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, the leader of the Pink Ladies.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Randal Kleiser|
|Screenplay by||Bronte Woodard|
by Jim Jacobs
|Music by||Michael Gibson|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$366.2 million|
Released on June 16, 1978, Grease was successful both critically and commercially, becoming the highest-grossing musical film ever at the time. 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 (which also starred Travolta) and earned an Oscar nomination for "Hopelessly Devoted to You" at the 51st Academy Awards. In 2020, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Launching the franchise of the same name, a sequel, Grease 2, was released in 1982, starring Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer as a newer class of greasers. Few of the original cast members reprised their roles. As of 2020, a Paramount+ series, Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, based on Grease, and a prequel, titled Summer Lovin', are in production.
In the summer of 1958, local boy Danny Zuko and vacationing Sandy Olsson meet at the beach and fall in love. When summer comes to an end, Sandy—who is going back to Australia—frets that they may never meet again, but Danny tells her this is "only the beginning." Later on, at the start of Danny's senior year at Rydell High School, he resumes his role as the leader of the T-Birds greaser gang, consisting of his best friend Kenickie, plus Doody, Sonny, and Putzie. The Pink Ladies, a clique of greaser girls, also arrive, consisting of leader Rizzo, Frenchy, Marty, and Jan.
After Sandy's parents decide not to return to Australia, she enrolls at Rydell and befriends Frenchy, who is planning to drop out of school to become a beautician. Unaware of each other's presence at Rydell, Danny and Sandy recount the events of their brief romance to their respective groups without saying the other's name ("Summer Nights"). Sandy's version emphasizes the romance of the relationship, while Danny's version is more sexual.
When Sandy finally mentions Danny's name, Rizzo arranges a surprise reunion for them, but Danny is forced to maintain his bad-boy attitude in front of his friends and Sandy storms off in tears. Frenchy invites the girls to a pajama party, but Sandy falls ill from the sight of blood after Frenchy pierces her ears. While Sandy is out of the room, Rizzo starts to make fun of her ("Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee"). Sandy goes outside and starts to think of Danny, and how much she loves him even though he hurt her ("Hopelessly Devoted to You"). The T-Birds come to Frenchy's house so Danny can apologize to Sandy, but he leaves after they taunt him about her. Rizzo departs with Kenickie to have sex with him, during which his condom breaks. They are disturbed by Leo, leader of the T-Birds' rival gang, the Scorpions, and his girlfriend Cha-Cha.
Kenickie unveils a used car, Greased Lightnin’, which he plans to restore for a drag race with the Scorpions ("Greased Lightnin’"). Sandy begins dating Tom, a jock, and Danny turns to Coach Calhoun to get into sports to impress her, eventually becoming a runner. He reunites with Sandy and they attempt to go on a date, but their friends crash it, and Kenickie and Rizzo argue and split up. Left alone, Frenchy is visited by a guardian angel who advises her to return to Rydell after a mishap in beauty class leaves her with candy-pink hair ("Beauty School Dropout").
The school dance arrives, broadcast live on television and hosted by Vince Fontaine, who flirts with Marty. Rizzo and Kenickie attempt to spite one another by bringing Leo and Cha-Cha as their dates. Danny and Sandy go together and dance well during the chaotic hand jive contest ("Born to Hand Jive"); just before it ends, Sonny pulls Sandy off the dance floor and Cha-Cha cuts in to win with Danny, causing Sandy to leave the event broken-hearted.
Danny tries to make it up to Sandy by taking her to a drive-in theater and giving her his ring to wear ("Alone at the Drive-in Movies"), but Sandy leaves in anger after he forces himself on her ("Sandy"). Meanwhile, Rizzo fears she is pregnant after missing a period and confides in Marty, but Marty tells Sonny and he inadvertently spreads the rumor to Kenickie, the apparent father, though Rizzo denies this to him. Rizzo starts to be laughed at by other girls, and she realizes that she isn't as tough as she seems ("There Are Worse Things I Could Do").
On race day, Kenickie suffers a concussion when hit by his own car door, so Danny takes the wheel. He and Leo race until Leo spins out and leaves humiliated, making Danny the victor. Sandy watches from afar, concluding she still loves Danny, and decides to change her attitude and look to impress him; she asks Frenchy for help to achieve this ("Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee (Reprise)").
On the last day of school, Principal Greta McGee and her assistant Blanche sob about the departing class. Rizzo discovers she is not pregnant and reunites with Kenickie. Danny has lettered in track but is shocked when Sandy arrives dressed as a female T-Bird. They confess their mutual love and reconcile ("You're the One That I Want"). The class celebrates their graduation at the fair on school grounds ("We Go Together"). Sandy and Danny depart in a revamped Greased Lightnin’, which takes flight ("Grease").
- John Travolta as Danny Zuko, who lives a double life as leader of the greaser gang called the T-Birds and as Sandy's boyfriend
- Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsson, Danny's girlfriend and an Australian immigrant and ingénue, who transforms from square lady to female greaser
- 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, who pairs with Frenchy at the school dance
- Michael Tucci as Sonny LaTierri, a trouble-making womanizer-wannabe and a 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
- Stockard Channing as Betty Rizzo, Kenickie's girlfriend and the cynical leader of the Pink Ladies
- 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 who loves to eat, particularly sweets
- Dinah Manoff as Marty Maraschino, a member of the Pink Ladies whose attractiveness regularly draws the attention of older men, including Vince Fontaine
- Eddie Deezen as Eugene Felsnic, the class nerd
- Susan Buckner as Patricia "Patty" Simcox, the head cheerleader and a rival for Danny's affections
- Lorenzo Lamas as Thomas "Tom" Chisum, a popular jock, who competes for Sandy's affections
- Dennis C. Stewart as Leo "Crater-Face" Balmudo, leader of the Scorpions, a rivalling greaser gang. Though not a student at Rydell High, he is likely a drop-out student, possibly from St. Bernadette.
- Annette Charles as Charlene "Cha-Cha" DiGregorio, Leo's girlfriend. She is a student at St. Bernadette
- Eve Arden as Principal McGee, who shows discomfort at the goings-on at Rydell High
- Dody Goodman as Blanche Hodel, the school secretary, 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
- Alice Ghostley as Mrs. Murdock, a rogue auto-shop teacher who helps the T-Birds build Greased Lightning
- Darrell Zwerling as Mr. Lynch
- Dick Patterson as Mr. Rudie
- Fannie Flagg as Nurse Wilkins
Director Randal Kleiser took numerous liberties with the original source material, most notably moving the setting from an urban Chicago setting as the original musical had been to a more suburban locale, reflecting his own teenage years at Radnor High School in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
John Travolta, who had previously worked with producer Robert Stigwood on Saturday Night Fever, had a new 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 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 multiple Grammy winning pop and country singer, as Sandy. Newton-John had done little acting before this film, with only two film credits (1965's Funny Things Happen Down Under and 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 was born in England and spent most of her childhood 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 one of the T-Birds.
Adult film star Harry Reems was originally signed to play Coach Calhoun; however, executives at Paramount nixed the idea, concerned that his reputation as a porn star would hinder box office returns in the Southern United States, 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 front parking lot scenes, the auto shop, the “Summer Nights” bleachers number, Rizzo's “There Are Worse Things I Can Do” number, the basketball, baseball and track segments, and the interior of the gymnastics gym, were shot at Venice High School in Venice, California during the summer of 1977. 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 receptionEdit
Grease was originally released in the United States 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 number 2 (behind Jaws 2) at the box office for the weekend and with the all-time opening weekend records. Despite losing the opening weekend, it topped the box office the following weekend with a gross of $7,867,000 and set a record gross in its first 19 days with $40,272,000. After 66 days, it had grossed $100 million to become Paramount's second highest-grossing film behind The Godfather and ended its initial run with a gross of $132,472,560 being the highest-grossing film in 1978.
It was re-released May 18, 1979 in 1,248 theatres in the United States and Canada (except for the New York City area, where it opened a week later), Paramount's biggest ever saturation release at the time, grossing $4.5 million in its opening weekend. The film played for four weeks and was then paired with the PG-Rating version of Saturday Night Fever in late June. During the reissue, it overtook The Godfather as Paramount Pictures' highest-grossing film. It was re-released in March 1998 for its 20th anniversary where it grossed a further $28 million in the United States and Canada.
It remained the highest-grossing live-action musical until 2012 when it was overtaken by Les Misérables and the US champion until 2017 when it was surpassed by Beauty and the Beast. Grease is now the seventh-highest-grossing live-action musical worldwide.
A further re-issue for its 40th anniversary in 2018 grossed $1 million.
To date, Grease has grossed $189,969,103 domestically and $206.2 million internationally, totaling $396 million worldwide.
The New York Times' 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 thought 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."
Retrospective reviews have generally been positive. In a 1998 review, Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, calling it "an average musical, pleasant and upbeat and plastic." He found John Travolta's Elvis Presley-inspired performance to be the highlight, but felt that Grease "sees the material as silly camp." In 2018, Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian gave it 5 out of 5 stars, saying "It's still a sugar-rush of a film."
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 was first released in the US on VHS by Paramount Home Video in 1979, 1982, 1989, 1992 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.
On March 12, 2013, Grease and Grease 2 were packaged together in a double feature DVD set from Warner Home Video.
|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 recognitionEdit
The sequel, Grease 2 (1982), stars Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer. Most of the adult characters reprised their roles, though the sequel focused on a younger class of greasers and thus most of the main characters from Grease did not appear. Jim Jacobs, who co-created the original musical, disowned Grease 2. Patricia Birch, the original film's choreographer, directed the sequel. It would be the only film 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 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 May 15, 2020, it was announced that CBS, a subsidiary of ViacomCBS, which also owns Paramount, would air this version of the film on June 7, 2020, which was to be the date of the 2020 Tony Awards, which was postponed indefinitely due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In March 2019, it was announced that a prequel, titled Summer Lovin', is currently in development from Paramount Players. The project will be a joint-production collaboration with Temple Hill Productions and Picturestart. John August signed on to serve as screenwriter.
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 film's title song was also a number-one hit single for Frankie Valli.
The song "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" refers to 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, Johnny Casino, or the Teen Angel 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 and Roll Is Here to Stay"
- "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, Fox aired a live television-adapted special of the musical, using components from both the 1978 film and the original Broadway show. Starring Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveit, and Vanessa Hudgens, the adaptation received positive reviews, especially towards Hudgens, and ten Emmy nominations.
On October 15, 2019, it was announced that a musical television series based on Grease, titled Grease: Rydell High, was given a straight-to-series order by HBO Max. Annabel Oakes is set to write the pilot episode and act as executive producer for the series. In 2020, the series' title was changed to Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies and will premiere on Paramount+.
- Grease at Box Office Mojo
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Despite the fact that Grease was well on its way to becoming the highest-grossing movie musical in the world, and eventually grossed over $341 million...
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