Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Randal Kleiser|
by Jim Jacobs
and Warren Casey
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$394.9 million|
Grease is a 1978 American musical romantic comedy film directed by Randal Kleiser and produced by Paramount Pictures. The film is an adaptation of Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs' 1971 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.
Released on June 16, 1978, the film was successful both critically and financially at the box office, becoming the highest grossing film of the year. In the United States, the film still remains the highest-grossing movie musical of all time. Its soundtrack album ended 1978 as the second-best selling album of the year in the U.S., behind the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, another film starring Travolta. The soundtrack is also the second best-selling album ever released and top-selling soundtrack in history. The film was nominated for one Academy Award for Best Original Song. A sequel, Grease 2, was released in 1982, featuring few cast members reprising their roles.
In the summer of 1958, Sandy Olsson (Newton-John) meets local boy Danny Zuko (Travolta) at the beach while on vacation and they soon fall in love. As the summer comes to an end, Sandy worries about returning home to Australia and never seeing Danny again, but he assures her that it is only the beginning for them.
On the first day of their senior year at Rydell High, Danny, the leader of a greaser gang known as the T-Birds, meets with his fellow T-Birds, Kenickie (2nd-in-command and Danny's best friend), Sonny, Doody, and Putzie, and they all catch up on what they did over the summer. Danny briefly mentions that he met a girl. Sandy, meanwhile, must enroll at Rydell after an apparent change in her parent's plans but is unaware of Danny's presence, as is he of hers. Sandy has made friends with Frenchy, a member of the Pink Ladies, an associated female counterpart to the T-Birds. Frenchy introduces Sandy to fellow Pink Ladies Rizzo, Jan, and Marty. Rizzo, the group's leader, notes she looks "too pure to be Pink".
At lunch, Sandy tells them about meeting an amazing boy over the summer and falling in love ("Summer Nights"). After Rizzo discovers she is speaking of Danny Zuko, her ex-boyfriend, she deviously arranges a surprise meeting at a pep rally. Despite his excitement at seeing her, Danny acts indifferently in an effort to protect his cool reputation, causing Sandy to run off in disgust. Frenchy invites Sandy over to her house to join the rest of the girls for a slumber party that night to cheer her up. At the party, Rizzo mocks Sandy ("Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee") and the other girls join in, until Sandy overhears and goes outside to be alone where she laments missing Danny ("Hopelessly Devoted to You"). The T-Birds crash the party and Rizzo ends up driving off alone with Kenickie. Later their makeout session is interrupted by Leo, the leader of the Scorpions, a rival greaser gang of the T-Birds. Leo rear-ends Kenickie's car, insults them, and drives away.
After the T-Birds help repair Kenickie's car ("Greased Lightning") in autoshop class, Danny asks Rydell's Coach Calhoun to help him find a sport so he can impress Sandy, who has begun dating one of the school's football players. After trying various sports, Danny eventually discovers an aptitude for track and rekindles his relationship with Sandy. They attempt a date at the Frosty Palace, a local malt shop hangout, but it is crashed by both the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds, who are gradually pairing off. Kenickie and Rizzo have an argument and the two groups depart, leaving Frenchy alone to ponder the wisdom of dropping out of high school to attend beauty school after a mistake in hair dyeing class turned her hair bubblegum pink. She is then visited by her guardian angel, who urges her to return to high school ("Beauty School Dropout").
A few weeks later, the school dance arrives. Rydell High had been picked for a live national TV broadcast on National Bandstand, hosted by DJ Vince Fontaine (a fictional version of Alan Freed), who flirts with Marty throughout the night. Rizzo and Kenickie attempt to score off one another by bringing Leo and his on-and-off girlfriend Cha-Cha, who was with Leo when he interrupted their makeout session, respectively as their dates, while Danny and Sandy go together. During the final dance, Danny and Cha-Cha (who were also once boyfriend and girlfriend) perform together and win the national dance-off ("Hand Jive"), which hurts Sandy's feelings; she leaves alone.
Days later, Danny takes her to their local drive-in theater and gives Sandy his class ring to apologize, but then makes a some quick passes that cause her to leave. Danny sings about his love for her ("Sandy"). At the snack bar, Rizzo tells Marty in confidence that she thinks she might be pregnant. This is overheard and quickly relayed to Kenickie, who is the potential father. He attempts to make things right with Rizzo, offering to marry her as was the custom at the time in this situation. His phrasing offends her and she tells him it was someone else (perhaps out of bitterness, not truth). Rizzo laments becoming subject to rumors of being promiscuous ("There Are Worse Things I Could Do"). Sandy finds her and offers her support, and the two finally become friends.
Kenickie has set up a race between himself and Leo at "Thunderroad", the local racing spot, and have agreed the winner gets the loser's car. Before the start, Putzie inadvertently opens the car into Kenickie's head. Realizing he cannot race while dazed, Kenickie asks Danny to take his place. Sandy watches the race from afar. Danny wins the race, but he cannot celebrate completely without Sandy. Sandy realizes she loves Danny and decides to change herself in order to be with him ("Sandra Dee (Reprise)") and asks Frenchy for help.
As the school year comes to a close, the students attend a carnival held on school grounds. Rizzo and Kenickie reunite after she finds that she is not pregnant after all. He proposes again, and this time is accepted. Danny has earned a letter in track, having become a jock to impress Sandy. She turns up dressed in skintight black clothing, which stuns everyone. Now with the bad girl image, she and Danny share a dance together while proclaiming their love for each other ("You're the One That I Want") until they come to the end of the carnival and climb into Greased Lightning, which takes flight while everyone is singing ("We Go Together"). Sandy and Danny turn back to wave at their friends as they soar away into the sky.
Singer Newton-John, cast at Travolta's urging, had done little acting before this film. She appeared in the 1970 film Toomorrow, a science fiction musical that predated 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 was never released commercially. 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.
Henry Winkler was once considered for a lead in the film. 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, so actor John Travolta (who had recently completed Saturday Night Fever), was cast instead. 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 pornography, 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.
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 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 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.
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). When Carr saw the footage of the scene with Coca-Cola products and signage, he ordered director 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."
The soundtrack album ended 1978 as the second-best selling album of the year in the U.S., 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 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 Troy Donahue reference is in the original stage version. Coincidentally, this scene, and the scene before and after that 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.
The songs appear in the film in the following order:
- "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing"
- "Grease" – Frankie Valli
- "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
- "Alma Mater Parody" – T-Birds
- "Hopelessly Devoted to You" – Sandy
- "Greased Lightnin'" – Danny and T-Birds
- "La Bamba" - Ritchie Valens
- "It's Raining on Prom Night" - Cindy Bullens
- "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" – Jerry Lee Lewis
- "Beauty School Dropout" – Teen Angel and Female Angels
- "Rock n' Roll Party Queen" – Louis St. Louis
- "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
- "You're the One That I Want" – Danny, Sandy, Pink Ladies, and T-Birds
- "We Go Together" – Cast
- "Grease (Reprise)" – Frankie Valli
Grease was originally released to theaters on June 16, 1978. It premiered for the first time on American television in 1981 on ABC-TV. It was released in the US on VHS during the 1980s; 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.
Commercially, Grease was an immediate box office success during the summer of 1978. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $8,941,717 in 862 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, ranking at No. 2 (behind Jaws 2) at the box office. Grease has grossed $188,755,690 domestically and $206,200,000 internationally, totaling $394,955,690 worldwide.
Grease received mostly positive reviews from critics and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1978. As of October 2015, Grease held an 78% "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 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 1950s in a manner more elegant and more benign than anything that was ever made then, Grease is a multi-million-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)."
Grease was re-released to theaters in 1998 to mark the twentieth anniversary; this re-release contained (before and after the mastering) the old Viacom variation of the 1986 logo; in turn, this is similar to how the original master began with its original theme (accompanied with 1975 logo). That version is shown on TV to this day, however a few Viacom networks run the original master instead. The film was also ranked No. 21 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.
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
Grease 2 (1982) was a sequel to Grease starring Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer. As mentioned, only a few cast members from the original film such as Goodman, Caesar, Deezen, Conn, Stewart, and Arden reprise their respective roles. Patterson returned, playing a different character. It was not nearly as successful, grossing just $15 million on its $13 million budget. Patricia Birch, the original film's choreographer, directed the ill-fated sequel. It would be the only film that she would direct. After the success of the original, Paramount intended to turn Grease into a multi-picture franchise with three sequels planned and a TV series down the road. However, the disappointing box office performance of Grease 2 prompted the producers to scrap all the plans.
On July 8, 2010, a sing-along version of Grease had a limited theatrical release 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 film 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.
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