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.
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.
"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.
When Olivia Newton-John was cast as Sandy, her character's background had to be changed to accommodate the actress' 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, Olivia Newton-John frequent songwriter, wrote two new songs for the film while other songs from the Broadway musical were dropped.
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.
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."
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
After the success of the first movie - it's the top-grossing musical in the US to date - Grease was supposed to have three sequels; however, after Grease 2 bombed at the box office, those plans were canceled. In 2002 Did Cohn, 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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
When it came out Grease was the top rated box office musical of all time. Now the list is as follows: 1. Frozen 2. Beauty and the Beast 3. Coco 4. Moana. 5. Mamma Mia! 6. Tangled 7. Beauty and the Beast 8. Les Miserables 9. La La Land 10. Grease
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 eachother", (according to Birch's own words).
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.
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.
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."
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.
The theme song, "Grease Is the Word", was written by Barry Gibb of the Bee-Gee's, very much linking the movie to Travolta, Stigwood and Carr's hit of last year the disco phenomenon "Saturday Night Fever". "Grease Is the Word" 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. The Director Randall Kleiser did not like the theme song since it did not fit the show very well; but they put it in anyway after pressure from the producers and the studio to do as many tie-ins to Saturday Night Fever 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.
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.
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). Travolta was told not to do anything sexual with the Cellophane in the number by Randall 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.
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."
Greased Lightning was originally Kenicke's number. In the Broadway production that is his big number, not Danny Zuko's. When Travolta announced that he was taking it from Conaway/Kenickie for the movie version, everyone in the cast, including choreographer Patricia Birch, and Jeff 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 Danny still sings verse one 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).
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 2016 Grease Live production referred to her as "Young" also.)
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 collumn: "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". Rosie O'donnell was 33 when she played Rizzo on Broadway; much like Stockard Channing was.
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 Chacha 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 Travolta. So she convinced Randall 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.
The original Broadway Rizzo was played by Adrienne Barbeau. At the time when Grease the movie came out Adrienne was starring as Carol FIndley on the TV show "Maude." 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).
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, Superman, Every Which Way but Loose, Jaws 2, Heaven Can Wait, Hooper, Halloween, Convoy, California Suite, Up in Smoke, Foul Play, Revenge of the Pink Panther, Midnight Express, Coming Home, The End, House Calls, The Cheap Detective, The Lord of the Rings and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This would be the last time a musical would ever top the box office charts in the history of film.
In 1978 when Grease aired Susan Buckner, who played Patty Simcox, would play George, Nancy Drew's sidekick in the Hardy Boys Nancy Drew TV show. A year before that she would be one of the swimmers in the Brady Bunch Variety Hour.
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.
Leo and Chacha were members of the rival gang the Scorpions, and Danny/Chacha and Leo were in a love triangle together; as Chacha 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 Chacha/ Leo and Kennickie were in a love triangle together; so were Sonny/Marty and Vince Fontane; so were Sandy/Danny and Tom Chisolm; so were Patty/Danny and Sandy.
Some reviewers compared this to another movie that came out about star crossed high school lovers. This one came out in 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 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.
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, Rosie admitted that she was channeling Stockard when she played the role on Broadway.
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.
Grease: You're the One That I Want! 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, was patterned after an original format created by Andrew Lloyd Webber for the BBC series How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, 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
The New York Times critic Vincent Canby liked the film. He said it was "...a contemporary fantasy about a 1950's 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."
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).
This movie inevitably gets compared to Saturday Night Fever; 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."
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.
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.
The title "Grease" refers to the Greasers that the show focuses on; specifically the T-Birds, Danny, Kennickie, 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 1, and the "Cool Riders" number in Grease 2). 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.
From trivia for Blazing Saddles: 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).
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 it's 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. "
The other big Hollywood adaptation of 1978, The Wiz, 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 singlehandedly killed the blaxploitation genre.
Travolta's characters in Saturday Night Fever 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 (Sandy, Stephanie) is the one who unlocks this potential.
Jeff Conaway played Kennickie in the movie as well as appearing in the Broadway production before starring as Bobby Wheeler in Taxi. 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. Ironically, six years after Grease wrapped, John Travolta and Marilu Henner would star in Perfect together.
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 US 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 "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 & 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 phoney 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.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The final musical scene, "You're the One That I Want" was filmed with the help of a traveling carnival. Randal Kleiser decided the next day that additional scenes were needed for close-ups. The carnival had left town, so set decorators were called in to build replica backgrounds that matched the carnival ride's construction for the close-ups.
In the decades following the film's release, a theory circulated that Sandy actually drowned at the beach, and the rest of the film is a near-death hallucination. Theorists claim the famous 'fly-away' ending is Sandy's ascent to heaven.
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 later nixed the idea. This idea grew out of Coach Calhoun's line "See you in summer school" to Putzie before he is hit with a pie in the carnival scene near the end.
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."
There's a scene in both Saturday Night Fever and Grease where the John Travolta character gets very romantically aggressive with his leading lady; leading to a confrontation and a temporary breakup in the relationship.