Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta made their names as huge stars as they danced and sang their way through the syrupy sweet tale of high school romance and intrigue.
Somehow, it worked. Grease wasn’t a saccharine pill for the masses, but instead, it touched people’s hearts and became the biggest movie of the year. Here are a few things you may not know about the movie …
12. Nearly No Sandy
Olivia Newton-John wasn’t at all convinced that she should take the role of Sandy when it was offered to her. She thought that when she’d taken the screen test, she’d simply looked too old to play a high school student. It’s a good thing she was wrong – Grease wouldn’t have been the same without her.
11. Nearly Elvis?
Elvis was originally lined up to be the “Guardian Angel” in the movie. However, it’s understood that the King of Rock music was not interested in joining the cast, and when he passed, the part was given to Frankie Avalon, who acquitted himself admirably. Elvis wasn’t missed on set.
10. (No) More Elvis
In a rather creepy coincidence, though, Elvis died during the period in which Grease was being filmed. He would have passed away around the time that “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” was being shot, a scene that included the line, “Elvis Elvis let me be, keep that pelvis far from me”.
9. Surging Surgery!
Anette Charles played the role of Cha Cha, and yet, she wasn’t very well at one point during filming. It was discovered she had an ectopic pregnancy, and she was rushed into hospital! Yet, she had recovered sufficiently later that day to take part in the infamous drag racing scene.
8. The Shot That They Wanted
The most iconic part of the film is the last sequence in which Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta go head-to-head in an incredible dance and sing-off sequence. Despite the complexity of filming this kind of scene, it was all done in a single afternoon. “You’re the one that I want.”
7. Dinah Don’t Dance
Not every cast member could boogie with the best of them, and if you watch Grease carefully, you’ll see that Marty, who was played by Dinah Manoff, never dances in any sequence in the movie. Apparently, she simply didn’t have the coordination needed for even simple dance moves.
6. Coked Up?
Grease was due to be endorsed by Coca-Cola, but some fine print in the contract meant that if shooting went too long, the endorsement would expire. So the final cut is heavily edited to remove any trace of a reference to Coke, which is shame for the company given the movie’s commercial success.
The producers wanted every single person who took part in Grease to feel like they had joined a big family. They felt it would give a more natural feel to shooting the movie. So even the background dancers were given proper names such as umm… Bubba and Moose. Not the greatest names, were they?
4. The Force Was Almost With Them
If Olivia-Newton John had passed on Sandy, it’s rumored that the late, great Carrie Fisher might have had the role instead. In fact, it’s said that the director dismissed her for having the wrong look for the part, and paved the way for Olivia to join the cast.
3. Dyeing For A Part
Grease is a movie all about personal style, so there’s no surprise that many actors and actresses were required to adopt a specific look for the movie. However, only Jamie Donnelly (who played Jan) was forced to dye her hair as she was going prematurely gray when filming started.
2. Not So Young
It may be a movie about teenagers falling in love, but you’d be surprised to learn that hardly a single teenager was found on the set of Grease. Most of the cast were considerably beyond their teens and into their twenties when filming began, and a couple of the stars were in their thirties!
1. Keeping It In The Family
Jeff Conaway, who played Kenickie in Grease, is reputed to have had a serious crush on Olivia Newton-John when she appeared alongside him. However, he missed out on Olivia, and ended up marrying her real-life sister instead. What a lovely way to keep things in the family, don’t you think?
Grease is, perhaps, the most successful musical of all time from a cinematic perspective. It dominated the box office in its year of release.
It spawned a less successful sequel (which would launch Michelle Pfeiffer’s career) and dozens of stage versions of the musical around the world.
The tunes from the film are known to nearly everyone of a certain age and they are played at parties, weddings, etc. everywhere around the world.
So, it’s not surprising that Grease has a few untold secrets until now. Movies that are this big are always going to leave a legacy worth exploring.