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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Randal Kleiser|
|Produced by|| Robert Stigwood
|Screenplay by|| Bronte Woodard
|Based on|| Grease by
|Starring|| John Travolta
|Music by|| Michael Gibson (Score)
|Editing by||John F. Burnett|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||110 minutes|
|Box office||$394.6 million|
Grease is a 1978 American musical film directed by Randal Kleiser and based on Warren Casey's and Jim Jacobs's musical, of the same name about two lovers in a 1950s high school. The film stars John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, and Jeff Conaway. It was successful both critically and at the box office; its soundtrack album ended 1978 as the second-best selling album of the year in the United States.
In 1959, during their summer vacation, local boy Danny Zuko ( John Travolta) and Australian holiday-maker Sandy Olsson ( Olivia Newton-John), meet at the beach and begin to fall in love. When the summer comes to an end, Sandy, who is returning home, frets that they may never meet again. Danny tells her that their love is "only the beginning."
This is followed by opening animated credits which introduce the primary cast, followed by the first day at Rydell High. Danny, a greaser, is reunited with his friends, the T-Birds — his bad-boy best friend Kenickie ( Jeff Conaway), and their three bumbling sidekicks, Doody ( Barry Pearl), Putzie ( Kelly Ward), and Sonny ( Michael Tucci) — while the Pink Ladies, the T-Birds' female counterparts, arrive and claim that they're going to "rule the school" in their final year. We meet three of the four Pink Ladies to start with - their raunchy leader Betty Rizzo ( Stockard Channing), the sophisticated Marty ( Dinah Manoff, in her first film role), and the juvenile Jan ( Jamie Donnelly). Sandy, whose family had unexpectedly cancelled their plans to return to Australia, also enters Rydell as a foreign exchange student. She is being shown around the school by another Pink Lady, a cheerful airhead named Frenchy ( Didi Conn). At lunchtime, Danny and Sandy share memories of their summer romance with their friends, unaware of the other's presence at the school ( Summer Nights). It soon becomes clear that Danny is exaggerating. Rizzo is surprised when Sandy reveals Danny's name on the way back to class, but the Pink Ladies keep quiet about Danny's presence at the school.
After a bonfire, the Pink Ladies decide to reunite Danny and Sandy. The stage looks set for a fairytale reunion, until Danny mixes-up his priorities. At first ecstatic, he decides to maintain his cool image in front of Sandy, since the rest of the T-Birds are standing right behind him. This abrupt change in behaviour upsets Sandy who runs off. Frenchy decides to cheer Sandy up by inviting her to a slumber party at her house, with the other Pink Ladies. But things go wrong when Sandy's naïve behaviour begins to irriate the other girls. After Sandy leaves the room, Rizzo leads the girls in the teasing ( Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee), and even Frenchy participates. Things get more awkward when Sandy walks in on them. The T-Birds turn-up outside the house, and Rizzo decides to impulsively sneak out with Kenickie. After Sandy has viewed Marty's extensive collection of pen-pals she borrows some papers and wanders outside, where she confronts her feelings about Danny - she is still in love with him, in spite of everything ( Hopelessly Devoted to You).
Rizzo and Kenickie have parked in a rundown part of town, and are making out passionately in the back seat of his car. They decide to take things a step further, even after Kenickie's condom breaks. They are soon interrupted by Leo ( Dennis C. Stewart), leader of the T-Birds' rival gang, the Scorpions, and his girlfriend, Cha-Cha ( Annette Charles). Leo damages Kenickie's car.
The following school day, Kenickie's car is pulled into the school's work shop for a tune-up, and despite the fact that it is a "hunk o' junk" according to Danny, the latter manages to convince the boys that it could become a top-of-the-range sports car called Greased Lightning and they start to work on the vehicle. Soon afterwards, Danny sees Sandy having a milkshake with a jock named Tom Chisholm ( Lorenzo Lamas). Danny regrets his unkind behaviour, and decides to win Sandy back by taking up sport. He is hopeless at everything in terms of basketball, wrestling, and baseball, mainly due to his penchant for hitting fellow competitors when things don't go his way. Eventually, the school P.E. teacher, Coach Calhoun ( Sid Caesar), suggests he try his hand at track, and Danny discovers he has a natural ability for it. He injures himself while Sandy is present. Sandy is worried in spite of herself, and goes to see if he is all right. She is so relieved he is not badly hurt that she consents to date him again, and even considers letting him take her to the school dance. Unfortunately, their date at the Frosty Palace is interrupted when the whole gang joins them. Frenchy, who left Rydell to pursue her dream of being a beautician, has had difficulty in all her classes at beauty school, eventually dying her hair bubblegum pink. She is at odds with what to do until her guardian, Teen Angel ( Frankie Avalon) appears and he tells her to return to Rydell ("Beauty School Dropout").
The school dance - broadcast live on national television - is an eventful occasion. Rizzo and Kenickie have broken-up, and Rizzo attempts to get at Kenickie by going to the dance with none other than Leo. Two can play at that game, however - Kenickie retaliates by going with Cha-Cha. Meanwhile, Danny takes Sandy and Doody takes Frenchy. Marty gets flirty with the DJ, Vince Fontaine ( Edd Byrnes). Danny and Sandy are the last couple left in the competition, but Cha-Cha, who, it transpires, is an old girlfriend of Danny's, pulls him away and Sandy leaves. Meanwhile, Sonny, Putzie, and Doody take advantage of the song " Blue Moon" and moon the audience.
In an attempt to make things up to Sandy, Danny takes her to the drive-in movie. Things are awkward between them until Danny gives Sandy his ring, to show Sandy how much he cares about her, or at least that is how Sandy interprets it. His real intentions become clear when Danny starts trying to fondle Sandy. Horrified, Sandy runs off. Faced with losing Sandy yet again, Danny realises how much she means to him ("Sandy"). Rizzo tells Marty that she missed a period and believes she might be pregnant, but makes Marty promise not to tell anyone. Marty promises to "take it to the grave," but lets it slip almost immediately. She tells Sonny, who makes sure everyone finds out. When Kenickie offers to help, Rizzo rebuffs him, claiming that he isn't the father. Kenickie's hurt reaction reveals that she is lying. A couple of days later, Kenickie and the T-Birds meet the Scorpions for a car race at Thunder Road. Everyone comes to watch except Rizzo, who can't face seeing Kenickie. Patty Simcox ( Susan Buckner) and her friends joke about Rizzo's reputation, inciting Rizzo to vindicate her bad-girl image ("There Are Worse Things I Could Do").
Sandy is missing Danny dreadfully, and decides to try and patch things up between them at the race. Kenickie is injured by his own car door swinging into his face, knocking him out cold, meaning Danny has to race in his stead. Danny wins the race, Leo has damaged the car slightly, but, all is forgiven. Sandy is delighted, but realises she and Danny are a world apart - unless she takes drastic action, ("Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee (Reprise)").
As the year comes to a close, the group enjoys a carnival at the school. Rizzo reveals that she is not pregnant after all, and she and Kenickie are finally reunited. Danny has earned a letter in track, but the T-Birds resent his new image, viewing it as desertion. Sandy suddenly appears in a tight black outfit. Her hair is curled and she has a cigarette in her mouth. She looks more like Rizzo than herself, and is the centre of attention at the carnival. She tells Danny that she has done it all for him, and he reciprocates, ("You're The One That I Want"). As they climb into Danny's car, it takes off. As the pair of them wave back to the cast who has turned out onto the school lawn ("We Go Together"), still singing as Danny and Sandy fly off into the sky. The whole class wave goodbye and then the credits start rolling in the style of a yearbook.
Singer Olivia Newton-John had done little acting before this film. She appeared in the 1970 film Toomorrow, a science fiction musical that pre-dated her initial chart success with 1971's If Not For You. Cast with Newton-John and three male leads in an attempt by Don Kirshner to create another Monkees, the film failed miserably; this led Newton-John to demand a screen test for Grease to avoid another career setback. The screen test was done with the drive-in movie scene.
Randal Kleiser directed John Travolta and Kelly Ward in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble two years prior to Grease.
Two actors who were considered for leading roles in the film were Henry Winkler and Marie Osmond. Winkler, who was playing Fonzie on Happy Days, was originally chosen to play Danny, but, having twice already played similarly leather-clad 1950s hoods in 1974's The Lords of Flatbush as well as Happy Days, turned down the role for fear of being typecast. Osmond turned down the role of Sandy because she did not like the fact that Sandy had to "turn bad" to get the boy. Adult film star Harry Reems was originally signed to play Coach Calhoun; however, producers got cold feet weeks before filming and replaced him with Sid Caesar.
Dinah Manoff, one of the youngest actresses in the film, passed her audition without being given a singing or dancing tryout. Manoff's skills in those areas proved limited as she was hidden during most of the song numbers. Olivia Newton-John and Randal Kleiser would later work with her mother, Lee Grant in It's My Party.
Kleiser had worked as an extra for Fireball 500 in 1966, which starred Frankie Avalon. Twelve years later, he had Avalon play the Teen Angel who sings " Beauty School Dropout".
Frosty Palace scenes
Scenes inside the Frosty Palace contain obvious 'blurring' of various Coca-Cola signs. Prior to the film's release, the producer Allan Carr had made a product-placement deal with Coca-Cola's main competitor Pepsi (for example, a Pepsi logo can be seen in the animated opening sequence). The film's set decorator, unaware of the deal, had placed Coca-Cola products and signage in the scene. When Carr saw the footage, he ordered director Randal Kleiser to either reshoot the scene with Pepsi products, or remove the Coca-Cola logos from the scene. As reshoots were deemed too expensive and time-consuming, optical mattes were used to cover up or blur out the Coca-Cola references. The 'blurring' covered up trademarked menu signage and a large wall poster, but a red cooler with the logo could not be sufficiently altered, so was left unchanged. According to Kleiser, "We just had to hope that Pepsi wouldn't complain. They didn't."
Release and reception
Grease was originally released to theaters on June 16, 1978. It was released in the US on VHS during the 1980s; the latest VHS release was June 23, 1998 as 20th Anniversary Edition following a theatrical re-release that March. On September 24, 2002, it was released on DVD for the first time. On September 19, 2006, it was re-released on DVD as the Rockin' Rydell Edition, which includes a black Rydell High T-Bird jacket cover or the Target-exclusive Pink Ladies cover. It was released on Blu-ray Disc on May 5, 2009.
Grease received generally favorable reviews and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1978. It currently holds an 83% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes with a consensus that reads "Grease is a pleasing, energetic musical with infectiously catchy songs and an ode to young love that never gets old". It holds a score of 70/100 on a similar website Metacritic.
Vincent Canby called the film "terrific fun", describing it as a "contemporary fantasy about a 1950's teen-age musical—a larger, funnier, wittier and more imaginative-than-Hollywood movie with a life that is all its own"; Canby pointed out that the film was "somewhat in the manner of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which recalls the science-fiction films of the 50's in a manner more elegant and more benign, than anything that was ever made then, Grease is a multimillion-dollar evocation of the B-picture quickies that Sam Katzman used to turn out in the 50's ( Don't Knock the Rock, 1957) and that American International carried to the sea in the 1960's ( Beach Party, 1963)."
The movie was the highest grossing movie of 1978 and the highest-grossing movie musical ever at the time, surpassing 1965's The Sound of Music. Grease ended up as the third highest grossing film of the 1970's trailing Jaws and the first Star Wars film.
Sequels and spin-offs
Grease 2 (1982) was a sequel to Grease starring Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer (John Travolta and Stockard Channing would both later work with Pfeiffer; Travolta in Hairspray and Channing in Up Close And Personal). The only cast members from the original movie were Blanche, Coach Calhoun, Eugene, Frenchy, Leo (the Scorpions' gang leader) and Principal McGee. Dick Patterson appeared in that film too, but played a different character. It wasn't nearly as successful. Patricia Birch, the original movie's choreographer, directed the ill-fated sequel. It would be the only movie that she would direct. After the success of the original, Paramount intended to turn Grease into a multi-picture franchise with at least three sequels planned and a TV series down the road. When Grease 2 flopped at the box office, all the plans were scrapped.
In 2008, it was reported that Paramount was planning a new sequel to Grease that will debut straight to DVD. Grease was re-released to theaters in 1998 to mark the 20th anniversary. That version is shown on TV to this day. It also ranked number 21 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.
On July 8, 2010, a sing-a-long version of Grease was released to select theaters around the U.S. A trailer was released in May 2010 with cigarettes digitally removed from certain scenes, implying heavy editing; however, Paramount confirmed these changes were done only for the film's advertising, and the rating for the film itself downgraded from its original PG to that of PG-13 for "sexual content including references, teen smoking and drinking, and language." The movie was shown for two weekends only; additional cities lobbied by fans from the Paramount official website started a week later and screen for one weekend.
Voted the best musical ever on Channel 4's 100 greatest musicals. In 2008, Grease was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
The scene at the very start was shot at Malibu's Leo Carrillo State Beach. The outside Rydell scenes were shot at Venice High School in Venice, California. The interior Rydell scenes, especially the dance scene, were filmed at Huntington Park High School. The sleepover house in this film was at 4524 Kingswell Ave. in East Hollywood California. Paramount Pictures, the studios, that is, was the location of the scenes that involve Frosty Palace and the musical numbers Greased Lightning and Beauty School Dropout.
When Danny is trying out at sports, the basketball baseball and track segments were filmed at Venice High again. The Drive-in movie scenes took place at the Burbank Pickwick Drive-In (it was closed and torn down in 1989 and a shopping centre took its place). The race took place at the Los Angeles River, where many other films have been shot. The final scene where the carnival took place used John Marshall High School instead of Venice High School. Rebel Without a Cause and some more recent films have used this location too.
The soundtrack album ended 1978 as the second-best selling album of the year in the United States, exceeded only by another soundtrack album. The song "Hopelessly Devoted to You" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music - Original Song. The song "You're The One That I Want" was released as a single prior to the film's release and became an immediate chart-topper, despite not being in the stage show or having been seen in the film at that time. In the United Kingdom, the two Travolta–Newton-John duets, "You're the One That I Want" and "Summer Nights", were both number one hits and appear 6th and 21st respectively in the official all-time UK best-selling singles list issued in 2002. The movie's title song was also a number-one smash hit single for Frankie Valli.
The song "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" references Sal Mineo in the original stage version. Mineo was stabbed to death a year before filming, so the line was changed to refer to Elvis Presley instead. The Troy Donahue reference is in the original stage version. Coincidentally, this scene, and the scenes at the bonfire and the one where Leo wrecks Greased Lightning were filmed on August 16, 1977, the date of Elvis Presley's death.
The number in brackets below indicates the order from the film. Some of the songs were not present in the film; songs that appear in the film but not in the soundtrack are Richie Valens' " La Bamba", "Whole Lotta Shaking Going On" by Jerry Lee Lewis and Alma Mater (it was played during the first day announcements, the bonfire, the T-Birds sang the version with funny lyrics, the announcements late in the film, and finally at the carnival).
- Grease — Frankie Valli
- Summer Nights — Danny, Sandy, Pink Ladies and the T-Birds
- Hopelessly Devoted to You — Sandy
- Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee - Rizzo and the Pink Ladies
- Greased Lightning — Danny and the T-Birds
- You're the One That I Want — Danny and Sandy
- Sandy (Music by Louis St. Louis, Lyrics by Scott J. Simon) — Danny
- Beauty School Dropout — Frankie Avalon / Angels
- It's Raining on Prom Night — Radio
- Alone at the Drive-in Movie (instrumental)
- Blue Moon (Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart) — Johnny Casino & the Gamblers ( Sha Na Na)
- Rock n' Roll is Here to Stay (D. White) — Johnny Casino & the Gamblers ( Sha Na Na)
- Those Magic Changes — Johnny Casino & the Gamblers ( Sha Na Na); Danny sings along onscreen
- Hound Dog (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) — Johnny Casino & the Gamblers ( Sha Na Na)
- Born to Hand Jive — Johnny Casino & the Gamblers ( Sha Na Na)
- Tears on My Pillow (S. Bradford and A. Lewis) — Johnny Casino & the Gamblers ( Sha Na Na)
- Mooning — Jan and Roger
- Freddy, My Love — Marty
- Rock n' Roll Party Queen — Radio
- There Are Worse Things I Could Do — Rizzo
- Look at Me I'm Sandra Dee (reprise) — Sandy
- We Go Together — Danny, Sandy, Rizzo, Kenickie, Marty, Sonny, Jan, Putzie, Doody, Frenchy, Eugene, Patty, Miss Mcgee, Mr. Lynch, and Coach
- Love is a Many Splendored Thing (instrumental)
- Grease (Reprise) — Frankie Valli
The song order on the soundtrack album does not match the order in the film, a common practice at the time, when balancing the length of each program—each side of an LP or cassette, or each program of an 8-track tape—was important for effective cost management.