Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Randal Kleiser|
|Screenplay by||Bronte Woodard|
by Jim Jacobs
|Music by||Michael Gibson|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$395 million|
Grease is a 1978 American musical romantic comedy film based on the 1971 musical of the same name by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Written by Bronte Woodard and directed by Randal Kleiser in his theatrical feature film debut, the film depicts the lives of greaser Danny Zuko and Australian transfer student Sandy Olsson who develop an attraction for each other. The film stars John Travolta as Danny, Olivia Newton-John as Sandy, and Stockard Channing as Betty Rizzo, a member of the Pink Ladies.
Released on June 16, 1978, Grease was successful both critically and commercially. Its soundtrack album ended 1978 as the second-best selling album of the year in the United States, behind the soundtrack of the 1977 blockbuster Saturday Night Fever; also starred by Travolta, and earned the film its lone Oscar nomination for "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (which lost the Academy Award for Best Original Song to Donna Summer's "Last Dance" from Thank God It's Friday at the 51st Academy Awards).
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Release and reception
- 5 Sequels and spin-offs
- 6 Soundtrack
- 7 Television
- 8 References
- 9 External links
In the summer of 1958, greaser Danny Zuko and sweet Australian girl Sandy Olsson meet at the beach and fall in love. When the summer comes to an end, Sandy, whose family is returning to Australia, worries that they might never meet again, but Danny tells her that their love is "only the beginning." At the beginning of the new school year at Rydell High School ("Grease"), Danny reunites with his fellow gang members, the T-Birds, of whom his best friend Kenickie, along with Doody, Sonny, and Putzie are members. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Danny, Sandy arrives at school, with her family's plans having changed, with her new friend Frenchy, a member of the Pink Ladies. Other Pink Ladies Rizzo, Marty, and Jan also arrive, excited to be seniors, as does Patty Simcox, a high-achieving cheerleader.
At lunch, Frenchy introduces Sandy to the other Pink Ladies while Danny and the T-Birds make fun of practicing football players, including the handsome Tom Chisum. Each group asks Danny and Sandy, respectively, about their summers and they each independently describe their romance without using the other's name, with Sandy's description far more innocent than Danny's ("Summer Nights"). Headed back to class, Sandy reveals that it was Danny Zuko she met, and Rizzo teases that perhaps she'll meet him again.
At a pep rally before a football game, Sandy and Patty perform as cheerleaders; there, Sandy and Tom flirt. Kenickie arrives with a used car he plans on rebuilding so he can race it at Thunder Road, a popular street race spot; as he says this, Leo Balmudo, a rival greaser from the Scorpions, drives by in a menacing manner. Rizzo puts Sandy and Danny together, surprising both of them. Sandy is thrilled to see Danny, but he is obnoxious and indifferent, upsetting Sandy. Frenchy invites Sandy to a sleepover with the Pink Ladies to cheer her up.
Rizzo and the other girls pressure Sandy into smoking a cigarette and having a drink of wine at the sleepover. Frenchy reveals that she plans to drop out of Rydell to go to beauty school and in an effort to prove herself, tries to pierce Sandy's ear, making Sandy sick. Rizzo makes fun of her innocent nature ("Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee") and leaves when the T-Birds arrive in Kenickie's car. Rizzo tries to make Danny jealous by flirting with Kenickie, but Danny is unmoved and leaves. Kenickie leaves with Rizzo, stranding Putzie, Sonny, and Doody. Sandy laments over her feelings towards Danny, despite his earlier behavior ("Hopelessly Devoted to You").
Kenickie and Rizzo, while in the midst of sex, are interrupted when Leo, along with his girlfriend Cha-Cha, deliberately crashes his own street racer into Kenickie's and insults Rizzo. At the same time, Kenickie's condom breaks.
The next day, the T-Birds look over Kenickie's car, and although they are initially skeptical of its potential, Danny and Kenickie explain the modifications they could add to make it a hot-rodding sex machine ("Greased Lightnin'"). At the popular hangout The Frosty Palace, Danny, after brushing off an attempt by Patty to flirt with him, apologizes to Sandy for his behavior at the pep rally, but she rejects him having started dating Tom instead. Danny approaches Coach Calhoun about playing a sport. After picking fights with the jocks in basketball, wrestling and baseball, Calhoun suggests cross-country running; Danny proves to be a successful runner, which impresses Sandy and angers Tom.
Danny takes Sandy to the Frosty Palace for a date; they are soon joined by the rest of the greasers, and Danny and Sandy quickly leave in discomfort. Putzie and Jan, in an awkward exchange, agree to pair off for the dance; Kenickie and Rizzo get into an argument and go their separate ways, while Sonny unsuccessfully tries to court Marty. After everyone else has left, Frenchy, whose hair has turned bright pink, tells a waitress she has dropped out of beauty school and is visited by a guardian angel who advises her to return to Rydell ("Beauty School Dropout").
At the school dance, Leo and Cha-Cha show up as Rizzo's and Kenickie's respective dates. Vince Fontaine, who is hosting a live telecast of the dance, flirts with Marty. All of the students take part in a dance contest that descends into chaos ("Born to Hand Jive"). Danny and Sandy do well, but Sonny pulls Sandy off the dance floor, allowing Cha Cha to step in and win with Danny. During the last dance ("Blue Moon"), Sonny, Putzie, and Doody moon the national TV audience.
Danny apologizes to Sandy and tries to make it up to her by taking her to a drive-in movie theater. She's unmoved by his pleas for forgiveness until he asks her to wear his ring, which she gleefully accepts. Danny then tries to make out with her, causing Sandy to angrily throw his ring at him and run off in disgust, leaving Danny distraught ("Sandy"). Meanwhile, Rizzo admits she may be pregnant to Marty and asks her to keep it a secret, but the story gets back to Kenickie, and he tells Rizzo he doesn't run away from his mistakes. Rizzo tells Kenickie the baby isn't his, which both relieves and upsets him.
The next day, the T-Birds have finished Kenickie's car and he is eager to race it against Leo's at Thunder Road. Sandy tells Rizzo she plans to watch the race and offers to help Rizzo despite the rumors about Rizzo's character that have been spread around school. She thanks Sandy and muses to herself about how her sins are not as bad as they could be ("There Are Worse Things I Could Do").
The T-Birds, Pink Ladies, and Scorpions gather for the race, with the winner receiving the loser's car as a prize. Just before the race begins, Kenickie hits his head, and Danny takes the wheel. Despite Leo using bladed hub caps (in a sequence paying homage to Ben-Hur), Danny wins the race. Sandy watches from afar and concludes that she must change her approach to life if she wants to win over Danny, asking Frenchy for help ("Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee (Reprise)").
The gang celebrates graduation at a school carnival where Rizzo tells Kenickie she isn't pregnant and they reunite. Danny arrives wearing a letterman's sweater, to the other T-Birds' dismay. Sandy shocks everyone when she arrives with a new, wilder hairstyle and wearing a revealing black outfit and leather jacket. In song, Danny and Sandy reaffirm their commitment to each other ("You're the One That I Want"). As the film ends, the greasers promise to stay together after school ends ("We Go Together") and Danny and Sandy depart in a red hot rod, which takes flight as they wave goodbye to their friends.
- John Travolta as Danny Zuko, who lives a double life as leader of the greaser gang the T-Birds and as Sandy's boyfriend
- Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsson, Danny's girlfriend and an Australian expatriate and ingénue, who transforms from square to greaser
- Stockard Channing as Betty Rizzo, Kenickie's girlfriend and the cynical leader of the Pink Ladies clique
- Jeff Conaway as Kenickie, Danny's best friend, Rizzo's boyfriend and the owner of Greased Lightnin'
- Barry Pearl as Doody, a member of the T-Birds; he pairs with Frenchy at the school dance
- Michael Tucci as Sonny LaTierri, a trouble-making wannabe womanizer and T-Bird who courts Marty with little success over the course of the film
- Kelly Ward as Putzie, a member of the T-Birds whose relationship with Jan builds over the course of the film
- Didi Conn as Frenchy, Sandy's closest friend in the Pink Ladies and an aspiring beautician
- Jamie Donnelly as Jan, a quirky member of the Pink Ladies with a liking for Ipana toothpaste
- Dinah Manoff as Marty Maraschino, a member of the Pink Ladies whose attractiveness regularly draws the attention of men, including Sonny and Vince Fontaine
- Eve Arden as Principal McGee, who shows discomfort at the goings-on at Rydell High.
- Dody Goodman as Secretary Blanche Hodel, who enjoys even the wilder antics at the school.
- Sid Caesar as Coach Vince Calhoun, the tough-talking gym teacher and coach of all the school's perennially losing sports teams
- Eddie Deezen as Eugene Felsnick, the class nerd
- Susan Buckner as Patty Simcox, the head cheerleader and a rival for Danny's affections
- Lorenzo Lamas as Tom Chisum, a popular jock who competes for Sandy's affections
- Dennis C. Stewart as Leo "Craterface" Balmudo, leader of the Scorpions, a rival greaser gang
- Annette Charles as Charlene "Cha-Cha" DiGregorio, Leo's girlfriend
- Joan Blondell as Vi, a waitress at the Frosty Palace
- Ellen Travolta as Waitress
- Frankie Avalon as Teen Angel
- Edd Byrnes as Vince Fontaine, on-air personality at KZAZ radio and television
- Sha-Na-Na as Johnny Casino and the Gamblers, a rock and roll band
- Alice Ghostley as Mrs. Murdock, a rogue auto shop teacher who helps build Greased Lightnin' for the T-Birds
- Darrell Zwerling as Mr. Lynch
- Dick Patterson as Mr. Rudie
- Fannie Flagg as Nurse Wilkins
John Travolta had previously worked with producer Robert Stigwood on Saturday Night Fever, had a nascent singing career at the time (including the top-10 hit "Let Her In" in 1976), and had previously appeared as Doody in a touring production of the stage version of Grease. He made a number of casting recommendations that Stigwood ultimately accepted, including suggesting Randal Kleiser (who had never directed a theatrical feature before this but had directed Travolta in the 1976 telefilm The Boy in the Plastic Bubble) as director, and Olivia Newton-John, then known almost exclusively as a country music singer, as Sandy. Newton-John had done little acting before this film, with only one film credit (the unreleased 1970 film Toomorrow, which predated her singing breakthrough) to her name up to that time. Before accepting the role, Newton-John requested a screen test for Grease to avoid another career setback. The screen test was done with the drive-in movie scene. Newton-John, who is native to England and lived most of her life in Australia, was unable to perform with a convincing American accent, and thus her character was rewritten to be Australian. Before Newton-John was hired, Allan Carr was considering numerous names such as Ann-Margret, Susan Dey and Marie Osmond for the lead role; Newton-John agreed to a reduced asking price in exchange for star billing. In a case of life imitating art, Newton-John's own musical career would undergo a transformation similar to that of the Sandy Olsson character; her next album after Grease, the provocatively titled Totally Hot, featured a much more sexual and pop-oriented approach, with Newton-John appearing on the album cover in similar all-leather attire and teased hair.
Jeff Conaway, like Travolta, had previously appeared in the stage version of Grease; he had played Danny Zuko during the show's run on Broadway. Jamie Donnelly reprised her role as Jan from the Broadway show, the only cast member to do so; as her hair had begun to gray by this point, she had to dye her hair to resemble her stage character. Kelly Ward had previously appeared as a similar sarcastic supporting character in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble with Travolta under Kleiser; he was cast as Putzie, a mostly new character.
Lorenzo Lamas was a last-minute replacement for Steven Ford, who developed stage fright shortly before filming and backed out. His role contained no spoken dialogue and required Lamas to dye his hair blond to avoid looking like most of the other T-Birds (although Conaway and Ward were also blonds).
Adult film star Harry Reems was originally signed to play Coach Calhoun; however, executives at Paramount nixed the idea due to Reems' previous work in adult films, and producers cast Sid Caesar instead. Caesar was one of several veterans of 1950s television (Eve Arden, Frankie Avalon, Joan Blondell, Edd Byrnes, Alice Ghostley, Dody Goodman) to be cast in supporting roles. Coincidentally, Frankie Avalon and Randal Kleiser had both appeared in 1966's Fireball 500, the latter as an extra.
The opening beach scene was shot at Malibu's Leo Carrillo State Beach, making explicit reference to From Here to Eternity. The exterior Rydell scenes, including the basketball, baseball and track segments, were shot at Venice High School in Venice, California, while the Rydell interiors, including the high school dance, were filmed at Huntington Park High School. The sleepover was shot at a private house in East Hollywood. The Paramount Pictures studio lot was the location of the scenes that involve Frosty Palace and the musical numbers "Greased Lightning" and "Beauty School Dropout". The drive-in movie scenes were shot at the Burbank Pickwick Drive-In (it was closed and torn down in 1989 and a shopping center took its place). The race was filmed at the Los Angeles River, between the First and Seventh Street Bridges, where many other films have been shot. The final scene where the carnival took place used John Marshall High School. Furthermore, owing to budget cuts, a short scene was filmed at Hazard Park in Los Angeles.
Scenes inside the Frosty Palace contain obvious blurring of various Coca-Cola signs. Prior to the film's release, 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). When Carr saw the footage of the scene with Coca-Cola products and signage, 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."
Due to an editing error, a closing scene in which Danny and Sandy kiss was removed from the finished print and lost before its theatrical release. The scene was preserved only in black-and-white; Kleiser attempted to have the existing footage colorized and restored to the film for the film's re-release in 1998 but was dissatisfied with the results. The scene is included as an extra on the 40th anniversary home video release, and Kleiser hopes to make another attempt at colorizing the footage that is effective enough for the footage to be inserted into the film as he originally intended by the time the film's 50th anniversary comes in 2028.
Release and reception
Grease was originally released to North American theaters on June 16, 1978 and was an immediate box office success. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $8,941,717 in 862 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking at No. 2 (behind Jaws 2) at the box office for the weekend and with the all-time opening weekend records. Despite losing the weekend, it set a record gross in its first 19 days with $40,272,000.
Grease has grossed $188,755,690 domestically and $206,200,000 internationally, totaling $394,955,690 ($1.531 billion in 2019) worldwide. Globally, it was the highest-grossing musical ever, eclipsing the 13-year-old record held by The Sound of Music, but has since been overtaken by Les Misérables, Mamma Mia! and the 2017 release of Beauty and the Beast. Grease is now the fourth highest-grossing live action musical.
Vincent Canby on its initial release in June 1978 called the film "terrific fun", describing it as a "contemporary fantasy about a 1950s 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 '50s 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 '50s (Don't Knock the Rock, 1956) and that American International carried to the sea in the 1960s (Beach Party, 1963)." Gene Siskel gave the film three stars out of four, calling it "exciting only when John Travolta is on the screen" but still recommending it to viewers, adding, "Four of its musical numbers are genuine showstoppers that should bring applause." Variety praised the "zesty choreography and very excellent new plus revived music," and though Travolta and Newton-John "play together quite well." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times was negative, writing, "I didn't see 'Grease' onstage, but on the testimony of this strident, cluttered, uninvolving and unattractive movie, it is the '50s—maybe the last innocent decade allowed to us—played back through a grotesquely distorting '70s consciousness." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post also panned the film, writing, "Despite the obvious attempts to recall bits from Stanley Donen musicals or Elvis Presley musicals or Frankie-and-Annette musicals, the spirit is closer to the New Tastelessness exemplified by Ken Russell, minus Russell's slick visual style ... I've never seen an uglier large-scale musical." David Ansen of Newsweek wrote, "Too often, 'Grease' is simply mediocre, full of broad high-school humor, flat dramatic scenes and lethargic pacing. Fortunately, there's nothing flat about John Travolta ... Travolta can't dominate this movie as he did 'Fever,' but when he's on screen you can't watch anyone else."
Grease was voted the best musical ever on Channel 4's 100 greatest musicals in 2004. The film holds a 75% approval rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 71 reviews with an average rating of 6.7/10. The website's critical consensus 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 the review aggregator Metacritic based on 15 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Grease premiered for the first time on American television in 1981 on ABC-TV. It was re-released to theaters in 1998 to mark the 20th anniversary. The film was also ranked number 21 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.
Grease was first released in the US on VHS by Paramount Home Video in 1982, with reissues in 1989 and 1994; the last VHS release was on June 23, 1998 and titled the 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 came with a black Rydell High T-Bird jacket cover, a white Rydell "R" letterman's sweater cover or the Target-exclusive Pink Ladies cover. It was released on Blu-ray Disc on May 5, 2009. In connection with the film's 40th anniversary, Paramount released Grease on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-Ray and DVD on April 24, 2018.
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|1978||Grease||Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy||Nominated|
|John Travolta||Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Nominated|
|Olivia Newton-John||Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Nominated|
|"Grease"||Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song||Nominated|
|"You're the One That I Want"||Nominated|
|1979||CIC||Golden Screen Award||Won|
|Stockard Channing||People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Supporting Actress||Won|
|Grease||People's Choice Award for Favorite Musical Motion Picture||Won|
|Grease||People's Choice Award for Favorite Overall Motion Picture||Won|
|"Hopelessly Devoted to You"||Academy Award for Best Original Song||Nominated|
|2006||Grease||Satellite Award for Best Classic DVD||Nominated|
|2008||"You're the One That I Want"||TV Land Award for Movie Dance Sequence You Reenacted in Your Living Room||Nominated|
American Film Institute Recognition
- American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions: No. 97
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs: No. 70 for "Summer Nights"
- AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals: No. 20
Sequels and spin-offs
The sequel, Grease 2 (1982), stars Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer. While only a few cast members from the original movie such as Dody Goodman, Sid Caesar, Eddie Deezen, Didi Conn, Dennis Stewart and Eve Arden reprise their respective roles. Dick Patterson returned, playing a different character. It grossed $15 million on its $13 million budget. Patricia Birch, the original movie's choreographer, directed the sequel. It would be the only movie that she would direct.
On July 8, 2010, a sing-along 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 changed 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 screened for one weekend.
On March 12, 2013, Grease and Grease 2 were packaged together in a Double Feature DVD set from Warner Home Video.
The soundtrack album ended 1978 as the second-best selling album of the year in the United States, exceeded only by another soundtrack album, from the film Saturday Night Fever, which also starred Travolta. 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. Additionally, the dance number to "You're the One That I Want" was nominated for TV Land's award for "Movie Dance Sequence You Reenacted in Your Living Room" in 2008. 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 as of 2011[update] are still among the 20 best-selling singles of all time (at Nos. 6 and 19 respectively). The movie's title song was also a number-one 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 references to Troy Donohue, Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Annette Funicello are from the original stage version. Coincidentally, this scene as well as the scene before and the scene after it were filmed on August 16, 1977, the date of Elvis Presley's death.
Some of the songs were not present in the film; songs that appear in the film but not in the soundtrack are "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens, "Whole Lotta Shaking Going On" by Jerry Lee Lewis, "Alma Mater", "Alma Mater Parody", and "Rydell Fight Song". "Alone at a Drive-in Movie (instrumental)", "Mooning", and "Freddy My Love" are not present in the film, although all three are listed in the end credits in-addition to being on the soundtrack. (Both "Mooning" and "Rock'n'Roll Party Queen," the latter of which was played in the film as background music, were written in the musical for a character named Roger that was written out of the film, replaced by the non-singing Putzie. In general, all of the songs in the musical that were performed by characters other than Danny, Rizzo, Sandy or Johnny Casino were either taken out of the film or given to other characters, including Marty Maraschino's number "Freddy My Love," Kenickie's "Greased Lightnin'," and Doody's "Those Magic Changes.") Two songs from the musical, "Shakin' at the High School Hop" "and "All Choked Up," were left off both the film and the soundtrack.
The songs appear in the film in the following order:
- "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing"
- "Alma Mater"
- "Summer Nights" – Danny, Sandy, Pink Ladies and T-Birds
- "Rydell Fight Song" – Rydell Marching Band
- "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" – Rizzo and Pink Ladies
- "Hopelessly Devoted to You" – Sandy
- "Greased Lightnin'" – Danny and T-Birds
- "La Bamba"
- "It's Raining on Prom Night"
- "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"
- "Beauty School Dropout" – Teen Angel and Female Angels
- "Rock n' Roll Party Queen"
- "Rock n' Roll is Here to Stay" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
- "Those Magic Changes" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers; Danny sings along onscreen
- "Tears on My Pillow" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
- "Hound Dog" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
- "Born to Hand Jive" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
- "Blue Moon" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
- "Sandy" – Danny
- "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" – Rizzo
- "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee (Reprise)" – Sandy
- "Alma Mater Parody" (instrumental)
- "You're the One That I Want" – Danny, Sandy, Pink Ladies, and T-Birds
- "We Go Together" – Cast
- "Grease (Reprise)"
On August 17, 2009, a television series inspired by the film premiered in Venezuela. The series was produced and directed by Vladimir Perez. The show explores and expands on the characters and story from the film.
On January 31, 2016, a live television-adapted special of the musical aired, using components from both the 1978 movie and the original Broadway show. Starring Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveit, and Vanessa Hudgens, the adaptation received positive reviews and ten Emmy nominations.
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