Favorite things about… Grease (1978)

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The favorite film:
Grease, a 1978 musical depicting high school life at the tail end of the 1950s

The synopsis:
Good girl Sandy Olsen is vacationing with her family in California when she meets Danny Zuko at the beach. When her family’s plans to go home to Australia at the end of the summer take a turn and they end up staying in California, Sandy starts up the new school year at Rydell High… where, unbeknownst to her, Danny is also a student. It would seem that the fates are trying to keep the couple together, but Danny’s not quite willing to sacrifice his “tough/cool guy” reputation in favor of acting like the sweetheart she spent the summer with.

The cast:
Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsen
John Travolta as Danny Zuko
Didi Conn as Frenchy
Stockard Channing as Rizzo
Jeff Conaway as Kenickie
…and the list goes on.

Fun facts:

  • Grease was re-released in theaters in 1998 to celebrate its 20th anniversary. It has also been re-released as a special sing-along event.
  • It was the highest-grossing film in the year it was released.
  • The director hated the film’s title song because it doesn’t suit the film’s period of the 1950s. He also thought “You’re the One That I Want” was a terrible song.

    (Image: Fanpop)

    (Image: Fanpop)

  • Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into the pants that Sandy wears to the carnival because the zipper broke.
  • The original character of Sandy in the stage production was American. Her nationality was changed to Australian when Olivia Newton-John was cast.
  • Jeff Conaway and John Travolta were about the same height, but Danny was supposed to be taller than Kenickie, so Jeff had to walk around with horrible posture to make Travolta look taller.
  • After the premiere of the film, a party was held at Studio 54 for the cast.
  • The stage production that the film is based on ran for over 3,000 performances starting in 1972.
  • “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was written after filming had already wrapped. Olivia Newton-John had to come back to record the song and film the scene in which it is used.
  • Lucie Arnaz (daughter of Lucy & Desi), Nancy Kyes (Halloween) and Carrie Fisher (Star Wars) were considered for the role of Rizzo before it was given to Stockard Channing.
  • A real carnival served as the backdrop for the initial shooting of the carnival scene, but a replica set had to be reconstructed when that carnival moved on to a different town.
  • Grease was the first feature film that Randal Kleiser directed. Prior to this, he had directed television episodes and tv movies, as well as one short film.
(Image: Fashion in Film)

(Image: Clothes On Film)

Favorite things:

  • Totally cutesy “beach romance” opening
  • The opening credits, hair gel globs and all
  • The girl walking behind Frenchy and Sandy with a book balanced on her head
  • EVE ARDEN! (and the “School, sweet school” banner in her character’s office)
  • Summer lovin’, had me a BLA-HAAAAST
  • Sandy’s head floating in the sky for a duet of a few lines with Danny
  • The coach’s aggressive speech at the pep rally
  • Even Rock Hudson lost his heart to Doris DAAAAAY!
  • Kenickie kicking the guys out of the car so he can win Rizzo over
  • HOPELESSLY DEVOTEEEEEEED TO YOUUUUUUU-OU-OU-OU
  • Frosty Palace
  • Danny trying a million different sports
  • Adorable Joan Blondell and her “no use crying over spilled milkshake” quip
  • Key lyrics of “Beauty School Dropout”:
    -“Well at least you could have taken time to wash and clean your clothes up, after spending all that dough to have the doctor fix your nose up!”
    -“Turn in your teasin’ comb and go back to high school.”
    -“No customer would go to you unless she was a hooker!”
    -“Who wants their hair done by a slob?”
    …and yet Frenchy smiles as he continually insults her
  • All of the songs by the band at the dance (Sha-Na-Na)
  • Forty-year-old Cha Cha is still in high school
  • BLUE MOOOOON
  • Sandy, can’t you see? I’M IN MISERY!
  • Danny sulking on a swing for the spoken-word portion of his sappy song to Sandy
  • PATTY SIMCOX FOR CARNIVAL QUEEN
  • Big, bad car race… FOR PINKS!
  • Sandy’s carnival makeover
  • I got chills! They’re multiplyin’…
  • We go to-gether like fhsoiueiwofjlkgoijofjowiajding-a-dong
  • Flying off into the sky in a car
You better shape up! (Image: Matterful)

You better shape up! (Image: Matterful)

Quotes:

  • Sonny: “You mean she puts out?”
    Danny: “Oh, come on, Sonny. Is that all you ever think about?”
    Sonny: “Friggin’ A!”
  • Danny (after Sonny’s confrontation with the principal): “I’m sure glad you didn’t take any of her crap, Sonny!”
  • Rizzo: “I think he sounds peachy keen, and maybe if you believe in miracles…”
  • Frenchy: “Your split was divoon!”
  • Danny (trying to act tough after fangirling over Sandy): “You know how it is, rockin’ and rollin’ and whatnot.”
  • Sandy: “I don’t know what I ever saw in Danny Zuko.”
    Marty (writing to her plethora of military pen pals): “Don’t sweat it, honey! Have one of mine.”
"Loooook at me, I'm Saaaandra Dee..." (Image: Fanpop)

“Loooook at me, I’m Saaaandra Dee…” (Image: Fanpop)

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21 thoughts on “Favorite things about… Grease (1978)

    • It’s always been a favorite of mine. My mom was a big Olivia Newton-John fan when she was in HS so I’ve inherited a love for the corny goodness of Grease, Xanadu, Two of a Kind, etc. Haha

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  1. It’s really amazing how much you didn’t catch watching this as a kid. After seeing it again after all of these years, I’m so surprised how absolutely riddled it is with sex. I love it.

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  2. Hooray for “Grease”! So glad you featured this film. Pure fun – great tunes, great costumes, great sets. Time to see this gem again!

    P.S. I’m very glad you didn’t include this in your “Children of the Corn” series. I was a little afraid you might.

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    • Never! Olivia certainly has a couple of films that will work for CotC, though. I need to re-watch Xanadu and Two of a Kind soon for that purpose.

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  3. I hated this movie growing up. Mainly because I felt bad for the real nerdy kid who seemed to get shit on by everyone in that school. For me it was The High School Musical of it’s day. But it does have Joan Blondell so it’s not all that bad. I do agree with the director about the title song and the last one

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    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I personally don’t think Grease is quite on the same level as High School Musical. Maybe I’m just blinded by nostalgia and favoritism, but I think HSM is so much more obnoxious. I tried to watch it once hoping it would be enjoyable for the corn factor (as some Disney Channel movies are) but I couldn’t even finish it. Awful performances, awful music, obnoxious characters. Not that some of the characters in Grease aren’t obnoxious, but… they’re obnoxious in a more tolerable way for me haha.

      I do agree with Kleiser’s complaints about the title song, though. I love the song because I grew up hearing it and I love the opening credits because they’re so full of ’70s corn, but they don’t suit the rest of the film at all.

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  4. I generally don’t care for musicals, but Grease is an exception to such a degree that I purchased both the DVD and soundtrack. I love all of the top 40 hit songs, but my favorite is “Sandy”–when Danny is stranded at the drive in, branded a fool. While John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John definitely raised my interest level, the script is clever and the songs are criminally catchy. (My attempts to participate in singing Summer Nights at karaoke should be a crime as well, but that’s a story for another day).

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    • I love musicals, so I’m glad you found at least one you can enjoy! :) I have the soundtrack as well. I have to be sure I don’t ever play it on my headphones in public because it’s impossible not to sing along to and I’m very, very tone deaf haha.

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  5. Okay, here’s my Grease story: Summer of 1978, visiting my grandparents in Ohio, and a handful of relatives are heading to the Sandusky Mall to see one of two movies: Grease or The Cheap Detective. I was the only one to vote for The Cheap Detective, and was stuck seeing A MUSICAL that I had no intention of ever seeing in my young life. And in the end, even I was surprised that I had a grand time with it.

    And I always thought the song ‘Greased Lightning’ was about a race car…now I have to go check out the lyrics to see what the above fuss is about! This wouldn’t be the first time something sexual has gone clear over my head as a youngster…or an adult! Thanks for another great ‘Favorite Things About…’, Lindsey!

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    • Greased Lightning is about a race car… but it’s also about how that race car can help Danny Z win over the ladies. And certain minds will see the whole song (even the lyrics that literally describe features of a car) as a euphemism.

      Have you seen Grease more than once, or just in the theater? If you haven’t seen it in a while I think you’re due for a re-watch!

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      • It’s been 35 years since my last viewing…I’m probably due for a re-watch!

        And I just checked out the ‘Greased Lightning’ lyrics, and what surprised me more was not the meaning of the words, but the actual words themselves. I never remember those particular words being used, and my parents had the soundtrack album, so I definitely heard that song more than once. VERY interesting! I would never have caught the euphenism, but they make it quite clear what the car can do for a guy!

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  7. Fun reading – I’ve actually always felt this way too! “The director hated the film’s title song because it doesn’t suit the film’s period of the 1950s. He also thought ‘You’re the One That I Want=’” was a terrible song.”

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