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Grease (film)

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Title: Grease (film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Olivia Newton-John, Grease (musical), 1978 in music, Grease 2, John Travolta
Collection: 1970S Musical Comedy Films, 1970S Romantic Comedy Films, 1970S Teen Films, 1978 Films, American Films, American High School Films, American Musical Comedy Films, American Rock Music Films, American Rock Musicals, American Romantic Comedy Films, American Romantic Musical Films, American Teen Comedy Films, American Teen Musical Films, American Teen Romance Films, Directorial Debut Films, English-Language Films, Films Based on Musicals, Films Directed by Randal Kleiser, Films Produced by Allan Carr, Films Produced by Robert Stigwood, Films Set in 1958, Films Set in 1959, Films Set in the 1950S, Films Shot in Los Angeles, California, Flying Cars in Fiction, Paramount Pictures Films, Screenplays by Allan Carr, Screenplays by Bronte Woodard
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Grease (film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Randal Kleiser
Produced by Robert Stigwood
Allan Carr
Screenplay by Bronte Woodard
Allan Carr
Based on Grease 
by Jim Jacobs
Warren Casey
Starring John Travolta
Olivia Newton-John
Stockard Channing
Jeff Conaway
Music by Michael Gibson (score)
Jim Jacobs
Warren Casey
John Farrar
Cinematography Bill Butler
Edited by John F. Burnett
Robert Pergament
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • June 16, 1978 (1978-06-16)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million[1]
Box office $394.9 million[1]

Grease is a 1978 American musicalromantic comedy-drama film directed by Randal Kleiser and produced by Paramount Pictures.[2] It is based on 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. 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, behind the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, another film starring Travolta.[3] A sequel, Grease 2, was released in 1982, featuring few cast members reprising their roles.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
    • Principal 2.1
    • Supporting/minor 2.2
  • Production 3
    • Casting 3.1
    • Filming locations 3.2
    • Post-production 3.3
  • Soundtrack 4
  • Release 5
  • Reception 6
    • Box office 6.1
    • Critical reception 6.2
    • Awards 6.3
    • American Film Institute Recognition 6.4
  • Sequel 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


In the summer of 1958, Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) meets local boy Danny Zuko (John 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, arrives with his friends Kenickie (Jeff Conaway), Sonny (Michael Tucci), Doodie (Barry Pearl) and Putzie (Kelly Ward), and they all catch up on what they did over the summer. Danny briefly mentions that he met a girl but brushes it off as nothing special. Meanwhile, their group's counterpart, the Pink Ladies, consisting of Rizzo (Stockard Channing), Frenchy (Didi Conn), Jan (Jamie Donnelly) and Marty (Dinah Manoff) also arrive and soon meet Sandy, who is enrolling at Rydell after her parents decided not to return home. She befriends Frenchy who tries to fit her in with the group, but Rizzo, the group's leader, is initially skeptical, noting that she looks "too pure to be pink".

At lunch, Sandy tells them about meeting a boy over the summer and falling in love ("Summer Nights") and, when Rizzo realizes she is speaking of Danny Zuko, her ex-boyfriend, she arranges a surprise meeting at a pep rally in order to cause drama. Despite his initial excitement, Danny acts indifferently in an effort to protect his cool reputation and spurn Sandy's affections, causing Sandy to run off in disgust. To cheer her up, Frenchy invites her over to her house to join the rest of the girls for a slumber party that night. Rizzo starts to mock Sandy ("Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee") and the other girls join in, until Sandy overhears and goes downstairs to be alone where she laments missing Danny ("Hopelessly Devoted to You"). Meanwhile, the T-Birds show up to crash the party and Rizzo goes off to be with Kenickie, and they start casually dating. They are interrupted by the Scorpions, a rival greaser gang led by Leo (Dennis Stewart), who damages Kenickie's car.

The boys then work with Kenickie to get his heap back in shape ("Greased Lightning"). After realizing he still cares for Sandy, who has begun seeing football player Tom Chisum (Lorenzo Lamas), Danny asks Coach Calhoun (Sid Caesar) to help him find a sport to impress Sandy. After trying basketball, wrestling, and baseball, he eventually discovers an aptitude for track and rekindles his relationship with Sandy. They attempt to go on a date to the Frosty Palace 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 dying class turned her hair bubblegum pink. She is then visited by her guardian angel, Frankie Avalon, who urges her to return to high school ("Beauty School Dropout").

A few weeks later, the school dance arrives. Rydell High has 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 (Annette Charles) 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 a drive-in movie and gives Sandy his class ring to apologise, but then makes advances on her that she is not ready for and sends her running again ("Sandy"). At the drive-in, 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. However, the way he phrases it offends her and she tells him it was someone else (although it appears that she says it more out of bitterness than truth). Rizzo becomes subject to rumors and whispering around school ("There Are Worse Things I Could Do"). Sandy finds her and offers her support, and the two finally become friends.

At a challenge race between Leo and Kenickie to settle who is the better greaser, Kenickie is inadvertently concussed by his car door after Putzie carelessly opens it into him. Realizing he cannot get behind the wheel in his condition, he asks Danny to take his place while Sandy watches from afar. Danny outdrives Leo and wins the race, but he cannot celebrate completely because Sandy is still mad at him. Meanwhile, Sandy realizes she loves Danny despite everything that has happened, and decides to change herself in order to be with him ("Sandra Dee (Reprise)").

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 Olivia Newton-John, cast at Travolta's urging,[6] 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.[7]

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), cast the role of Danny. Adult film star Harry Reems was originally signed to play Coach Calhoun;[8] however, executives at Paramount nixed the idea due to Reems' previous work in pornography,[9] 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.

Randal Kleiser directed John Travolta (who requested him for Grease)[10] and Kelly Ward in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble two years prior to Grease. Additionally, he had previously worked (as an extra) alongside Frankie Avalon in 1966's Fireball 500.

Filming locations

The car race in the film took place at the Los Angeles River.

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.[11] The final scene where the carnival took place used John Marshall High School.[12] And due to budget cuts a short scene was filmed at Hazard Park (Los Angeles, California).


Scenes inside the Frosty Palace contain obvious blurring of various Coca-Cola signs.[13] 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 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."[14][15]

In the 2010 sing-along version (see below), the blurred Coke poster has been digitally removed. In its place is more of the wavy wall design that surrounded it.

John Wilson did the animated title sequence for the start of the film.


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.[3] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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).[18] The movie's title song was also a number-one hit single for Frankie Valli.[19]

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.[20]

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:

  1. "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing"
  2. "Grease" – Frankie Valli
  3. "Alma Mater"
  4. "Summer Nights" – Danny, Sandy, Pink Ladies and T-Birds
  5. "Rydell Fight Song" – Rydell Marching Band
  6. "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" – Rizzo and Pink Ladies
  7. "Alma Mater Parody" – T-Birds
  8. "Hopelessly Devoted to You" – Sandy
  9. "Greased Lightnin'" – Danny and T-Birds
  10. "La Bamba" - Ritchie Valens
  11. "It's Raining on Prom Night" - Cindy Bullens
  12. "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" – Jerry Lee Lewis
  13. "Beauty School Dropout" – Teen Angel and Female Angels
  14. "Rock n' Roll Party Queen" – Louis St. Louis
  15. "Rock n' Roll Is Here to Stay" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
  16. "Those Magic Changes" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers; Danny sings along onscreen
  17. "Tears on My Pillow" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
  18. "Hound Dog" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
  19. "Born to Hand Jive" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
  20. "Blue Moon" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
  21. "Sandy" – Danny
  22. "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" – Rizzo
  23. "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee (Reprise)" – Sandy
  24. "You're the One That I Want" – Danny, Sandy, Pink Ladies, and T-Birds
  25. "We Go Together" – Cast
  26. "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.

The film was re-released on August 16 & 19, 2015, as part of the "TCM Presents" series by Turner Classic Movies.[21]


Box office

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 United States and Canada, ranking at No. 2 (behind Jaws 2) at the box office.[22] Grease has grossed $188,755,690 domestically and $206,200,000 internationally, totaling $394,955,690 worldwide. In the United States, it was the highest-grossing musical, as of October 2015.[23]

Critical reception

Grease received mostly positive reviews from movie critics[24] and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1978.[25][26][27][28] 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."[29] It holds a score of 70/100 on a similar website Metacritic.[24]

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 '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)."[30]

Grease was voted the best musical ever on Channel 4's 100 greatest musicals.[31] In 2008, the film was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[32]

Grease was re-released to theaters in 1998 to mark the 20th anniversary; this re-release contained (before and after the mastering) the old Viacom variation of the 1986 logo with the fanfare used on Black Rain, Wayne's World, The Accused, Pet Sematary, and Fatal Attraction; in turn this is similar to how the original master began with its original theme (accompanied with 1975 logo), which seems to be a horn re-orchestration of the intro to "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing". That version is shown on TV to this day, however a few select Viacom networks run the original master instead. The film was also ranked number 21 on Entertainment Weekly‍ '​s list of the 50 Best High School Movies.[33][34]


Year Recipient/Nominated 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
"Hopelessly Devoted to You" Academy Award for Best Original Song Nominated
1979 CIC Golden Screen Award Won
Stockard Channing People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Supporting Actress Won
Olivia Newton-John People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Actress Won
Grease People's Choice Award for Favorite Musical Motion Picture Won
Grease People's Choice Award for Favorite Overall Motion Picture Won
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


Grease 2 (1982) was a sequel to Grease starring Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer. As mentioned, 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 was not nearly as successful, grossing just $15 million on its $13 million budget. 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 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.[35]

On July 8, 2010, a sing-along version of Grease was released to select theaters around the U.S.[36] 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,[37] 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."[38] 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.[39]

On March 12, 2013, Grease and Grease 2 were packaged together in a Double Feature DVD set from Warner Home Video.


  1. ^ IMDb titles the character's page thus, but also remarks "Alternate Names: Sandy / Sandy Olsen".


  1. ^ a b Grease at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ IMDb page "Sandy Olsson (Character)[:] from Grease (1978)"
  5. ^ "Grease (1978)", Victoria Williams, in World Film Locations: Los Angeles, Gabriel Solomons (ed.), Intellect Books, 2011
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ VH1's "Behind the Music: Grease"
  17. ^
  18. ^ BBC Radio - Top selling singles of all time
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ "'Grease Sing-A-Long' trailer cuts cigarette from iconic scene: Smoking was not removed from the film itself,, 04 June 2010.
  38. ^
  39. ^

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