Boy in the Plastic Bubble, The: Travolta’s TV Movie of Week

This 1976 made-for-TV movie was inspired by the lives of David Vetter and Ted DeVita, who lacked effective immune systems.

It was written by Douglas Day Stewart, executive produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg (who produced Starsky and Hutch and Charlie’s Angels), and directed by Randal Kleiser, who would work with Travolta again in Grease.

The movie first aired on November 1, 1976, on the ABC TV network.

Tod Lubitch (Travolta) was born with an ill functioning immune system, which means that contact with unfiltered air may kill him. As a result, he must live out his life in incubator-like conditions. He lives with his parents, when they decided to move him from Texas Children’s Hospital where he was kept as a boy. He is constricted to staying in his room, where he eats, learns, reads, and exercises–protected from the outside world.

As Tod grows up, he wishes to experience the outside world and meet individuals of his age. He is enrolled at the local school after being equipped with suitable protective clothing, sort of a space suit. He falls in love with his next door neighbor, Gina Biggs, and he must decide between following his heart and facing death, or remaining in his protective bubble forever.

After a discussion with his doctor who tells him he has built up some immunities which may possibly be enough to survive the real world, Tod steps outside his house, unprotected, and he and Gina reunite.

Reportedly, David Vetter, the “Bubble Boy” who inspired this film, questioned the depiction of the sterility of Tod’s spacesuit was, specifically the notion that Tod could simply wear the space suit back into the isolator without contaminating the bubble.

The film was nominated for four Emmy Awards, winning one posthumously for Hyland.

Cast

John Travolta as Tod Lubitch

Glynnis O’Connor as Gina Biggs

Robert Reed as Johnny Lubitch

Diana Hyland as Mickey Lubitch