Stigwood, Robert: Producer of Saturday Night Fever and Grease, Dies at 81

Robert Stigwood, who produced the popular movie musicals Grease and Saturday Night Fever, and managed the Bee Gees, died January 4 at 81.

Stigwood also produced Broadway shows, including Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.

Bee Gee Robin Gibb’s son Spencer Gibb confirmed the news on Facebook.  “I would like to thank Robert for his kindness to me over the years as well as his mentorship to my family. ‘Stiggy,’ you will be missed,” he wrote.

Born in Australia, Stigwood moved to London and launched a theatrical management agency, soon turning to music. He managed hit bands Cream and the Bee Gees during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and then started producing for Broadway.

Jesus Christ Superstar, the first show from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, was a huge Broadway hit in 1971.   He also produced the 1996 film version of Evita that starred Madonna.

The vogue for “rock operas” continued with the 1975 film “Tommy,” adapted from the Who album and directed by Ken Russell.

While remaining involved in theater, he launched RSO Records in 1973, working with Eric Clapton and the Bee Gees, who both saw career revivals. Stigwood recruited the Bee Gees to provide music for the soundtrack of 1977’s Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta.  The soundtrack topped the charts for six months and popularized disco music around the world.

In 1978, Travolta starred again in Stigwood’s Grease, which remains the top grossing movie musical ever.

Stigwood also produced two films that proved setbacks to Travolta’s career: 1978’s “Moment by Moment,” also starring Lily Tomlin, and “Saturday Night Fever” sequel “Staying Alive” (1983).

Also in 1978, Stigwood produced a film adaptation of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, as well as many rock and film stars in cameos. Problems began early in production, the director was replaced but the film was nevertheless a flop.

Stigwood micro-managed the production of 1980 film “Times Square,” which was a rock musical-cum-teen girl “buddy movie.” The film failed at the box office, but the soundtrack became a cult favorite due to the new wave acts included: Patti Smith, the Pretenders, Talking Heads and Roxy Music.

In 1981 Stigwood produced stalker thriller “The Fan,” starring Lauren Bacall and James Garner, and the acclaimed World War I movie “Gallipoli,” starring a young Mel Gibson.

After the failure of 1983’s “Staying Alive,” Stigwood produced the 1984 film comedy “Young Lust,” starring Fran Drescher, and then stayed away from movies except for the “Evita” adaptation in 1996.