Grease Movie Poster

Trivia for Grease

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  • Carrie Fisher was considered for the role of Sandy. Director Randal Kleiser went to the Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) mixing stage to visit his college roommate, George Lucas, and to see her in one of the battle scenes. Kleiser couldn't tell from the scene whether Fisher was right for the part, so he kept looking.
  • The official premiere after-party was at Studio 54.
  • (Cameo) Patricia Birch: The Choreographer, and Director of Grease 2 (1982), is one of the dancers during the contest.
  • "Hopelessly Devoted to You" was written and recorded after the movie had wrapped. The producers felt they needed a strong ballad and had Olivia Newton-John come back to film her singing this song. This song ended up receiving an Academy Award nomination.
  • Henry Winkler, who became a sensation as "Fonzie" on Happy Days (1974), was considered for the role of Danny Zuko. He turned down the role for fear of being typecast.
  • Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, who wrote the original stage play, were originally supposed to serve as Executive Producers of this movie, but Writer and Producer Allan Carr kicked them off the set.
  • Susan Dey and Deborah Raffin were the first choices for the role of Sandy. Dey declined the role after her manager advised against it.
  • Most of the principal cast were well past their high school years. When filming began in June 1977, Stockard Channing was thirty-three (in 1958, the year the film is set, Channing was in fact only four years younger than the age she is playing here), Michael Tucci was thirty-one, Jamie Donnelly was thirty, Annette Charles was twenty-nine, Olivia Newton-John was twenty-eight, Barry Pearl was twenty-seven, Jeff Conaway was twenty-six, Didi Conn was twenty-five, John Travolta was twenty-three, Dinah Manoff was twenty-one, Kelly Ward and Eddie Deezen were twenty, and Lorenzo Lamas was nineteen.
  • For a while, this was the third highest-grossing movie of all time, behind Jaws (1975) and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
  • The scene near the bridge after the car race was filmed in an area full of trash, and the water on the ground was stagnant and dangerous. Some cast members became ill from filming.
  • "You're the One That I Want" was filmed in one afternoon.
  • In Spanish, the title translated to "Grasa", or "fat". This movie was released as "Vaselina" in Mexico and "Brillantina" in Italy, Spain, and Latin America.
  • Due to a zipper breaking, Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into the trousers she wears in the last sequence (the carnival at Rydell).
  • Several musical numbers from the stage version were not used in this movie, including "Freddy, My Love", "Those Magic Changes", and "It's Raining on Prom Night". They appear as jukebox tunes, or band numbers at the high school dance.
  • Rydell High School is a reference to teen idol Bobby Rydell, who had a million selling hit with "Swingin' School" in 1960.
  • Rizzo's hickeys were real. Stockard Channing said in an interview that Jeff Conaway insisted on applying them himself.
  • Lucie Arnaz was the first choice for the role of Rizzo. She was allegedly dropped from consideration when her mother, Lucille Ball, called Paramount Pictures and said, "I used to own that studio! My daughter's not doing a screentest!" Ball owned Desilu, which Paramount Studios bought. Casting Director Marion Dougherty remembered seeing Stockard Channing with Arnaz and Sandy Duncan in the play "Vanities" at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, California.
  • "Greased Lightning" was supposed to be sung by Jeff Conaway's character, Kenickie, as it is in the stage version. John Travolta used his clout to have his character sing it. Director Randal Kleiser felt it was only right to ask Conaway if it was okay. At first, he refused, but he eventually gave in.
  • Randal Kleiser shot a scene of Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) and Rizzo (Stockard Channing) getting into a heated argument, which explained their attitude towards each other in the diner scene (where Rizzo threw the malt at Kenickie). The fight scene was cut because it didn't match the tone of the rest of the movie. It was much grittier, described by one crew member as "looking like something Martin Scorsese might have directed."
  • The final musical scene, "You're the One That I Want", was filmed with the help of a travelling carnival. Director Randal Kleiser decided the next day that additional shots were needed for close-ups. The carnival had left town, so set decorators were called in to build replica backgrounds that matched the carnival rides' construction for the close-ups.
  • When Olivia Newton-John was cast as Sandy, her character's background had to be changed to accommodate Newton-John's background. In the original Broadway musical, Sandy was an all-American girl and her last name was Dumbrowski. In the movie version, she became Sandy Olsson from Australia. John Farrar, Newton-John's frequent songwriter, wrote two new songs for this movie while other songs from the Broadway musical were dropped.
  • Danny's blue windbreaker at the beginning of this movie was intended as a nod to Rebel Without a Cause (1955).
  • Jeff Conaway, who is 6' 1½" (1.87 meters), had to walk slightly stooped so John Travolta, who is 6' 2" (1.88 meters), would appear taller.
  • Although cut from the movie, The Alma Mater/Parody instrumental from the stage version plays in the office on the last day and during the carnival scenes.
  • The dance contest was filmed during the summer when the school was closed. The gym had no air conditioning and the doors had to be kept closed to control lighting, so the building became stifling hot. On more than one occasion, an extra had to be taken out due to heat-related illness.
  • The original Broadway production opened at the Eden Theater on February 14, 1972 and ran for three thousand three hundred eighty-eight performances, setting a record. Adrienne Barbeau and Barry Bostwick were in the original Broadway cast. John Travolta appeared at some time as a replacement on Broadway in the role of "Doody". Marilu Henner, an alumnus of the original Chicago production, appeared as a replacement in the role of "Marty". Patrick Swayze and Treat Williams were replacements as Danny Zuko. Richard Gere is also listed as an understudy to many male roles, including Danny Zuko. Gere played Zuko in the London production in 1973.
  • This movie was re-released in theaters in 1998 to mark its 20th Anniversary. A dance mix of songs from the soundtrack became a big hit on the radio.
  • Director Randal Kleiser hated the opening song. He felt the lyrics were too dark and cynical for the light, fun movie he was making. Barry Gibb and The Bee Gees were riding high on the success of Saturday Night Fever (1977). Kleiser, a young upstart director, felt he had no clout to ask for changes. He also hated "You're the One That I Want", saying it "sounded awful".
  • Laserblast (1978) is known as Eddie Deezen's acting debut, but this movie was filmed first.
  • Nancy Kyes was considered for the role of Rizzo.
  • The song "Since I Don't Have You" was added for the new Broadway revival, after Warren Casey's death.
  • In the stage play, the song "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" had a reference to Sal Mineo, who was murdered in 1976. For the movie, the lyric was changed to reference Elvis Presley, who died the same day the scene was filmed.
  • The highest-grossing movie of 1978.
  • Olivia Newton-John requested to have a screentest before she accepted the role of Sandy Olsson. Director Randal Kleiser agreed and they shot the "drive-in movie" scene with Danny and Sandy as a trial. Newton-John was pleased and went on with filming.
  • Deep Throat (1972) star Harry Reems was originally cast as the coach. Paramount Pictures eventually gave the role to Sid Caesar, as protests over Reems' past porn roles were threatening this movie's success.
  • Elvis Presley turned down the role of The Guardian Angel in the "Beauty School Drop-Out" scene. When Allan Carr first bought the movie rights to Grease, he envisioned Elvis as Danny, and Ann-Margret as Sandy.
  • The twenty principal background dancers all had character names, including Sauce, Bart, Bubba, Midge, and Moose.
  • According to Didi Conn in an interview on KGO-AM, there were plans for a sequel named "Summer School" (distinct from Grease 2 (1982)), but Paramount Pictures later nixed the idea. This idea grew out of Coach Calhoun's (Sid Caesar's) line "See you in summer school" to Putzie (Kelly Ward) before he is hit with a pie in the carnival scene at the end.
  • This movie is set in 1958.
  • This movie was originally rated "PG". It was subsequently re-rated "PG-13" for its 20th Anniversary theatrical re-release.
  • In the decades following this movie's release, a theory circulated that Sandy actually drowned at the beach, and the rest of this movie is a near-death hallucination. Theorists claim the famous "fly-away" ending is Sandy's ascent to heaven.
  • The school scenes were filmed at Venice High School in Venice, California.
  • There have been summer theatre productions of this movie.
  • While shooting the "Greased Lightning" musical number, Jeff Conaway was accidentally dropped, hurting his back. Conaway started taking pain killers, eventually abusing prescription drugs, and spiralling into drug addiction until he died in 2011 at the age of sixty.
  • In 1978, this movie grossed just under one hundred sixty million dollars domestically, more than other renowned movies that year. As of December 2017, it has grossed a domestic total of 188,755,690 dollars and a worldwide total of 394,955,690 dollars, against a budget of six million dollars. It also became the highest-earning musical of all time. The second highest is Chicago (2002).
  • Olivia Newton-John insisted on a screentest for the role of Sandy Olsson. She was concerned that she didn't have the acting skills, and would look too old to be a high school student. The part was originally meant for Susan Dey, who turned it down on her manager's advice.
  • This was the highest grossing movie of 1978. It received one Oscar nomination, for Best Original Song, for "Hopelessly Devoted To You", a song that wasn't supposed to be in the movie. After filming ended, the Producers decided Olivia Newton-John needed a ballad, so they wrote the song, shot a scene with her singing it, and kept it in the movie.
  • John Travolta started rehearsals just four days after completing filming for Saturday Night Fever (1977). Having two mega-hit movies in a row made it difficult to return to honor his contract for Welcome Back, Kotter (1975), but he fulfilled his contract, albeit with a reduced presence, and eventually left the show to pursue a movie career full-time.
  • Included amongst the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
  • The Pink Ladies' car's license plate is FLH336. Greased Lightning's is DXJ432.
  • In the malt shop, Teen Angel (Frankie Avalon) tells Frenchie (Didi Conn) to "Wipe off that Angel Face and go back to high school!" Angel Face is a brand of make-up that was very popular during the 1950s.
  • In the malt shop, Teen Angel (Frankie Avalon) tells Frenchie (Didi Conn) that if she gets her diploma, she can join a steno pool. Stenography, which involved taking shorthand notes of dictated letters, then typing them up, was one of the few jobs offered to inexperienced female high school graduates in the 1950s. Once hired into a company, they basically waited until they were needed. The steno resource pool included several "office girls".
  • John Travolta revealed in a 1998 interview that Linda Ronstadt was considered for Sandy.
  • Writer and Producer Allan Carr wanted Andy Warhol to play the art teacher. One unnamed studio executive said he would not have "that man" in the movie, which Carr interpreted as the executive having a personal vendetta against the legendary artist.
  • Jeff Conaway was so infatuated with Olivia Newton-John he was tongue-tied whenever she was around. He later married Olivia's sister, Rona Newton-John.
  • John Travolta kept lip-syncing "heap lap trials" instead of "heat lap trials", and Director Randal Kleiser claims it's visible in the finished product. Kleiser believed Travolta was distracted after reading a magazine article that morning about his recently deceased girlfriend, Diana Hyland.
  • Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, who wrote the original musical's book, weren't invited on-set during production of the movie. John Travolta had played Danny over one hundred times on the road doing the musical, and gradually got more lines from Jacobs and Casey's version into this movie, which was written by Allan Carr and Bronté Woodard. When Travolta didn't think a line of dialogue was working, he would quote a line from the original, and Director Randal Kleiser would tend to agree and use that line instead.
  • Randal Kleiser previously directed John Travolta and Kelly Ward in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976).
  • In 1997, Randal Kleiser called Sherry Lansing, then head of Paramount Pictures, and insisted that this movie had to come back again for its 20th Anniversary. Lansing informed Kleiser that George Lucas had called her a few days earlier and said that out of all of the movies in the Paramount Pictures vault, this was the one that should come back. Lucas explained that every nine-year-old he knew watched a VHS copy of this movie every day.
  • John Travolta argued with Director Randal Kleiser over the end of the song "Sandy". He wanted a close-up of himself instead of the cartoon shot of a hot dog diving into a bun. Kleiser got his way.
  • John Travolta insisted that he have "blue black hair like Elvis Presley and Rock Hudson in the movies" because "it's surreal and it's very 1950s."
  • Scenes inside the Frosty Palace contain obvious blurred Coca-Cola signs. Prior to this movie's release, Writer and Producer Allan Carr made a product-placement deal with PepsiCo. When Carr saw footage of the a scene with Coca-Cola products and signage, he ordered Randal Kleiser to either re-shoot the scene with PepsiCo products or remove the Coca-Cola logos from the scene. Re-shoots were deemed too expensive and time-consuming, so 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 was left unchanged. According to Kleiser, "We just had to hope that Pepsi wouldn't complain. They didn't."
  • Lorenzo Lamas was cast as Tom Chisum after Steven Ford dropped out.
  • Steve Krantz and Ralph Bakshi originally had the rights to the movie adaptation to Grease, and had wanted to do it as an animated musical. When Krantz and Bakshi's partnership fell through, Producer Robert Stigwood acquired the movie rights.
  • Marie Osmond told Larry King that she turned down the role of Sandy because she "didn't want my teenagers some day to say, you know, 'You have to go bad to get the boy.' It was just a personal choice as a some day mother." Additionally, Osmond told FOX News, "The script came to me, and (it) was much edgier then what Olivia came up with. But I was at a place in my life where I wanted to have children and I didn't like the fact that the girl had to turn bad to get the guy. I think the guy has to work hard to get the girl, that's what I believe."
  • Writer and Producer Allan Carr met Olivia Newton-John at a party thrown by fellow Australian singer Helen Reddy and was "completely smitten" and begged her to sign on for the part. John Travolta told "The Morning Call" that he rallied for Newton-John to get the part, too.
  • John Travolta turned down the male lead in Pretty Baby (1978) in order to star in this movie.
  • Didi Conn hid under a security guard's desk to sneak a peek at the script before her audition.
  • The high school was right next to a pork plant, so everything smelled like bacon.
  • The "blonde pineapple" line was improvised by Barry Pearl (Doody).
  • Barry Pearl choreographed the slapstick routine based on The Three Stooges.
  • Before the slumber party scene, the girls painted each other's nails, talked dirty, and had a pillow fight.
  • Thousands auditioned to be one of the twenty principal dancers, who were each given characters to portray.
  • While shooting, the cast of The Bad News Bears (1976) challenged this cast to a softball game. John Travolta pitched.
  • Jamie Donnelly had prematurely grey hair, which she dyed black to play Jan. Her hair grew really quickly, so her roots had to be colored in daily with a black crayon.
  • The cast chewed about one hundred thousand pieces of bubble gum during the shoot, up to five thousand pieces a day.
  • The cast had a sock hop on the first day of rehearsal to learn dance moves and get to know each other.
  • At the cast party, the T-Bird actors handed out buttons with a picture of them mooning the camera.
  • Director Randal Kleiser got the idea for the swings from his hometown drive-in theater in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
  • Most of the extras won a nationwide contest to be in this movie.
  • One of the dancers passed out from sunstroke while filming in one hundred six degrees Fahrenheit (forty-one degrees Celsius) heat.
  • The actual hand jive is a dance just for the hands. Choreographer Patricia Birch added the feet and jumps.
  • Olivia Newton-John still owns Sandy's leather trousers, but has never worn them since.
  • An extra fight scene between Kenickie and Rizzo was shot, to explain why she throws the shake at him. The producers decided it was too heavy for the movie, calling it the "Martin Scorsese scene."
  • Kelly Ward (Putzie) came to auditions to help out Choreographer Patricia Birch and ended up getting cast.
  • (Cameo) Michael Biehn: When Danny (John Travolta) and Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) put the frog in Patty's (Susan Buckner's) bag. NOTE: This is not a cameo appearance, which happens after an actor or actress has achieved success. This was simply an uncredited appearance early in Biehn's career, while he was still a struggling actor.
  • Didi Conn said that most of the cast became like a family, and Susan Buckner was a bit of an outcast, much like her character. "We all made fun of her and ignored her", Conn said in a recent interview.
  • Eddie Deezen also appeared in I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), the other big rock-and-roll period piece of 1978. He became popular playing stock nerd characters in movies. His other famous role was Malvin in WarGames (1983).
  • Ralph Bakshi, the famed adult animator in the 1970s who did Fritz the Cat (1972), originally attempted to buy the rights to Grease to do a full length animated musical out of it, but those plans fell through. Bakshi wound up making The Lord of the Rings (1978) instead.
  • For "You're the One That I Want", Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into her pants after the zipper broke. "They sewed me into those pants every morning for a week", she claimed. "Believe me, I had to be very careful about what I ate and drank. It was excruciating." It was one hundred six degrees Fahrenheit (forty-one degrees Celsius) on the set for the carnival finale.
  • At the beginning of the movie, Mrs. Murdock asks how many days to Christmas vacation, and Sandy replies "86 days". Alice Ghostley appeared on Get Smart (1965), which has Maxwell Smart, C.O.N.T.R.O.L. Agent 86.
  • The song "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" referenced Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. Both appeared in Imitation of Life (1959), the same year as the class of this movie graduates.
  • Included amongst the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the four hundred movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
  • During the Thunder Road scene, Annette Charles was in excruciating pain from what turned out to be an ectopic pregnancy. That's why Cha Cha frequently leans against cars.
  • Didi Conn is the only actress in the cast to appear in all three versions: this movie, Grease 2 (1982), and Grease Live! (2016).
  • There were many casting changes during pre-production. At one point, Donny Osmond was going to be Teen Angel. At another point, Marie Osmond was going to be Sandy.
  • "Greased Lightning" was originally Kenickie's number. In the Broadway production, that is his big number, not Danny Zuko's. When John Travolta announced that he was taking it from Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) for the movie version, everyone in the cast, including Choreographer Patricia Birch and Conaway, who complained vehemently about losing the number even years later in interviews, was very against Travolta taking it and complained about this to the producers. But Travolta had the clout to steal the number, so he did. (This was partly to keep up with Olivia Newton-John, who had added two numbers for this movie that were not in the Broadway production.)
  • John Travolta starred in this and the similarly-themed Hairspray (2007); both were period piece musicals about hair which were directed and produced by gay men.
  • The show title, "Grease", was riffing on "Hair", a Broadway hit about the 1960s which had come out a few years before "Grease". In the same way, "Hairspray" was a riff on "Grease".
  • After the success of the first movie - it's the top-grossing musical in the U.S. to date - this movie was supposed to have three sequels. However, after Grease 2 (1982) bombed at the box-office, those plans were cancelled. In 2002, Didi Conn, Olivia Newton-John, and John Travolta were all pushing to have a Grease 3 produced, which would focus on the original cast and characters many years later, in another decade, like the 1970s or the 1990s, but this movie never got beyond the planning stages.
  • Jim Casey, the show's creator, said the controversial ending, when Sandy conforms to the Greasers and changes her look to fit in with the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies, was actually supposed to be spoofing movies when the rebel gives up his bad ways at the end and decides to turn over a new leaf. Instead of having the bad boy repent and become a good guy at the end of Grease, which is what the audience was expecting, the good girl goes bad.
  • Before "Grease", the last big period musicals on Broadway and in Hollywood were Singin' in the Rain (1952), a movie about the twenties; On Moonlight Bay (1951), which was about the turn of the century; and In the Good Old Summertime (1949), which was also about the turn of the century. There was also Cabaret (1972), which was about the thirties. There was Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), which was about the twenties. There was The Boy Friend (1971), which was about the twenties. There was The Sound of Music (1965), which was about the forties. The last big era to be memorialized in musicals and nostalgia pieces, before the fifties, was the twenties.
  • Originally, this was set in urban Chicago, Illinois, not suburban Los Angeles, California. The "Summer Nights" number was originally called "Foster Beach", which is a popular beach in Chicago.
  • In this movie and Saturday Night Fever (1977), John Travolta's character tries to force sex on the leading lady.
  • There's a scene in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and this movie where John Travolta's character sexually assaults his leading lady, leading to a confrontation and a temporary break-up in the relationship.
  • In 1978, when this movie was released, Susan Buckner (Patty Simcox) played George, Nancy Drew's sidekick, on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977). A year before that, she was one of the swimmers on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (1976).
  • Many critics, like Roger Ebert, complained that the actors and actresses were too old for the high school characters they were supposed to be playing. Roger Ebert wrote in his column: "One problem I always have, watching the movie, is that all the students look too old. They're supposed to be 16 or 17, I guess, but they look in their late 20s, and don't seem comfortable as teenagers." Olivia Newton-John was twenty-nine when she played Sandy Olsson (who's supposed to be seventeen). Stockard Channing was thirty-three when she played Rizzo (who's also supposed to be about seventeen).
  • Grease ushered in the 1950s craze of the 1970s. The success of Grease on Broadway help to reignite ABC's interest in Happy Days (1974).
  • Leo (Dennis Stewart) and Cha Cha (Annette Charles) were members of the rival gang the Scorpions, and Danny Zuko (John Travolta), Cha Cha, and Leo were in a love triangle together, as Cha Cha and Danny were briefly involved for a while before the events of this movie start. This is just one of many love triangles featured in this movie. Danny, Rizzo (Stockard Channing), and Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) were in a love triangle situation together, as Danny and Rizzo used to date, but are no longer as the movie starts. Also, Cha Cha, Leo, and Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) were in a love triangle together; so were Sonny (Michael Tucci), Marty (Dinah Manoff), and Vince Fontaine (Edd Byrnes); so were Sandy, Danny, and Tom Chisum (Lorenzo Lamas); so were Patty Simcox (Susan Buckner), Danny, and Sandy.
  • This movie was cast before John Travolta signed on to do Saturday Night Fever (1977).
  • This was part of a three-movie deal onto which Producer Robert Stigwood signed John Travolta, including Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Moment by Moment (1978).
  • The original Broadway Rizzo was played by Adrienne Barbeau. At the time when this movie came out, Adrienne was appearing on Maude (1972). She was passed over to play Rizzo in favor of Stockard Channing, who is one year older than Adrienne.
  • "Grease", the off-Broadway musical, opened at the Kingston Mines in Chicago, Illinois in 1971. The musical had been running for seven years when this movie came out.
  • Jeff Conaway played Kenickie in this movie as well as appearing in the Broadway production before starring as Bobby Wheeler on Taxi (1978). Marilu Henner, another Taxi star, also starred in the original off-Broadway production of "Grease". John Travolta had also starred in the Broadway production as Doody, one of the supporting characters, not Danny. Travolta and Henner appeared in Perfect (1985).
  • This movie featured 1950s luminaries such as Eve Arden, Dody Goodman, Sid Caesar, and Frankie Avalon. Grease 2 (1982) brought 1950s stars Connie Stevens and Tab Hunter into the mix.
  • Of all of the actors and actresses in this movie, Frankie Avalon was the only one who was in a 1950s musical - Jamboree! (1957).
  • When Rosie O'Donnell played Rizzo on Broadway, she was the same age that Stockard Channing was when she was cast as Rizzo for this movie. When Channing appeared on The Rosie O'Donnell Show (1996), Rosie admitted that she was channelling Channing when she played the role on Broadway.
  • Adrienne Barbeau (the original Rizzo from Broadway) titled her autobiography "There are Worse Things I Could Do". This trivia entry has nothing to do with this movie.
  • Grease: You're the One That I Want! (2006) was an NBC reality television series designed to cast the lead roles of Sandy Dumbrowski and Danny Zuko in a ten million dollar Broadway revival of the musical, "Grease", to be directed and choreographed by two-time Tony Award-winner Kathleen Marshall. The Broadway production began previews at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on July 24, 2007, and officially opened on August 19. The television show, from the producers of Dancing with the Stars (2005), was patterned after an original format created by Andrew Lloyd Webber for the BBC series How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? (2006), which selected the lead in the successful 2005 West End revival of "The Sound of Music". The show's title was taken from the song "You're the One That I Want" from this movie. (Duh!)
  • "Grease" alums Dody Goodman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Frankie Avalon, and Connie Stevens appeared on Fantasy Island (1977).
  • The title "Grease" refers to the Greasers on whom this movie focuses; specifically the T-Birds, Danny (John Travolta), Kenickie (Jeff Conaway), Sonny (Michael Tucci), Doody (Barry Pearl), and Putzie (Kelly Ward), who all grease their hair. Greasers were a popular subculture and community in the 1950s. The greaser subculture may have emerged in the post-World War II era amongst the motorcycle clubs and gangs of the late 1940s and the 1950s. The original greasers were aligned by a feeling of disillusion with American popular culture, either through a lack of economic opportunity in spite of the post-war boom, or a marginalization enacted by the general domestic shift towards homogeneity. Most were male, often of a non-WASP ethnicity, and working-class, and held interest in hotrod culture or motorcycling (which explains the "Greased Lightning" number in this movie, and the "Cool Riders" number in Grease 2 (1982)). A handful of middle class youth were drawn to the subculture for its rebellious attitude. This explains the rebellious attitudes of the T-Birds and their female counterparts the Pink Ladies in this movie.
  • The theme song, "Grease", was written by Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees, very much linking the movie to Producer Robert Stigwood's and Writer and Producer Allan Carr's hit, Saturday Night Fever (1977). "Grease" is also a 1970s-style disco/funk song, although the musical takes place in the 1950s, making it somewhat anachronistic. The lyrics describe a lost generation in revolt and the rebellion, which described the Baby Boomer Generation and the 1960s and 1970s better than the Eisenhower Era Silent Generation of the 1950s. Director Randal Kleiser did not like the theme song, since it did not fit the movie very well, but he put it in anyway after pressure from the producers and the studio to do as many tie-ins to Saturday Night Fever (1977) as possible. The song became a hit and audiences seem to love it, even though it is not from the original musical, and really has nothing to do with the movie at all.
  • Greased Lightning (1977) starring Richard Pryor and Pam Grier was possibly influenced by the success of "Grease" the Broadway show.
  • The cling wrap that Danny waves around and throws around the car in the number is a symbol for the prophylactics that men in the 1950s used to use: they would wrap themselves in saran wrap or cellophane before sex, thinking this was an effective prophylactic (it wasn't). John Travolta was told not to do anything sexual with the cellophane in the number by Director Randal Kleiser and the producers; they wanted the symbolism to be subtle to avoid an "R" rating. But Travolta disobeyed this and rubbed his crotch with the cling wrap in the number anyway, and this made it into the final cut of the movie.
  • "Greased lightning" is an old expression for something that moves very fast, since lightning is very fast, and something that is greased moves along in a fast slippery way. Also from "greased" plus "lightning", believed to come from the observation that greased machinery tends to run faster, and the notion that if a lightning strike (the fastest normally observed movement) could be greased, it might move even faster. The phrase originated in the U.S. and then moved around the world, and is now primarily associated with "Grease" due to the popularity of the movie. The Grease in the "Greased Lightning" title also reminds the audience of the Greasers on whom this movie is focused. Noun; greased lightning (uncountable). Something incredibly fast (now mainly used in comparison: like or faster than greased lightning).
  • Sandy's original last name was "Dumbrowski", suggesting that she was of Polish decent. This movie changed it to "Olsson".
  • The "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" number was supposed to suggest a class conflict between Rizzo and Sandy, and also between the Greasers and the preppies. Broadway musical Producers Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs said in interviews that they were biased towards the Greasers in this class conflict, and just as Rizzo skewers Sandy for her uptight and rigid values, Jim Jacobs was also satirizing uptight and phony middle class shallowness and prudishness with that number as well. When Sandy "conforms" to the Greasers at the end, they felt that she was being liberated from this "phony" value system.
  • John Travolta's characters in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and this movie have similar names: there's a "y" at the end of the first name (Tony, Danny) and there's an "o" at the end of the last name (Manero, Zuko). They're also similar types: both are tough guys, they are bad boys who are in a gang; both are from a blue collar background and are pursuing a woman who is a higher social strata; both are very popular with the local tough guys in the neighborhood; both are great dancers; both are ladies' men who are trying to commit to one woman for the first time in their lives; both are callow and immature but seem to have potential and promise for maturity and character growth, and in both cases the leading lady (Stephanie, Sandy) is the one who unlocks this potential.
  • This movie inevitably gets compared to Saturday Night Fever (1977), the other big John Travolta musical. Here's what Roger Ebert had to say about this movie in comparison with Saturday Night Fever (1977): "The movie is worth seeing for nostalgia, or for a look at vintage Travolta, but its underlying problem is that it sees the material as silly camp: It neuters it. Romance and breaking-up are matters of life and death for teenagers, and a crisis of self-esteem can be a crushing burden. 'Grease' doesn't seem to remember that. Saturday Night Fever (1977) does."
  • This was the top grossing movie of 1978. At the time it came out, it was the highest grossing musical of all time. It outgrossed all of the following releases of 1978: National Lampoon's Animal House (1978), Superman (1978), Every Which Way but Loose (1978), Jaws 2 (1978), Heaven Can Wait (1978), Hooper (1978), Halloween (1978), Convoy (1978), California Suite (1978), Up in Smoke (1978), Foul Play (1978), Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), Midnight Express (1978), Coming Home (1978), The End (1978), House Calls (1978), The Cheap Detective (1978), The Lord of the Rings (1978), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). This was the last time a musical topped the box-office charts in the history of movies.
  • Originally, Sandy was not supposed to participate in the dance contest at all. She was supposed to be sidetracked and subdued by Sonny before the contest even started, allowing Cha Cha to jump in and take her place and win the contest. But Olivia Newton-John was anxious to do some dancing in the movie, even though she was not a professionally trained dancer like John Travolta. So she convinced Director Randal Kleiser to let her dance with Danny in the contest for a few minutes, and then for Sonny to jump in and subdue her a few minutes later.
  • In this movie and in Saturday Night Fever (1977), John Travolta's character wins a big dance contest.
  • This movie did not win any Academy Awards, but Grease Live! (2016) did win several Emmy Awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Program.
  • No one in the cast has won any Academy Awards, although Stockard Channing and John Travolta have been nominated. Stockard Channing has won several Emmy Awards, though.
  • The other big Hollywood adaptation of 1978, The Wiz (1978), was a bomb. In contrast to this movie, which became the biggest hit of the year. The Wiz (1978) was a huge bust critically and commercially, and single-handedly killed the blaxploitation genre.
  • Some reviewers compared this to another movie that came out about star-crossed high school lovers - Good News (1930) - which was about the 1920s. Here's what one notable critic said: "Plot isn't exactly what 'Grease' is all about: In fact, it's really just an updating of that 1927 musical, 'Good News'." Good News (1930) and Good News (1947) similarly followed the story of two high school students from different cliques, and the kind of dance of flirtation and fighting they go through until they finally come together at the end.
  • When it came out, this movie was the top rated box-office musical of all time. Now (April 2020) the list is as follows: 1. The Lion King (2019) 2. Mamma Mia! (2008) 3. Aladdin (2019) 4. Beauty and the Beast (2017) 5. La La Land (2016) 6. The Greatest Showman (2017) 7. Mary Poppins Returns (2018) 8. This movie.
  • The actress pretending to vomit when Sandy tells her story during "Summer NIghts" was another conscious attempt by Choreographer Patricia Birch to undermine the saccharine quality of the material and make it edgier to reflect the "tough way these kids treat each other" (according to Birch's own words).
  • The original musical was much racier. For example, Rizzo's "'Cause he sounds like a drag!" line in "Summer Nights" was originally "'Cause he sounds like a f-g!"
  • In his book "Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll and Musicals" author Scott Miller dissects how revolutionary Grease was to the 1970s scene, and to culture at the time in general. It was very much in the tradition of Hair, right down to it's Hair-inspired title, and like its predecessor meant to be an anti-musical musical and a revolutionary and counter-cultural piece; that is it meant to shake up the conventions of the world of Broadway with raw conversations about sex and rebelliousness. "Like Hair before it and The Rocky Horror Show which would come a year later, Grease is a show about repression versus freedom in American sexuality, about the clumsy, tentative, but clearly emerging sexual freedom of the late 1950s, seen through the lens of the middle of the Sexual Revolution in the 1970s. It's about the near carnal passion 1950s teenagers felt for their rock and roll, the first art form that actually changed human sexuality. (The phrase rock and roll was originally African American urban slang for sexual intercourse, going as far back as the 1920s, and it made its way onto many rhythm and blues recordings before the 1950s.) As theater, Grease finds its roots in the rawness, the rowdiness, the lack of polish that made Hair and other experimental pieces in the 1960s such cultural phenomena. The impact of Hair on Grease can even be seen in the two shows' titles, both taking as their primary symbols the hairstyles of young Americans as a form of rebellion and cultural declaration of independence. Just as the characters of Hair and Grease reject conformity and authority, so too do both Hair and Grease as theater pieces."
  • From the trivia for Blazing Saddles (1974): The world premiere was at the Pickwick Drive-In Theater in Burbank, California. The guests rode horses into the drive-in for the premiere. The Pickwick was also used for a location in this movie.
  • Some scenes of the exterior of the high school feature a white statue of three figures. The central standing figure represents Myrna Loy. The three statues were created in 1921, when Loy was a sixteen-year-old student at Venice High School, several years before she became a famous actress. The crumbling statue was replaced in 2010 with bronze statue of Loy.
  • The New York Times critic Vincent Canby liked this movie. He said it was "a contemporary fantasy about a 1950s teenage musical - a larger, funnier, wittier, and more imaginative-than-Hollywood movie with a life all its own." Regarding the two leads, he said "Olivia Newton-John, the recording star in her American film debut, is simultaneously very funny and utterly charming as the film's ingenue, a demure, virginal Sandra Dee-type. She possesses true screen presence, as well as a sweet, sure singing voice." and "John Travolta, as Miss Newton-John's co-star, a not so malevolent gang-leader, is better than he was in Saturday Night Fever (1977)." He called the love duet performed by Newton-John and Travolta at the finale "a breathless new number". He also said "'Grease' stands outside the traditions it mimics. Its sensibility is not tied to the past, but to a free-wheeling, well informed, high-spirited present."
  • Henry Winkler was considered for the part of Danny Zuko.
  • During a scene where the gang gathers at the diner, Rizzo comments about her "Dutch treat days (are) over." Foreshadowing or acknowledgment of a possible pregnancy.
  • "Grease" may be "the word" and the title, but it is never said once in the entire movie. The only time you hear anything close to it, is when you hear the word "greased" in the song "Greased Lightning" (and, of course in the animated opening credits, as well in the closing credits).
  • In a 1976 interview discussing Survive! (1976), Writer and Producer Allan Carr revealed a few details about this movie, including the cast members that had agreed to appear in this movie. In addition to revealing the acquisition of John Travolta, Carr mentioned that Paul Lynde would play the Principal of Rydell High School, Lily Tomlin was the home economics teacher, Alice Cooper was a gym teacher, and Nancy Walker would teach shop.
  • The famous men mentioned in the song "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" (Troy Donahue, Elvis Presley, Rock Hudson, and, in the original stage version, Sal Mineo) were all popular, highly desirable teen heartthrobs of the 1950s, so their presences in the song are supposed to represent a sarcastic reinforcement of Sandy's virtue and imperviousness to sexual temptation (the idea being that if even men as famously attractive as Donahue, Presley, Hudson, or Mineo couldn't tempt her into sexual impropriety, nobody could). However, there is a double meaning to the Hudson and Mineo mentions: both men were gay, though their homosexuality was not widely known outside of the gay community during either the time Grease was set (the 1950s) or first staged (the early 1970s). After Rock Hudson died of AIDS in 1985 (which essentially was what "outed" him as gay to the general public), the line "Even Rock Hudson lost / his heart to Doris Day" took on a new meaning.
  • Rydell High School was based on Chicago, Illinois' William Howard Taft High School.
  • In the original stage musical, which was set in Chicago, Illinois, Sandy was a Polish Catholic girl, and her last name was "Dumbrowski". In this movie (and many of the subsequent stage versions that have come out since this movie) her last name is "Olsson". In this movie, they also made her Australian, based on Olivia Newton-John being from Australia.
  • Kenickie's car ("Greased Lightning") is a 1948 Ford DeLuxe convertible. The Scorpions' car is 1949 Mercury Custom. Briefly seen is the Pink Ladies' 1948 Studebaker Commander Regal (with suicide doors). The car Danny takes to the drive-in (the "sin wagon") is a 1949 Dodge Wayfarer. The 1948 Ford DeLuxe is the same model given to Daniel LaRussa for his birthday in The Karate Kid (1984).
  • Sha-Na-Na (Johnny Casino & The Gamblers) was a retro doo-wop group formed in 1969. They came to fame performing at the Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York, had a popular television series, but were not in the original stage musical production.
  • The spinning knife blades mounted on the hubcaps of the Scorpions car at the Thunder Road car race were an homage, or even a copy, of the similarly mounted spinning knives on Messala's racing chariot in Ben-Hur (1959). In both races, the spinning blades ripped out the sides of the opposing vehicle, but failed to destroy the wheels, and the hero was the victor.
  • In 2019, Olivia Newton-John auctioned the leather jacket and pants she wore in the finale for four hundred five thousand dollars, for the benefit of her cancer research charity.
  • In a recent interview about this movie, Didi Conn said, "Susan Buckner? We all made fun of her and ignored her." This was a case of life imitating art, since Frenchie (and the rest of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies) didn't like Patty Simcox, either. Although Jeff Conaway admits in interviews he had an on-set fling with her. "We had to practice the dress lifting scene", Buckner quipped.
  • The original Jim Casey show was born out of the Kingston Mines in Chicago, Illinois, not on Broadway, and it took place around Chicago also. The opening number, for example, was called "Foster Beach", not "Summer Lovin'". The location was changed to Los Angeles to make it more glamorous and exciting (also easier to film since it's right near the movie studios).
  • In Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Pulp Fiction (1994), John Travolta also played a character who entered a dance contest.
  • Stockard Channing and Dinah Manoff appeared in Staying Together (1989).
  • One of the three movies released in 1978 about late 50's music scene, along American Hot Wax (1978) and The Buddy Holly Story (1978).
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