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10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Grease the Movie

There's so much more to this iconic musical than catchy songs

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John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are hosting singalong screenings of Grease in December in Florida. Publicity photo

Grease is still the word – at least in Florida. Actors John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John recently announced they’ll host meet-and-greet singalongs to their popular movie on select dates in the Sunshine State.

The dates are Dec. 13th in West Palm Beach, Dec. 14 in Tampa and Dec. 15 in Jacksonville. Could more singalongs be staged around the country? We’re certainly hopelessly devoted to that idea.

While many die-hard fans might know the lyrics to the musical’s popular songs, how well do they know the movie itself? Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the film Grease.

Where It Started

Maybe fans know that Grease began its life as a musical on stage, but it didn’t get its start on Broadway. According to Broadway World, the original production debuted in Chicago in 1971. This version of the musical was “rough, aggressive and purposely vulgar,” the magazine reports, unlike the film version we all love today.

Broadway

The production moved to Broadway in New York City in 1972. Barry Bostick – best known as “Brad” in The Rocky Horror Picture Show – starred as Danny while Carole Demas (Geneviève in The Baker’s Wife) played Sandy.

In the stage version, Sandy was an all-American girl with the last name Dumbrowski. When Olivia Newton-John was cast in the film version, her character was renamed Sandy Olsson and she became an Aussie.

Inspiration

Elvis in Blue Hawaii

Elvis as Danny Zuko? It almost happened. Publicity photo

When producer Allan Carr bought the rights to Grease, he first thought of Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret to play the lead roles. (Elvis was also considered for the role of the teen angel that ultimately went to Frankie Avalon.) John Travolta had an inside edge getting the role of Danny because he had acted in the stage version in different roles. As for Olivia Newton-John, her singing career caught Hollywood’s attention. In the ’70s, she had a string of No. 5 hits including Please Mr. Please, I Honestly Love You and Have You Never Been Mellow.

The Original Plan

Grease 2

Michelle Pfeiffer, right, starred in Grease 2 – which jumpstarted her movie career but killed the Grease franchise. Publicity photo

Grease was supposed to have three movie sequels but that plan was scrapped after Grease 2 opened in 1982 to scathing reviews. (Famed film critic Roger Ebert wrote: “…this movie just recycles Grease, without the stars, without the energy, without the freshness and without the grease.”)

In all fairness to Grease 2, it opened the same day in 1982 as ET: The Extra-Terrestrial. Other summer blockbusters such as Rocky III and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan were also still playing in theaters.

Movie Casting

Henry Winkler, who was playing The Fonz on TV’s Happy Days, was considered for the role of Danny Zuko but reportedly declined because he didn’t want to be typecast. (Ironically – or maybe appropriately – Winkler and Travolta have been spotted hanging out together at comic cons this summer.)

The Music

The cast of Grease

The cast of Grease sings We Go Together, a tune that appears toward the climax of the movie. Publicity photo

Three songs were exclusively written for the movie version: the title track by Frankie Valli, Hopelessly Devoted to You by Newton-John and You’re The One That I Want sung by the cast.

Hopelessly Devoted To You was actually written after the movie production was complete. Olivia Newton-John returned to the set to record the scene of her singing it.

Age

Most of the main characters in the movie were well beyond their teen years when filming began. Stockard Channing was 33, Olivia Newton-John was 28 and John Travolta was 23.

Angel Face

Ever wonder what the angel in the malt shop scene meant when he advises Frenchy to “wipe off that Angel Face and go back to high school?” Angel Face was a popular brand of makeup during the ’50s.

Sandra Dee

Grease sings Sandra Dee

The Pink Ladies sing about Sandra Dee … but that’s not Sandy’s name. Publicity photo

Likewise, Sandy’s last name isn’t Dee so why do the Pink Ladies mock her in the song Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee? That’s a reference to actress Sandra Dee, who starred in the movie Imitation of Life, which was released in 1959 (the same year Grease is set in.) Quite an imitation of life, isn’t it?

An Alternate Ending?

The flying car at the end of Grease

A fan theory has an interesting take on the “flying car” ending of Grease. Publicity photo

In recent years, a fan theory on Reddit emerged that Sandy actually dies in the beginning of the film – when Danny fails to save her from drowning at the beach – and the rest of the movie is actually a “coma fantasy” that she experiences during her final moments of life before ascending to heaven in the flying car at the film’s conclusion. Olivia Newton-John addressed that theory in a 2016 interview. “I thought it was hilarious!” the actress said. “But I thought, if that’s true, we were the first zombie musical! I think we look pretty good considering.”

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