Travolta's Latest Comeback

His comfortable charisma has helped him bounce back more times than almost anyone in Hollywood. With Hairspray he's trying a different sex

John Russo / Corbis Outline

Portrait of actor John Travolta photographed in Los Angeles, CA.

John Travolta is talking about the allure of the classic Hollywood stars—their knack for establishing immediate intimacy with the audience. He mentions Barbara Stanwyck, who played the toughest, smartest broads of the '30s and '40s and who received an honorary Oscar in 1982, presented by Travolta. "If you'd met Stanwyck," he explains, "she would have crushed you with her ability to adore and adorn you, almost like a Southern belle." Then, to the journalist he's met only an hour before, Travolta says, "Stand up." When a movie star of three decades' eminence tells me to rise, I...

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