John Travolta starred in this (made for TV) ABC Friday Night Movie about Tod Lubitch – a boy who has no immune system and has spent his entire life in a ‘bubble’ at home with his parents, Johnny (Robert Reed) and Mickey (Diana Hyland).
As he grows older, he wishes to be more social. He gets his wish (sort of) when he’s supplied with an airtight spacesuit that allows Tod to attend high school, and he begins to fall for his pretty next-door neighbour, Gina, played by Glynnis O’Connor.
Alas, his desire to breathe free air remains unsatisfied, so the question of how long Tod can suppress life-threatening urges creates a blunt sort of dramatic tension.
Travolta further cemented his teen-heartthrob status with his excellent portrayal as a young man, frustrated by his living situation.
The film took its inspiration from the life of the late David Vetter, who was born in 1971 with severe combined immune deficiency (SCID), a condition that killed his older brother before him.
Like Travolta’s character, Vetter was raised in a plastic incubator designed to protect him from outside organisms until doctors could develop a way to help him.
Sadly, at the age of 12, he received bone marrow from his sister in a process that doctors believed might provide a cure, but an Epstein-Barr virus in the marrow developed into a fatal form of lymphoma, killing him.
Look for P.J. Soles in a small role as one of Travolta’s classmates.
Actress Diana Hyland (the original mother on TV’s Eight is Enough) met John Travolta when she played his mother on The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Although 18 years his senior she became his lover, but tragically died, in Travolta’s arms, in March 1977 as a result of cancer. She was only 41.
Dr Ernest Gunther