Rizzo's hickeys were real. Stockard Channing said in an interview that Jeff Conaway insisted on applying them himself.
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 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.
"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.
For a time, this was the third highest-grossing movie of all time, behind Jaws (1975) and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
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.
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 spiraling into drug addiction until he died in 2011 at age 60.
Most of the principal cast were well past their high school years. When filming began in June 1977, Stockard Channing was 33, Michael Tucci was 31, Jamie Donnelly was 30, Annette Charles was 29, Olivia Newton-John was 28, Barry Pearl was 27, Jeff Conaway was 26, Didi Conn was 25, John Travolta was 23, Dinah Manoff was 19, Kelly Ward and Eddie Deezen were both 20, and Lorenzo Lamas was 19.
When Olivia Newton-John was cast as Sandy, her character's background had to be changed to accommodate the actress's own 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 the film while other songs from the Broadway musical were dropped.
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).
"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. The director felt it was only right to ask Conaway if it was okay. At first he refused, but he eventually gave in.
Elvis Presley turned down the role of The Guardian Angel in the 'Beauty School Drop-Out' scene. When Allan Carr first bought the film rights to Grease, he envisioned Elvis as Danny and Ann-Margret as Sandy.
Jeff Conaway, who is 6' 1½" (1.87 m), had to walk slightly stooped so John Travolta, who is 6' 2" (1.88 m), would appear taller.
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.
After the success of the first movie - it's the top-grossing musical in the U.S. to date - Grease was supposed to have three sequels; however, after Grease 2 (1982) bombed at the box office, those plans were canceled. 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 '70s or the '90s, but this movie never got beyond the planning stages.
Olivia Newton-John requested to have a screen test before she accepted the role of Sandy. The 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.
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.
Randal Kleiser shot a scene of Kenickie and Rizzo 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 film; it was much grittier, described by one crew member as "looking like something Martin Scorsese might have directed."
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.
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.
John Travolta argued with 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.
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.
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 106 degrees on the set for the carnival finale.
In 1978, the film grossed just under $160 million domestically, more than other renowned movies that year. As of December 2017, it has grossed a domestic total of $188,755,690 and a worldwide total of $394,955,690, against a budget of $6 million. It also became the highest-earning musical of all time. The second highest is Chicago (2002).
The cast chewed about 100,000 pieces of bubble gum during the shoot, up to 5,000 pieces a day.
In the malt shop, the angel tells Frenchy to "Wipe off that Angel Face and go back to high school!" Angel Face is a brand of makeup that was very popular during the 1950s.
The film 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.
The original Broadway production opened at the Eden Theater on February 14, 1972 and ran for 3,388 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 alumna of the original Chicago production, appeared as a replacement in the role of "Marty". Patrick Swayze and Treat Williams were both 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.
In Spanish, the title translated to "Grasa," or "fat". The film was released as "Vaselina" in Mexico and "Brillantina" in Italy, Spain and Latin America.
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.
Danny's blue windbreaker at the beginning of the film was intended as a nod to Rebel Without a Cause (1955).
Grease was cast before John Travolta even signed on to do Saturday Night Fever (1977).
Carrie Fisher was considered for the role of Sandy. 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.
Several musical numbers from the stage version were not used in the film, 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.
Lucie Arnaz was the first choice for the role of Rizzo. She was allegedly dropped from consideration when her mother, Lucille Ball, called Paramount and said, "I used to own that studio! My daughter's not doing a screen test!" Ball actually owned Desilu, which Paramount bought. The casting director remembered seeing Stockard Channing with Arnaz and Sandy Duncan in the play "Vanities" at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
Olivia Newton-John still owns Sandy's leather trousers, but has never worn them since.
The saran 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 cellophane in the number anyway, and this made it into the final cut of the movie.
The 20 principal background dancers all had character names, including Sauce, Bart, Bubba, Midge, and Moose.
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."
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."
John Travolta kept lip-syncing "heap lap trials" instead of "heat lap trials," and 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.
This was part of a three-picture deal producer Robert Stigwood signed John Travolta on to including Grease, Saturday Night Fever (1977), and Moment by Moment (1978).
Scenes inside the Frosty Palace contain obvious blurred Coca-Cola signs. Prior to the film's release, Allan Carr made a product-placement deal with Pepsi. When Carr saw footage of the a scene with Coca-Cola products and signage, he ordered Randal Kleiser to either reshoot the scene with Pepsi products or remove the Coca-Cola logos from the scene. Reshoots 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."
The cast had a sock hop on the first day of rehearsal to learn dance moves and get to know each other.
Didi Conn hid under a security guard's desk to sneak a peek at the script before her audition.
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 100 times on the road doing the musical, and gradually got more lines from Jacobs and Casey's version into the film, 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 Kleiser would tend to agree and use that line instead.
Grease the off-Broadway play opened at the Kingston Mines in Chicago in 1971. The play had been running for almost a decade, 7 years, when Grease the movie came out in 1978.
Deep Throat (1972) star Harry Reems was originally cast as the coach. Paramount eventually gave the role to Sid Caesar as protests over Reems's past porn roles were threatening the movie's success.
At the cast party, the T-Bird actors handed out buttons with a picture of them mooning the camera.
This was the highest grossing film of 1978. It received 1 Oscar nomination, 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.
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.
In 1997, Randal Kleiser called Sherry Lansing, then head of Paramount, and insisted that the film 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 vault, this was the one that should come back. Lucas explained that every nine-year-old he knew watched a VHS copy of the film every day.
Didi Conn is the only actor in the cast to appear in all three versions: the 1978 original movie, the 1982 sequel, and the 2016 live TV version.
The show title, "Grease", was riffing on "Hair", a Broadway hit about the '60s which had come out a few years before "Grease". In the same way, "Hairspray" was a riff on "Grease".
Grease may be the word and the film's 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".
The theme song, "Grease", was written by Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees, very much linking the movie to Robert Stigwood's and Allan Carr's hit of the previous year, Saturday Night Fever (1977). "Grease" is also a '70s-style disco/funk song, although the play 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 show 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 show at all.
The original show 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___!"
Rydell High is a reference to teen idol Bobby Rydell who had a million selling hit with "Swingin' School" in 1960.
The actual hand jive is a dance just for the hands. Choreographer Patricia Birch added the feet and jumps.
Jamie Donnelly had prematurely grey hair, which she dyed black to play Jan. Her hair grew really quickly, so her roots had to be coloured in daily with a black crayon.
Before the slumber party scene, the girls painted each other's nails, talked dirty, and had a pillow fight.
When it came out, Grease was the top rated box office musical of all time. Now the list is as follows: 1. Frozen (2013) 2. Beauty and the Beast (2017) 3. Coco (2017) 4. Moana (2016) 5. Mamma Mia! (2008) 6. Tangled (2010) 7. Beauty and the Beast (1991) 8. Les Misérables (2012) 9. La La Land (2016) 10. Grease.
Susan Dey and Deborah Raffin were the first choices for the role of Sandy. Dey declined the role after her manager advised against it.
Olivia Newton-John insisted on a screen test for the role of Sandy. 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.
Originally Sandy was not supposed to participate in the dance contest at all; Sandy was supposed to be sidetracked and subdued by Sonny before the contest even starts, 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.
While shooting, the cast of The Bad News Bears (1976) challenged this cast to a softball game. John Travolta pitched.
The title "Grease" refers to the Greasers that the show focuses on; specifically the T-Birds, Danny, Kenickie, Sonny, Doody, and Putzie, 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 among 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 ethnic and working-class, and held interest in hotrod culture or motorcycling (which explains the "Greased Lightning" number in Grease, 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 the movie.
The song "Since I Don't Have You" was added for the new Broadway revival, after Warren Casey's death.
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.
In the malt shop, the angel tells Frenchie 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 grads in the 1950s. Once hired into a company, they basically waited until they were needed. The steno resource pool included several "office girls".
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
No one in the Grease cast has won any Academy Awards, although both Stockard Channing and John Travolta have been nominated. Stockard Channing has won several Emmy Awards, though.
Many critics, like Roger Ebert, would complain that the actors 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. " Indeed, Olivia Newton-John was 29 when she played Sandy (who's supposed to be 17). Stockard Channing was 33 when she played Rizzo (who's also supposed to be about 17). Aaron Tveit was 33 when he played Danny in Grease Live! (2016). Rosie O'Donnell was 33 when she played Rizzo on Broadway, much like Stockard Channing in the film.
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."
John Travolta turned down the male lead in Pretty Baby (1978) in order to star in this film.
The girl actor pretending to vomit when Sandy tells her story during "Summer NIghts" is another conscious attempt by 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).
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
Originally this was set in urban Chicago, not suburban Los Angeles. The "Summer Nights" number was originally called "Foster Beach", which is a popular beach in Chicago.
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.
In 2019, Olivia Newton-John auctioned the leather jacket and leggings she wore in the finale for $405,000, for the benefit of her cancer research charity.
"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 co-star Olivia Newton-John, who had added two numbers for the film that were not in the Broadway production.) In Grease Live! (2016), Danny still sings Verse 1 of "Greased Lightning", but then Kenickie gets Verse 2, as he did in the original Broadway production. (Danny's line "Well this car is automatic, it's systematic, it's hydromatic, it's Greased Lightning!" was added for the movie also; it was not in the original 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.
Adrienne Barbeau (the original Rizzo from Broadway) titled her autobiography "There are Worse Things I Could Do".
The song "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" references Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. Both appear in Imitation of Life (1959), which came out in 1959, the year the class of Grease graduates.
John Travolta revealed in a 1998 interview that Linda Ronstadt was considered for Sandy.
Grease was the top grossing film 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 would be the last time a musical would ever top the box office charts in the history of film.
Grease ushered in the '50s craze of the 1970s. The success of Grease on Broadway help to reignite ABC's interest in Happy Days (1974) the TV show.
Grease 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.
The original Broadway Rizzo was played by Adrienne Barbeau. At the time when Grease the movie came out, Adrienne was starring as Carol Traynor on the TV show Maude (1972). She was passed over to play Rizzo in favor of Stockard Channing, who is actually older than Adrienne by a year. (They were both in their thirties by the time the movie came out: Stockard was 34, Adrienne was 33.)
Of all the actors in Grease, Frankie Avalon was the only one who was actually in a 1950s musical (Jamboree! (1957)).
In a 1976 interview discussing the film Survive! (1976), producer Allan Carr revealed a few details about "Grease", including the cast members that had agreed to appear in the film. In addition to revealing the acquisition of John Travolta, Carr mentioned that Paul Lynde would play the Principal of Rydell High, Lily Tomlin was the home economics teacher, Alice Cooper was a gym teacher, and Nancy Walker would teach shop.
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).
Ralph Bakshi, the famed adult animator in the '70s 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.
Some reviewers compared this to another movie that came out about star-crossed high school lovers. This one came out in the 1940s, and it 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 1928 musical, 'Good News' (as if directed by that forgotten regisseur of the '30s, Mark Sandrich)." Good News (1947) similarly follows 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.
There were many casting changes during pre-development. At one point Donny Osmond was going to be Teen Angel; at another point Marie Osmond was going to be Sandy.
Sandy's original last name was Dumbrowski, suggesting that she was of Polish decent. The 1978 Hollywood version changed it to Olsson. The later Broadway productions have changed her name to "Young", making the character more anglicized. (The Grease Live! (2016) production referred to her as "Young" also.)
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 public knowledge 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.
Kelly Ward came to auditions to help out choreographer Patricia Birch and ended up getting cast.
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, years before she became a famous actress. The crumbling statue was replaced in 2010 with bronze statue of Loy.
Randal Kleiser got the idea for the swings from his hometown drive-in in Lebanon, PA.
Leo and Cha Cha were members of the rival gang the Scorpions, and Danny/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 the movie start. This is just one of many love triangles featured in the move. Danny/Rizzo and Sandy 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 were in a love triangle together; so were Sonny/Marty and Vince Fontaine; so were Sandy/Danny and Tom Chisolm; so were Patty/Danny and Sandy.
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."
Laserblast (1978) is known as Eddie Deezen's acting debut, but Grease (1978) was filmed first.
Sha-Na-Na, here playing Johnny Casino and the Gamblers, was a retro doo-wop group formed in 1969. They came to fame performing at Woodstock, had a popular television series, but were not in the original stage musical production.
Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, who wrote the original stage play, were originally supposed to serve as executive producers of the film, but Allan Carr kicked them off the set.
In 1978, when Grease was released, Susan Buckner, who played Patty Simcox, would play George, Nancy Drew's sidekick, in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977) on TV. A year before that she would be one of the swimmers on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (1976).
The New York Times critic Vincent Canby liked the film. 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 film's 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'..." He called the love duet performed by Newton-John and Travolta at the film's 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."
This movie inevitably gets compared to Saturday Night Fever (1977), the other big John Travolta musical from the '70s. Here's what Roger Ebert had to say about Grease in comparison with Saturday Night Fever: "The movie (Grease) 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' does."
The other big Hollywood adaptation of 1978, The Wiz (1978), was a bomb. In contrast to Grease, which was a smash, becoming the biggest hit of the year, The Wiz was a huge bust both critically and commercially and single-handedly killed the blaxploitation genre.
Thousands auditioned to be one of the twenty principal dancers, who were each given characters to portray.
Both in Grease and Saturday Night Fever (1977) the John Travolta character tries to force sex on the leading lady.
Steve Krantz and Ralph Bakshi originally had the rights to the film adaptation to Grease, and had wanted to do it as an animated musical. When Krantz and Bakshi's partnership fell through, Robert Stigwood acquired the film rights.
When Rosie O'Donnell played Rizzo on Broadway she was the same age that Stockard Channing was cast for Rizzo for the film version (33). When Stockard Channing appeared on The Rosie O'Donnell Show (1996), Rosie admitted that she was channeling Stockard when she played the role on Broadway.
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. Show producers Warren Casey & Jim Jacobs have 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 ending they felt she was being liberated from this phony value system.
Grease featured '50s 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.
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 the movie 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.
Before "Grease" the last big period musicals on Broadway and in Hollywood were Singin' in the Rain (1952), a movie made in the fifties about the twenties; On Moonlight Bay (1951), which was filmed in the fifties and was about the turn of the century; and In the Good Old Summertime (1949), which was filmed in the forties also about the turn of the century. There was also Cabaret (1972) in 1973, which was about the '30s; there was Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), which came out in '67 and was about the '20s; there was The Boy Friend (1971), which came out in 1972 and was about the '20s; and there was The Sound of Music (1965), a movie about the '40s which came out in 1965. The last big era to be memorialized in musicals and nostalgia pieces, before the '50s, was the '20s.
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 $10 million 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 TV 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 the 1978 screen adaptation of Grease.
Randal Kleiser previously directed John Travolta and Kelly Ward in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976).
Eddie Deezen also appeared in I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), the other big rock and roll period piece of 1978. He became very popular playing stock nerd characters in movies. His most famous role was Eddie Malvin in WarGames (1983).
In the original stage musical, which was set in Chicago, Sandy was a Polish Catholic girl, and her last name was Dumbrowski. In the movie (and many of the subsequent stage versions that have come out since the movie) her last name is Oleson. In the film version they also make her Australian, shoe-horning the role for Olivia Newton-John.
Jeff Conaway played Kenickie in the 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. Six years after Grease wrapped, John Travolta and Marilu Henner would star in Perfect (1985) together.
John Travolta's characters in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease 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.
There was a movie that came out in 1978 called Greased Lightning (1977) starring Richard Pryor and Pam Grier, undeniably influenced by the success of Grease the Broadway show.
From trivia for Blazing Saddles (1974): The world premiere was at the (now gone) 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 Grease (1978).
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, CONTROL Agent 86.
In a recent interview about Grease, Didi Conn said, "Susan Buckner? We all made fun of her and ignored her." This was a case of life imitating art, since Frenchy (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.
During a scene where the gang gathers at the diner, Rizzo comments about her "dutch treat days [are] over." Foreshadowing/acknowledgment of possible pregnancy.
Grease alums Dody Goodman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Frankie Avalon, and Connie Stevens all made appearances on Fantasy Island (1977).
"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 + 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 that the show is focused on. Noun greased lightning (uncountable) Something incredibly fast (now mainly used in comparison: like or faster than greased lightning)
The original Jim Casey show was born out of the Kingston Mines in Chicago, 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 L.A. to make it more glamorous and exciting (also easier to film since it's right near the film studios).