in the Plastic Bubble
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|The Boy in the Plastic Bubble|
Douglas Day Stewart
|Directed by||Randal Kleiser|
|Theme music composer||Mark Snow|
|Country of origin||USA|
|Editor(s)||John McSweeney Jr.|
|Running time||97 min.|
|Original release||November 1, 1976|
The Boy in the Plastic Bubble is a 1976 made-for-TV movie inspired by the lives of David Vetter and Ted DeVita, who lacked effective immune systems. It stars John Travolta, Glynnis O'Connor, Diana Hyland, Robert Reed, and P.J. Soles. It was written by Douglas Day Stewart, executive produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg (who, at the time, produced Starsky and Hutch and Charlie's Angels), and directed by Randal Kleiser, who would work with Travolta again in Grease shortly after. The original music score was composed by Mark Snow. William Howard Taft High School in Woodland Hills was used for filming.
The movie first aired on November 1, 1976, on the ABC television network.
The film centers on the life of Tod Lubitch, who was born with an improperly functioning immune system. This means that contact with unfiltered air may kill him, so he must live out his life in incubator-like conditions. He lives with his parents, since they decided to move him from Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, Texas where he was being kept as a boy. He is constricted to staying in his room all his life, where he eats, learns, reads, and exercises, while being protected from the outside world by various coverings.
As Tod grows up, he wishes to see more of the outside world and meet regular people his age. He is enrolled at the local school after being equipped with suitable protective clothing, similar in style to a space suit. He falls in love with his next door neighbor, Gina Biggs, and he must decide between following his heart and facing near-certain death, or remaining in his protective bubble forever. In the end, after having a discussion with his doctor who tells him he has built up some immunities which may possibly be enough to survive the real world, he steps outside his house, unprotected, and he and Gina ride off on her horse.
- John Travolta as Tod Lubitch
- Glynnis O'Connor as Gina Biggs
- Robert Reed as Johnny Lubitch
- Diana Hyland as Mickey Lubitch
- Ralph Bellamy
- P.J. Soles
- Kelly Ward
- Vernee Watson-Johnson (as Vernee Watson)
The "Bubble Boy" who inspired this film, David Vetter, questioned the film's depiction of how sterile Tod's use of the spacesuit was. Vetter scoffed at the idea that Travolta's character could simply wear the space suit back into the isolator without contaminating the bubble.
Days after Bill Clinton was inaugurated as U.S. President, William Safire reported on the phrase "in the bubble" as used in reference to living in the White House. Safire traced that usage in U.S. presidential politics to a passage in the 1990 political memoir What I Saw at the Revolution by Peggy Noonan, where she used it to characterize Ronald Reagan's "wistfulness about connection"; Richard Ben Cramer used the phrase two years later in What It Takes: The Way to the White House with reference to George H. W. Bush and how he had been "cosseted and cocooned in comfort by 400 people devoted to his security" and "never s[aw] one person who was not a friend or someone whose sole purpose it was to serve or protect him." Noonan's use was a reference to The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.
The film inspired the first song on the 1986 Paul Simon album Graceland. In 1992, the film's premise was satirized in the seventh episode of the fourth season of Seinfeld. It was also the subject of the 2001 comedic remake Bubble Boy and the 2007 musical In the Bubble produced by American Music Theatre Project and featuring a book by Rinne Groff, music by Michael Friedman and Joe Popp and lyrics by Friedman, Groff and Popp.
The film had a personal impact on Travolta and Hyland, who began a six-month romantic relationship until her death, after the film ended principal photography.
- McVicker, Steve. "Bursting the Bubble." Houston Press, April 10, 1997.
- William Safire (January 24, 1993). "The Man in the Big White Jail". On Language (The New York Times). Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- "World Premiere 'In the Bubble' Fourth New Musical for AMTP". Northwestern University. 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
AMTP's newest musical was inspired by multiple "bubble boy" sources in pop culture, including the 1976 Emmy-nominated made-for-television movie "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble," starring John Travolta; the 1987 Paul Simon song "The Boy in the Bubble"; a 1992 "Seinfeld" television episode; and Bandeira Entertainment's 2001 screen comedy "Bubble Boy," starring Jake Gyllenhaal, (and more potently, the protests surrounding the Gyllenhaal film).
- "High Steppin' to stardom". Time. April 3, 1978. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
At the cast party, Travolta remembers, 'we admitted not only a friendly attraction but a sexual one. The intensity of it was new to both of us.'...She [later] told him that their six months together were the happiest time of her life.... Says Travolta, 'I would have married her.'
- The Boy in the Plastic Bubble at the Internet Movie Database
- The Boy in the Plastic Bubble is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- The Boy in the Plastic Bubble on YouTube
- The Boy in the Plastic Bubble at AllMovie
- The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, listed as "Public Domain" at Desert Island Films Pro
- Copyright Records at Copyright.gov: type "RE0000930447" as Registration number, "PL 102-307" as Keyword, or "Boy in the Plastic Bubble" as Title