Grease (film)


Theatrical release poster
Directed by Randal Kleiser
Produced by Robert Stigwood
Allan Carr
Screenplay by Bronte Woodard
Allan Carr
Based on Grease
by Jim Jacobs
Warren Casey
Starring John Travolta
Olivia Newton-John
Stockard Channing
Jeff Conaway
Music by Michael Gibson (score)
Jim Jacobs
Warren Casey
John Farrar
Cinematography Bill Butler
Edited by John F. Burnett
Robert Pergament
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • June 16, 1978 (1978-06-16)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million[1]
Box office $395 million[1]

Grease is a 1978 American musical romantic comedy film directed by Randal Kleiser and produced by Paramount Pictures.[2] It is based on Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs' 1971 musical of the same name about two lovers in a 1950s high school. The film stars John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, and Jeff Conaway. It was successful both critically and at the box office. Its soundtrack album ended 1978 as the second-best selling album of the year in the United States, behind the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever'[3]

A sequel, Grease 2, was released in 1982, starring Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer. Only a few of the original cast members reprised their roles.


In the summer of 1958, local boy Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and vacationing Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) met at the beach and fell in love. When the summer comes to an end, Sandy who is going back to Australia frets that they may never meet again, but Danny tells her that their love is "only the beginning". The film moves to the start of the seniors' term at Rydell High School ("Grease"). Danny, a greaser, is a member of the T-Birds, consisting of his best friend Kenickie (Jeff Conaway), Doody (Barry Pearl), Sonny (Michael Tucci), and Putzie (Kelly Ward). The Pink Ladies, a popular clique of girls, also arrive, consisting of Rizzo (Stockard Channing), Frenchy (Didi Conn), Marty (Dinah Manoff), and Jan (Jamie Donnelly).

After her parents decide not to return to Australia, Sandy enrolls at Rydell and is befriended by Frenchy, who considers dropping out of school to become a beautician. Unaware of each other's presence at Rydell, Danny and Sandy tell their respective groups the accounts of events during the pair's brief romance, without initially mentioning the other's name. Sandy's version emphasizes the romance of the affair, while Danny's version is more sexual (and therefore presumably less honest) ("Summer Nights").

When Sandy finally says Danny's name, Rizzo arranges a surprise reunion for the two, but Danny is forced to maintain his bad-boy attitude in front of his pals, upsetting Sandy, who storms off. Frenchy invites the girls to a pajama party, but Sandy falls ill from trying a cigarette, drinking and getting her ears pierced by Frenchy. As she recovers in the bathroom, Rizzo makes fun of her innocence and virtuous nature ("Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee"). The T-Birds almost crash the party in Kenickie's Greased Lightning car, but a guilty Danny leaves, followed by Rizzo, who departs to make out with Kenickie, who later becomes her boyfriend. Sandy laments over her feelings towards Danny, despite his earlier behaviour ("Hopelessly Devoted").

The two are disturbed by Leo (Dennis C. Stewart), leader of the T-Birds' rival gang, the Scorpions, and his girlfriend Cha-Cha (Annette Charles), leading to a planned car race between Leo and Kenickie. Kenickie purchases an old second-hand car and the group repair it and give it a paint job ("Greased Lightnin'"). In an attempt to impress Sandy, Danny turns to Coach Calhoun (Sid Caesar) to get into sports, eventually becoming a runner. He reunites with Sandy and they attempt to go on a date, but their friends crash it, resulting in Kenickie and Rizzo arguing and parting. Left alone, Frenchy is visited by a guardian angel (Frankie Avalon) who advises her to return to school after a mishap in beauty class leaves her with bubblegum-pink hair ("Beauty School Dropout").

The school dance arrives, broadcast live on television and hosted by DJ Vince Fontaine, (Edd Byrnes) who flirts with Marty. Rizzo and Kenickie attempt to spite one another by bringing Leo and Cha-Cha as their dates, while Danny and Sandy arrive together. They dance well and are expected to win, but just before the winners are announced they are separated by Sonny, and Danny and Cha-Cha (who were once boyfriend and girlfriend) end up performing together and winning ("Born to Hand Jive").

Danny tries to make it up to Sandy by taking her to a drive-in theater but makes a clumsy pass at her, causing Sandy to angrily depart, leaving Danny distraught ("Sandy"). Meanwhile, Rizzo fears she is pregnant after missing a period and confides in Marty, but Marty tells Sonny and he inadvertently spreads the rumor to Kenickie, the apparent father, though Rizzo denies this to him. Kenickie does the honorable thing and offers to marry Rizzo, but she dislikes the way he proposed and emphatically declines. Rizzo laments on her reputation and how it has affected her personal life ("There Are Worse Things I Could Do").

The race arrives, but Kenickie is knocked out by his own car door thanks to the careless behavior of his friend Putzie, so Danny takes up the challenge. He and Leo race until Leo crashes and leaves humiliated, with Danny as the victor. Sandy watches from afar, concluding she still loves Danny, and decides to change her attitude and look to impress him she then asks Frenchy for help to achieve this goal ("Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee (Reprise)"). On the last day of school, while Principal McGee (Eve Arden) and her assistant Blanche (Dody Goodman) sob about the departing class, the class celebrates their graduation at the fair on the school grounds.

Rizzo discovers she is not pregnant after all and reunites with Kenickie. He proposes to her again, and this time she accepts. Danny has become a jock, but is shocked when Sandy arrives with a new hairstyle, dressed in black leather, and smoking a cigarette (although she still looks over at Frenchy to check what to do when Danny notices her). In song, the two admit they love each other and reunite ("You're the One That I Want").

The film ends with Danny and Sandy departing in the fantasy version of Greased Lightning together, which takes flight, and the pair wave goodbye to their friends ("We Go Together"). The film ends with credits in the style of a yearbook.


Principal cast

School staff/others



Singer Olivia Newton-John, cast at Travolta's urging,[4] had done little acting before this film. She appeared in the 1970 film Toomorrow, a science fiction musical that pre-dated her initial chart success with 1971's "If Not for You". Cast with Newton-John and three male leads in an attempt by Don Kirshner to create another Monkees, the film was never released commercially. This led Newton-John to demand a screen test for Grease to avoid another career setback. The screen test was done with the drive-in movie scene. Newton-John, who is native to Australia, was unable to perform with a convincing American accent, and thus her character was rewritten to be Australian.

Henry Winkler was once considered for a lead in the film. Winkler, who was playing Fonzie on Happy Days, was originally chosen to play Danny, but having twice already played similarly leather-clad 1950s hoods in 1974's The Lords of Flatbush as well as Happy Days, turned down the role for fear of being typecast. Adult film star Harry Reems was originally signed to play Coach Calhoun;[5] however, executives at Paramount nixed the idea due to Reems' previous work in adult films,[6] and producers cast Sid Caesar instead. Caesar was one of several veterans of 1950s television (Eve Arden, Frankie Avalon, Joan Blondell, Edd Byrnes, Alice Ghostley, Dody Goodman) to be cast in supporting roles.

Randal Kleiser directed John Travolta (who requested him for Grease)[7] and Kelly Ward in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble two years prior to Grease. Additionally, he had previously worked (as an extra) alongside Frankie Avalon in 1966's Fireball 500.

Filming locations

The car race in the film took place at the Los Angeles River.

The opening beach scene was shot at Malibu's Leo Carrillo State Beach, making explicit reference to From Here to Eternity. The exterior Rydell scenes, including the basketball, baseball and track segments, were shot at Venice High School in Venice, California, while the Rydell interiors, including the high school dance, were filmed at Huntington Park High School. The sleepover was shot at a private house in East Hollywood. The Paramount Pictures studio lot was the location of the scenes that involve Frosty Palace and the musical numbers "Greased Lightning" and "Beauty School Dropout". The drive-in movie scenes were shot at the Burbank Pickwick Drive-In (it was closed and torn down in 1989 and a shopping center took its place). The race was filmed at the Los Angeles River, between the First and Seventh Street Bridges, where many other films have been shot.[8] The final scene where the carnival took place used John Marshall High School.[9] And due to budget cuts a short scene was filmed at Hazard Park (Los Angeles, California)


Scenes inside the Frosty Palace contain obvious blurring of various Coca-Cola signs.[10] Prior to the film's release, the producer Allan Carr had made a product-placement deal with Coca-Cola's main competitor Pepsi (for example, a Pepsi logo can be seen in the animated opening sequence). When Carr saw the footage of the scene with Coca-Cola products and signage, he ordered director Randal Kleiser to either reshoot the scene with Pepsi products or remove the Coca-Cola logos from the scene. As reshoots were deemed too expensive and time-consuming, optical mattes were used to cover up or blur out the Coca-Cola references. The 'blurring' covered up trademarked menu signage and a large wall poster, but a red cooler with the logo could not be sufficiently altered so was left unchanged. According to Kleiser, "We just had to hope that Pepsi wouldn't complain. They didn't."[11][12]

In the 2010 sing-along version (see below), the blurred Coke poster has been digitally removed. In its place is more of the wavy wall design that surrounded it.

John Wilson did the animated title sequence for the start of the film.

Release and reception

Grease was originally released to theaters on June 16, 1978. It premiered for the first time on American Television in 1981 on ABC-TV. It was released in the US on VHS during the 1980s; the last VHS release was on June 23, 1998 and titled the 20th Anniversary Edition following a theatrical re-release that March. On September 24, 2002, it was released on DVD for the first time. On September 19, 2006, it was re-released on DVD as the Rockin' Rydell Edition, which came with a black Rydell High T-Bird jacket cover, a white Rydell "R" letterman's sweater cover or the Target-exclusive Pink Ladies cover. It was released on Blu-ray Disc on May 5, 2009.

Box office

Commercially, Grease was an immediate box office success. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $8,941,717 in 862 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking at No. 2 (behind Jaws 2) at the box office.[13] Grease has grossed $188,755,690 domestically and $206,200,000 internationally, totaling $394,955,690 worldwide. In the United States, it is the No. 1 highest-grossing musical, to date.[14]

Critical reception

Grease received mostly positive reviews from movie critics[15] and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1978.[16][17][18][19] It currently holds an 80% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes with a consensus that reads "Grease is a pleasing, energetic musical with infectiously catchy songs and an ode to young love that never gets old."[20] It holds a score of 70/100 on a similar website Metacritic.[15]

Vincent Canby called the film "terrific fun", describing it as a "contemporary fantasy about a 1950s teen-age musicala larger, funnier, wittier and more imaginative-than-Hollywood movie with a life that is all its own"; Canby pointed out that the film was "somewhat in the manner of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which recalls the science-fiction films of the '50s in a manner more elegant and more benign than anything that was ever made then, Grease is a multimillion-dollar evocation of the B-picture quickies that Sam Katzman used to turn out in the '50s (Don't Knock the Rock, 1956) and that American International carried to the sea in the 1960s (Beach Party, 1963)."[21]

Grease was voted the best musical ever on Channel 4's 100 greatest musicals.[22] In 2008, the film was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[23]

Grease was re-released to theaters in 1998 to mark the 20th anniversary; this re-release contained (before and after the mastering) the old Viacom variation of the 1986 logo with the fanfare used on Black Rain, Wayne's World, The Accused, Pet Sematary, and Fatal Attraction; in turn this is similar to how the original master began with its original theme (accompanied with 1975 logo), which seems to be a horn re-orchestration of the intro to "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing". That version is shown on TV to this day, however a few select Viacom networks run the original master instead. The film was also ranked number 21 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.[24][25]


Year Nominee/work Award Result
1978 Grease Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
John Travolta Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated
Olivia Newton-John Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated
"Grease" Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song Nominated
"You're the One That I Want" Nominated
1979 CIC Golden Screen Award Won
Stockard Channing People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Supporting Actress Won
Grease People's Choice Award for Favorite Musical Motion Picture Won
Grease People's Choice Award for Favorite Overall Motion Picture Won
"Hopelessly Devoted to You" Academy Award for Best Original Song Nominated
2006 Grease Satellite Award for Best Classic DVD Nominated
2008 "You're the One That I Want" TV Land Award for Movie Dance Sequence You Reenacted in Your Living Room Nominated

American Film Institute Recognition

American Film Institute Lists

Sequels and spin-offs

Grease 2 (1982) was a sequel to Grease starring Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer. As mentioned, only a few cast members from the original movie such as Dody Goodman, Sid Caesar, Eddie Deezen, Didi Conn, Dennis Stewart and Eve Arden reprise their respective roles. Dick Patterson returned, playing a different character. It was not nearly as successful, grossing just $15 million on its $13 million budget. Patricia Birch, the original movie's choreographer, directed 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 three sequels planned and a TV series down the road. When Grease 2 flopped at the box office, all the plans were scrapped.[26]

On July 8, 2010, a sing-along version of Grease was released to select theaters around the U.S.[27] A trailer was released in May 2010 with cigarettes digitally removed from certain scenes, implying heavy editing; however, Paramount confirmed these changes were done only for the film's advertising,[28] and the rating for the film itself changed from its original PG to that of PG-13 for "sexual content including references, teen smoking and drinking, and language."[29] The movie was shown for two weekends only; additional cities lobbied by fans from the Paramount official website started a week later and screened for one weekend.[30]

On March 12, 2013, Grease and Grease 2 were packaged together in a Double Feature DVD set from Warner Home Video.


The soundtrack album ended 1978 as the second-best selling album of the year in the United States, exceeded only by another soundtrack album, from the film Saturday Night Fever, which also starred Travolta.[3] The song "Hopelessly Devoted to You" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music—Original Song. The song "You're the One That I Want" was released as a single prior to the film's release and became an immediate chart-topper, despite not being in the stage show or having been seen in the film at that time.[31] Additionally, the dance number to "You're the One That I Want" was nominated for TV Land's award for "Movie Dance Sequence You Reenacted in Your Living Room" in 2008.[32] In the United Kingdom, the two Travolta/Newton-John duets, "You're the One That I Want" and "Summer Nights", were both number one hits and as of 2011 are still among the 20 best-selling singles of all time (at Nos. 6 and 19 respectively).[33] The movie's title song was also a number-one hit single for Frankie Valli.[34]

The song "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" references Sal Mineo in the original stage version. Mineo was stabbed to death a year before filming, so the line was changed to refer to Elvis Presley instead. The Troy Donahue reference is in the original stage version. Coincidentally, this scene, and the scene before and after that were filmed on August 16, 1977, the date of Elvis Presley's death.[35]

Some of the songs were not present in the film; songs that appear in the film but not in the soundtrack are "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens, "Whole Lotta Shaking Going On" by Jerry Lee Lewis, "Alma Mater", "Alma Mater Parody", and "Rydell Fight Song". "Alone at a Drive-in Movie (instrumental)", "Mooning", and "Freddy My Love" are not present in the film, although all three are listed in the end credits in-addition to being on the soundtrack.

The songs appear in the film in the following order:

  1. "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing"
  2. "Grease"
  3. "Alma Mater"
  4. "Summer Nights" – Danny, Sandy, Pink Ladies and T-Birds
  5. "Rydell Fight Song" – Rydell Marching Band
  6. "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" – Rizzo and Pink Ladies
  7. "Alma Mater Parody" – T-Birds
  8. "Hopelessly Devoted to You" – Sandy
  9. "Greased Lightnin'" – Danny and T-Birds
  10. "La Bamba"
  11. "It's Raining on Prom Night"
  12. "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"
  13. "Beauty School Dropout" – Teen Angel and Female Angels
  14. "Rock n' Roll Party Queen"
  15. "Rock n' Roll is Here to Stay" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
  16. "Those Magic Changes" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers; Danny sings along onscreen
  17. "Tears on My Pillow" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
  18. "Hound Dog" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
  19. "Born to Hand Jive" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
  20. "Blue Moon" – Johnny Casino and the Gamblers
  21. "Sandy" – Danny
  22. "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" – Rizzo
  23. "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee (Reprise)" – Sandy
  24. "You're the One That I Want" – Danny, Sandy, Pink Ladies, and T-Birds
  25. "We Go Together" – Cast
  26. "Grease (Reprise)"


On August 17, 2009, a television series inspired by the film premiered in Venezuela. The series was produced and directed by Vladimir Perez. The show will explore and expand on the characters and story from the film.[36][37]


  1. 1 2 Grease at Box Office Mojo
  2. "Grease movie soundtrack earns its second #1 hit — This Day in History — 8/26/1978". Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  3. 1 2 "Year End Charts—Year-end Albums—The Billboard 200". Archived from the original on 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  4. Travolta, John. "Inside the Actor's Studio".
  5. Hofler, Robert (2010). Party Animals: A Hollywood Tale of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Starring the Fabulous Allan Carr. Da Capo Press. p. 66. ISBN 0-306-81655-5.
  6. Hofler, Robert (2010). Party Animals: A Hollywood Tale of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Starring the Fabulous Allan Carr. Da Capo Press. p. 67. ISBN 0-306-81655-5.
  7. Travolta, John. "Inside the Actor's Studio".
  8. "Film locations for Grease (1978)". Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  9. "Grease Filming Locations – part 1". Retrieved 2011-10-09.
  10. "Grease". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  11. "Stupid Question". 2000-10-26. Archived from the original on 2007-11-30. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  12. "DVD Savant: GREASE and the Curse of Product Placement". 1998-08-18. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  13. Week June 16-18, 1978
  14. "Musical Movies at the Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  15. 1 2 "Grease Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  16. "Greatest Films of 1978". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  17. "The 10 Best Movies of 1978". 2007-06-01. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  18. "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1978". IMDb. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  19. "The Best Movies of 1978 by Rank". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  20. "Grease". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-02-01.
  21. Vincent Canby (June 16, 1978). "A Slick Version of 'Grease': Fantasy of the 50's". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  22. "100 Greatest Musicals: Channel 4 Film". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  23. "Empire Features". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  24. "Entertainment Weekly's The 50 Best High School Movies". AMC Retrieved July 27, 2010.
  25. "Entertainment Weekly's 50 Best High School Movies (25-1)". Retrieved July 27, 2010.
  26. "IMDb Trivia". Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  27. "Wanna Sing-A-Long with Grease? With Lyrics?!?". 2010-05-21. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  28. "'Grease Sing-A-Long' trailer cuts cigarette from iconic scene: Smoking was not removed from the film itself,, 04 June 2010.
  29. "Grease Sing-A-Long—Trailers, Videos, and Reviews Movie Database". 2010-07-08. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  30. "Grease Sing-A-Long (2010) | Trailer & Official Movie Site". Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  31. VH1's "Behind the Music: Grease"
  33. BBC Radio Top selling singles of all time
  34. "Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  35. Getlen, Larry (2010-07-04). "Tales of Ancient 'Grease'". New York Post. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  36. "Venevisión estrena 'Somos tú y yo, un nuevo día, inspirada en Grease'".
  37. "De regreso a los años 50 con el musical 'Grease'".

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