Synopsis of Movie

“Oh, that's cool, baby. You know how it is, rockin' an' rollin' an' what not.”

Based on the rock and roll Broadway musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, Grease was the anti-Happy Days. Both were 1970’s tributes to the 1950’s, but there were no apple-cheeked Richie Cunninghams, Potsies or Joanies at Rydell High. The Grease teens were crude, sex-crazed and rebellious. They drove fast cars, liked fast women (or men) and doused their pommades with handfuls of the title substance. Even Arthur Fonzarelli himself would have been ashamed of these juvenile delinquents.

At the center of Grease’s rock and roll firestorm were its two stars, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. The former was fresh off his superstar role in Saturday Night Fever, while the latter had been topping the pop charts across the globe. Together with a supporting cast that included real-life 50’s icons Eve Arden, Sid Caesar, Edd Byrnes and Frankie Valli (who performed the title tune), Travolta and Newton-John electrified the screen with singing, dancing and plenty of cocky strutting.

At the start of the film, Travolta’s Danny Zuko is already a hot commodity at Rydell High, the leader of a leather-clad gang known as the T-Birds. Newton-John plays Sandy Olsen, an Australian good girl who met and fell in love with Danny over the summer. When Sandy’s parents decide to stay in America, Sandy ends up at Rydell High with Danny. But now that he’s back around his T-Bird buddies Kenickie, Sonny and Doody, Danny has a reputation to maintain, and squeaky clean Sandy just doesn’t fit in.

While dealing with the heartbreak of rejection, Sandy ends up befriending mousy Frenchy, a member of the tough girls’ group The Pink Ladies. Sandy’s image doesn’t jibe with the Ladies (especially head Pink Lady Rizzo) any better than it does with Danny, but the new girl certainly knows how to cut a rug. Meanwhile, Danny is starting to overcome his cool guy image enough to chase his dream girl, but he still has to deal with a drag racing challenge from rival gang The Scorpions. After a series of misunderstandings, broken dates, and of course, plenty of high-spirited musical numbers, Danny and Sandy are forced to decide where their hearts truly belong.

Grease may have been a 180-degree turn from Happy Days, but it was no less successful. The movie was the biggest hit of 1978 and one of the highest-grossing films of the 70’s. Teens and kids packed screenings, memorizing lyrics and trying to cop the style of Danny and Sandy. The film’s soundtrack (which included three original songs in addition to the Broadway tunes) was another mammoth success, scoring hits with “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” “Grease,” “You’re the One That I Want,” “Greased Lightnin’,” “We Go Together” and more.

50’s nostalgia eventually cooled, but Grease’s shine never dulled, despite the disappointment of its 1982 sequel, Grease 2 (which featured neither Travolta nor Newton-John). Spurred on by a wave of 70’s nostalgia, Paramount re-released the film in 1998 to widespread success, proving that after more than 20 years, Grease is still the word.

Movie Release History

1978 - Grease
1982 - Grease 2

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