Douglas Thompson, John Travolta's biographer, reports in an excellent article the impact this had on John, as well as the dramatic outcome, and the link it has with the tragedy through which he and his family are going through presently.
One of the irony of this story, something that is not highlighted in the article, is that John met Diana through his part in the TV movie, "The Boy In The Plastic Bubble" about a boy born with a deficient immune system.
Biographer: Family man John Travolta will persevere after death of son, Jett
In 1976, when John was a 22-year-old teen idol receiving 10,000 fan-letters a week, he was offered a part in the TV movie, "The Boy In The Plastic Bubble" about a boy born with a deficient immune system. The "Peyton Place" star, Diana Hyland played his on-screen mother and would become one of the greatest influences in John's life.
Travolta's perpetual charm kicked in from day one of "Bubble." But he found something happening to him. His attitude to women had been, to put it kindly, cavalier. He hid deeper feelings for them out of fear of a fun relationship turning permanent.
But with Diana it was different. "On our first meeting I was just incredibly attracted to this woman," he told me. "She'd gone through a rough marriage (divorcing actor Joe Goodson and keeping their three-year-old son, Zachary), a lot of career ups and downs, and had come out at peace with herself. [...]
The couple began an intense affair but in the Christmas of that year, tragedy struck. Diana thought she had caught flu and was plagued by back trouble, aches and pains throughout the Christmas of 1976. By the time she saw her doctor in the New Year, she was told that cancer had spread throughout her body. There was nothing anyone could do.
John was filming "Saturday Night Fever" but on March 26th, 1977, he flew to Diana's family home in Ohio. Within 24 hours she was dead. [...]
His sister Ellen once explained to me: "He was devastated not only by the loss but because there was nothing he could do. [...]
He was never the same. Something like that changes you forever."
He turned down the Richard Gere role in "American Gigolo" and found himself more and more drawn to the Scientology movement which the actress Joan Prather had converted him to the previous year.