Grease is the word! It’s hard to believe, but the movie Grease was first released 40 years ago.
Not only was Grease a box office success at the time of its release, but it has stood the test of time and continues to attract new fans.
Grease is my absolute favorite movie! I can still sing all the songs, do all the dance moves, and recite all the famous lines.
In celebration of its 40th anniversary, Grease was re-released to movie theaters nationwide, to allow old and new fans to have the experience of seeing it in the movie theater again. I had the chance to go see Grease this past weekend in the theater, and it was so much fun!
So, put on your Pink Ladies’ or your T-Birds’ jacket, and remember Grease with me!
This content uses referral links. Read our Affiliate Disclosure statement for more info. Making purchases after having followed one of these links will benefit me, but costs you nothing extra. Thanks for clicking!
RYDELL HIGH – 1958
Grease is about a group of kids during their senior year of high school at Rydell High. Intertwined throughout is the love story between bad boy Danny Zuko (played by John Travolta) and good girl Sandy Olsson (played by Olivia Newton-John).
The movie starts off with scenes (accompanied by the song “Love is a Many Splendored-Things”) of Danny and Sandy falling in love at the beach during their summer vacation. At the end of the summer, Sandy is heading home to Australia and Danny is heading back to Rydell High.
As fate would have it, Sandy’s family has “a change of plans” and – ironically – she moves to the same town as Danny and enrolls in Rydell as well. When Danny and Sandy reconnect, Sandy realizes that Danny isn’t the same boy she met at the beach. Danny, in turn, struggles with keeping up his image as head of the T-Birds, while still winning back the affection of Sandy.
Throughout the movie, Danny and Sandy try to find a way to get their very different lives to meet in the middle. Both make changes in their life that they think will make the other one happy. Danny attempts to turn in his leather jacket for a letterman’s sweater, by trying out for various sports. Sandy tries to shed her good girl image, which culminates in a complete makeover in the last scene of the movie.
In the end, Danny and Sandy ride off into the sunset together (literally) at graduation, leaving all of us to wonder if the ending is only the beginning of a long life together!
Grease made household names of its two main stars. John Travolta had just come off his first big movie success in “Saturday Night Fever”, when he was cast in the role as Danny Zuko. Olivia Newton-John was an adult contemporary/country music singer, when she was cast in the role as Sandy Olsson. Newton-John was attending a party, when she met the movie’s producer – Allan Carr – who offered her the role. She was a bit concerned about taking it, particularly since she was 29 years old at the time of the filming of the movie. However, after doing a screen test with Travolta, she decided to take the role.
Grease Trivia Tidbit #1: Grease is a film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name. In the musical, the character of Sandy is named Sandy Dumbrowski. When Newton-John was cast in the role, the writers changed the name to Sandy Olsson, and added the story line of Sandy being from Australia. This allowed them to accommodate Newton-John’s Australian accent.
Grease Trivia Tidbit #2: Jeff Conaway, who plays Kenickie in the movie, played the role of Danny Zuko in the Broadway musical for 2 ½ years. John Travolta played the role of Doody in the Broadway show later in its original run.
The supporting cast of Grease also featured current and future stars. Stockard Channing (Rizzo), became a 13-time Emmy Award nominee (including for her work on “The West Wing”) and 7-time Tony Award nominee later in her career. Michael Tucci (Sonny) had a long television career after Grease, appearing on shows such as “The Paper Chase”, “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show”, and “Diagnosis: Murder”. And, Lorenzo Lamas (Tom Chisum) went on to play in several television shows as well, most notably playing heartthrob Lance Cumson on the prime-time soap opera “Falcon’s Crest”.
The cast also included some well-known names including Sid Caesar, Eve Arden, Frankie Avalon and Ellen Travolta (John’s mom).
MAKING THE MOVIE
Grease was filmed in 1977. None of the cast members playing the students were high school aged. In fact, Jamie Donnelly who played Jan, had to dye her hair for the role, as it was already turning gray.
Grease Trivia Tidbit #3: Jamie Donnelly was the only member of the Broadway cast that reprised the same role in the movie.
Grease Trivia Tidbit #4: Henry Winkler (most famous for his role as Fonzie on the show “Happy Days”), was originally cast in the Danny Zuko role. However, he couldn’t sing and he was concerned about being type-cast as a leather-jacket wearing bad boy, so he declined the role.
The exterior scenes of Rydell High were shot using Venice High School in Venice, CA. The interior scenes, including the scenes during the National Bandstand dance-off, were filmed at Huntington High School. The drive-in scenes were shot at Burbank Pickwick Drive-In (which has since been torn down), and the race scene at “Thunder Road” was filmed at the Los Angeles River.
The remainder of Grease was shot on the lot at Paramount Pictures. According to the commentary after the movie showing on Sunday, while the cast were not high school students, they evidently still had a good time shooting the film. The commentator stated that Jack Nicholson was filming on the lot next to Grease, and he complained that the cast had to either keep it down during shooting or invite him to the party!
When Grease was released in June of 1978, it was an immediate box office hit. In its opening weekend, it was the second highest ranking movie of the weekend, right behind Jaws 2. At the time of its release, it was the highest grossing movie musical ever, breaking the record set by “Sound of Music” 13 years earlier.
Grease was also a favorite of the critics. It was nominated for several Golden Globe Awards, although it didn’t win any. It only received one Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Song – “Hopelessly Devoted to You”.
I’M HOPELESSLY DEVOTED TO GREASE!
I very clearly remember going to see Grease in the movie theater. I was only 6 years old when it came out in June of 1978. We went to see the movie at the Greenwood Mall movie theater in Toledo, OH, which was torn down decades ago.
From that very first time seeing Grease, I immediately fell in love with the movie. In fact, I became obsessed with all things Grease. Once the movie hit cable (we had Showtime at the time), I watched it every time it came on. I also bought the record album, and listened to it on constant repeat. To this day, I can still remember every word of every song on that 4-record set! You can buy your own version of the soundtrack here.
I was so in love with the movie, that I even had a Grease-themed pajama party. For the party, my friends dressed up in their poodle skirts and saddle shoes. We had a Grease-themed scavenger hunt in the neighborhood. We even had our own dance contest. And of course, we all watched the movie together!
While I may not watch the movie or listen to the music as often anymore, Grease will always remain my favorite. Watching the movie or listening to the soundtrack is like visiting an old friend. It just makes me happy!
GREASE IS STILL THE WORD
Whenever a movie is successful, someone always attempts to re-create that success with a sequel. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of Grease 2, it didn’t work. Grease 2 was released in 1982 and Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer were cast in the lead roles.
Grease 2 takes place 2 years after the original – during the 1961-62 school year – at good old Rydell High. The Pink Ladies and T-Birds are still around with new leaders. Pfeiffer’s character is the leader of the Pink Ladies and Caulfield plays Sandy’s cousin from England.
Very few of the original cast members returned for Grease 2. The only “kid” from the original movie that returned is Didi Conn who reprised her role as Frenchy. The film was a total flop.
Grease Trivia Tidbit #5: The producers of Grease 2 wanted to feature Travolta and Newton-John at the end of the movie. The idea was to show that they had married, and were now running a gas station. The producers also tried to get Channing and Conaway to make cameo appearances, but none of that happened.
GREASE LIVES ON
Even though Grease is now 40 years old, it continues to live on as new generations discover the movie. In 1998, it was re-released in the theater to celebrate its 20th anniversary. I went to see it in the theater that year as well. Seeing the movie that year reminded me of seeing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. People dressed up like their favorite characters and sang and danced to all the songs.
Frankly, I was a little disappointed in the turnout at my local movie theater for the 40th anniversary release. There were only about 20 or so people in the theater, and other than us and a row of women behind us, no one sang or danced during the showing.
Watching Grease 40 years later as an adult, is a bit enlightening. There are quite a few adult themes – high school pregnancy, infidelity, and knowing when to say no – throughout the movie that I certainly didn’t pick up on when I was 6.
But what makes this movie a classic, is the music. Whether or not you’ve ever seen the movie, most people have witnessed someone doing karaoke to “Summer Nights”. I’m hoping in 10 years when Grease celebrates its 50th anniversary, I’ll be in a theater somewhere, dancing and singing along!
Grease is the word!!!!!!!!
Are you a fan of Grease? Did you go see it for its special re-release? If so, let me know what you thought. Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you like what you read? Want to keep up on live music, drink and travel? Make sure you follow us on social media. Click on the links at the top of the homepage on the website to follow where we are, what we are eating and drinking, and what music we are listening to!