Grease (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lewis
Produced by Cam & Robert Stigwood
Written by Bronte Woodard (screenplay)
Allan Carr (adaptation)
(based on the musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey)
Starring John Travolta
Olivia Newton-John
Stockard Channing
Jeff Conaway
Didi Conn
Music by John Farrar
Barry Gibb
Louis St. Louis & others
Cinematography Bill Butler
Editing by John F. Burnett
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) June 16, 1978 (original release)
November 19, 1989 (theatrical release)
March 27, 1998 (re-release)
Running time 110 minutes
Country Flag of United States United States
Language English
Budget USD $6,000,000 (estimated)
Followed by Grease 2
Official website
All Movie Guide profile
IMDb profile

Grease ( 1978) is a film directed by Randal Kleiser and based on Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's musical, Grease. The film stars John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Jeff Conaway and Stockard Channing. It was originally released to theatres in the U.S. on June 16, 1978. It was released in the U.S. on VHS during the 1980s; the latest VHS release was June 23, 1998 as 20th Anniversary Edition. On September 24, 2002, it was released on DVD for the first time. On September 19, 2006, it was re-released on DVD as the Rockin' Rydell Edition, which includes a black Rydell High T-Bird jacket cover or the Target exclusive Pink Ladies jacket.

In 2006, Grease was ranked #20 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals. (Source: "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals")

Tagline: Grease is the word
Tagline: Grease is still the word. (1998 re-release)

Film Synopsis

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Before the title credits of the film, we see Danny and Sandy on vacation on the beach. As the summer holidays draw to a close, it looks like Danny and Sandy may never see each other again, as Sandy is returning to Australia. After the title credits, we see the students returning to Rydell High School. We are introduced to two gangs, the T-Birds, of whom Danny is the leader, and the Pink Ladies. We learn that Sandy has been transferred to Rydell, where Frenchy, one of the Pink Ladies, has befriended her, and introduces her to the rest of the gang. In the cafeteria, the T-Birds beg Danny to tell them about his summer romance, while the Pink Ladies beg Sandy to tell them about hers. The song "Summer Nights", sees Danny and Sandy telling their stories- it soon becomes clear that Danny is exaggerating - though neither is aware of the other's presence at the school.

Sandy joins the cheerleaders, and at the school pep rally, the Pink Ladies surprise Danny by reuniting him with Sandy. But Danny appears to be more interested in his image than in his relationship with Sandy now, and his odd behaviour towards her results in her storming off in tears. Frenchy cheers Sandy up by inviting her to a pyjama party at her house, but once she is there, things start to go wrong. She is persuaded to try a cigarette, and a "desert wine", and Frenchy finally offers to pierce her ears- all these have disastrous consequences. When Sandy is sick, Rizzo makes fun of her goody-two-shoes image, and even Frenchy joins in. The T-Birds turn up outside Frenchy's house. Rizzo leaves the party, and goes off with Kenickie, dumping the other T-Birds, who go for a slice of pizza. Marty decides to write to one of her many pen pals. Meanwhile, Sandy asks Marty for a sheet of paper to write a letter. She instead go outside and sing "Hopelessly Devoted to You". After that, the scene forwards to Kenickie and Rizzo in the back of his car. She and Kenickie's passionate making out is interrupted by Leo, the leader of the T-Birds' rival gang, the Scorpions, who damages Kenickie's car.

Whilst at work on repairing the car, the gang fantasize about turning it into "Greased Lightnin'", a top racing car- during the song, we see a fantasy sequence of the car after it has been repaired and painted. Soon afterwards, in the "Frosty Palace", where the T-Birds and Pink Ladies frequently hang out, Danny sees Sandy sharing a soda with one of Rydell High's jocks, Tom Chisum. When Sandy goes to choose a song on the jukebox, Danny attempts to apologize for his behaviour at the pep rally, but Sandy rebuffs him. Undaunted, Danny decides to become a jock himself, believing that he can do better than Chisum. However, he fails miserably at basketball, wrestling and baseball. He finally finds his ideal sport in track, but is distracted by the sight of Sandy and Tom. When he falls over, Sandy rushes to see if he is alright, and they are finally reconciled. They go on a date at the "Frosty Palace", but it goes wrong when the whole gang join them. Rizzo and Kenickie have been fighting, and finally break up violently, when Rizzo lobs her strawberry milkshake at Kenickie.

The school dance is an important occasion at Rydell High School- it is being videoed for the "National Bandstand" television show. Danny and Sandy go to the dance together, but Rizzo goes with Leo, leader of the Scorpions, and Kenickie goes with Leo's girlfriend, Cha Cha. Vince Fontaine, a famous D.J., whom all the girls at the dance seem to fancy, is judging the dance, and he seems especially friendly towards Marty. Danny and Sandy are the final couple on the dancefloor, but Cha Cha, who turns out to be one of Danny's former girlfriends, separates them, and Danny wins the dance with her instead. Sandy is upset, but she and Danny are reconciled at a drive-in movie. Danny gives Sandy his ring, but attempts to take advantage of her, and she leaves, furious. Meanwhile, Rizzo is the talk of the drive-in when she reveals to Marty that she has missed her period.

Meanwhile, Greased Lightnin' has had a thourough make-over, and is ready for the Thunder Road races. Kenickie asks Danny to be his second, and the whole gang turns up for the race, except Rizzo. Kenickie bangs his head on the car door when he bends down to pick up a penny, which Marty has given him for good luck (which turns out to be bad luck!), which means that Danny has to drive for him. He wins the race against Leo.

Finally, at Rydell High's graduation carnival, it is revealed that Sandy has reinvented herself to please Danny, much as he has for her. The two, ultimately happy, drive off amidst singing and dancing.

Differences from stage play

The original stage play had more sexual references than the MPAA would allow under a PG rating. In the original stage play, there was references to using plastic wrap as a condom, which had to be removed. To overcome the censors, there were not any blatant references to this, but Danny briefly rubs plastic wrap over his crotch during "Greased Lightning".

Several musical numbers were not used in the film. They appear, however, as jukebox tunes, or band numbers at the high school dance. Among them: "Freddy, My Love", "Those Magic Changes", and "It's Raining on Prom Night" all of which were performed by characters in the stage musical (however, Danny does sing along with the band for a few lines of "Those Magic Changes"; on Broadway, the character Doody sang the song). "Grease 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. Also, one of the characters in the stage play, Roger, is named Putzie in the movie version.

Olivia Newton-John's producer John Farrar wrote two new songs for the movie version: "Hopelessly Devoted To You" and "You're The One That I Want", while Bee Gees lead singer Barry Gibb wrote "Grease".

In the musical, Sandy is American and her last name is Dumbrowski. Since Newton-John couldn't affect an American accent, her character was changed to an Australian transfer student and her last name was changed to Olsson.

In the musical, the boys' gang is called the Burger Palace Boys. In the movie, the name was changed to the T-Birds (a reference to The Beach Boys song Fun, Fun, Fun). Also, their rivals on stage were called the Flaming Dukes. In the movie it was changed to The Scorpions. The movie also featured the leader of the rival group throughout the movie and during the race as Thunder Road, the entire group is revealed.



Singer Olivia Newton-John had done little acting before this film, and was terrified of the idea of playing a lead role in a film musical.She even asked for a screen test which was very uncommon for an actor or actress to suggest.

Two actors who were seen for the film were Henry Winkler and Marie Osmond. Winkler, who was playing Fonzie on Happy Days ( 1974), was originally chosen to play Danny but didn't for fear of being typecast. Osmond turned down the role of Sandy because she didn't like the fact that Sandy had to "turn bad" to get the boy. Adult film star Harry Reems was originally signed to play Coach Calhoun. Producers got cold feet weeks before filming and replaced him with Sid Caesar.

Dinah Manoff passed her audition without being given a singing or dancing tryout. Her skills in those areas proved limited, so she was moved into the background during the song numbers.

Technical data

Filmed in Panavision / Colour by Metrocolor / Dolby System / 110min 24 sec / CinemaScope / Made in Hollywood


  • Danny's blue windbreaker at the beginning of the film was intended as a nod to Rebel Without a Cause ( 1955).
  • Because of a zipper breaking, Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into the pants she wears in the last sequence (the carnival at Rydell), and she couldn't get the pants off for 36 hours.


  • In November of 2002 Camille Paglia asserted in an Interview magazine interview with Donna Mills that the character of Sandy in Grease was based on Mills' experiences as a Chicago-area teen, even though no interview questions covered the subject.
  • Randal Kleiser hated the opening title song, "Grease" (he thought that the cynical lyrics and disco beat were inappropriate for a film set in the 1950s) and the song " You're The One That I Want" saying it "sounded awful".


Although Travolta was already famous from the movie Saturday Night Fever, Grease reconfirmed his status as a superstar. Newton-John's fame also reached new heights after the movie released. The movie received five Golden Globe Award nominations in 1979.

The movie's soundtrack was a number one album in many different countries. The song "You're The One That I Want" was released as a single prior to the film's release and became an immediate chart topper, despite not being in the stage show or having been seen in the film at that time.In the United Kingdom, the two Travolta/Newton-John duets, "You're The One That I Want" and "Summer Nights" were both number one hits and appear 6th and 21st respectively in the official all-time UK best-selling singles list issued in 2002. The song "Hopelessly Devoted to You" was nominated for an Academy Award (1979) for Best Music - Original Song. The movie's title song was also a number one smash hit single for Frankie Valli.

Grease spawned a sequel, Grease 2 ( 1982) (with the only cast members from the original movie being Coach Calhoun, Eugene, Frenchy, the Scorpion's gang leader, and Miss McGee) that was much less successful. Patricia Birch, the original movie's choreographer, would go on to direct the ill-fated sequel. It would be the only movie that she would direct. After the success of the original, Paramount intended to turn Grease into a multi-picture franchise with at least three sequels planned and a TV series in the pipeline. When Grease 2 flopped at the box office, all the plans were scrapped.

This movie was rereleased to theaters in 1998 to mark the 20th anniversary. It also ranked number 21 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies

Soundtrack album details

  • The song "Look at Me I'm Sandra Dee" references Sal Mineo in the original stage version. Mineo was murdered a year before filming, so the line was changed to refer to Elvis instead. The Troy Donahue reference is in the original stage version.

(The song order on the soundtrack album does not match the order in the movie. The number in brackets below indicates the order from the movie. Some of the songs were not present in the movie.)

  1. Grease — Frankie Valli (3:23) (a)
  2. Summer Nights Summer Loving — John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John & Cast (3:36) (b) (d)
  3. Hopelessly Devoted to You — Olivia Newton-John (3:00) (c) (e)
  4. You're The One That I Want — John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (2:47) (c) (e)
  5. Sandy (Music by Louis St. Louis, Lyrics by Scott J. Simon) — John Travolta (2:30) (e)
  6. Beauty School Dropout — Frankie Avalon (4:02) (b) (e)
  7. Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee — Stockard Channing (1:38) (b) (e)
  8. Greased Lightnin’ — John Travolta/Jeff Conaway (3:12) (b) (e)
  9. It’s Raining on Prom Night — Cindy Bullens (2:57) (b) (e)
  10. [??] Alone at the Drive-In Movie (instrumental, see below for details) (2:22) (b) (d) (w)
  11. Blue Moon (Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart) — Sha Na Na (4:02) (e)
  12. Rock n' Roll is Here To Stay (D. White) — Sha Na Na (2:00) (e)
  13. Those Magic Changes — Sha Na Na (2:15) (b) (e)
  14. Hound Dog (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) — Sha Na Na (1:23) (e)
  15. Born To Hand Jive — Sha Na Na (4:39) (b) (e)
  16. Tears On My Pillow (S. Bradford and A. Lewis) — Sha Na Na (2:06) (d)
  17. [??] Mooning — Louis St. Louis and Cindy Bullens (2:12) (b) (e)
  18. [??] Freddy, My Love — Cindy Bullens (2:40) (b) (e)
  19. Rock n' Roll Party Queen — Louis St. Louis (2:08) (b) (e)
  20. There are Worse Things I Could Do — Stockard Channing (2:18) (b) (e) (w)
  21. Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee (Reprise) — Olivia Newton-John (1:20) (b) (d)
  22. We Go Together — John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John & Cast (3:14) (b) (e)
  23. Love Is A Many Splendored Thing (Sammy Fain and Francis Webster) (instrumental, see below for details) (2:22) (b) (e)
  24. [??] Grease (Reprise) — Frankie Valli (3:23) (a)


  • While the stage musical script was being adapted for the movie, Paramount Pictures toyed with the idea that Danny Zuko should be killed at the end of the "Thunder Road" scene.
  • In 1996, Ska Punk band Less Than Jake recorded an album of the film's hit songs, entitled Greased. A lawsuit brought by Paramount and RSO Records halted the sale of the album in 1997.
  • The Goodies parodied the film in their Saturday Night Grease episode.
  • In the critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, an Emmy award-winning episode, Robin's Reckoning, features a gangster who goes by the name of Tony Zucco. The character pays homage to Travolta by having the same name as Danny Zuko and by having a similar voice to that of Travolta's.
  • The slang term "John Travolta in a box" has arisen in Western Canada for really greasy take-out pizza.

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