If I had to estimate how many times I’ve seen Grease, I reckon it’d be on the higher end of the hundreds. It’s one of those movies, kinda like Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman and Ghost, that you can come back to time and time again for a bit of mindless pleasure. And this year marks a special birthday for Sandy, Danny and the rest of the gang from Rydell High, because everyone’s fave musical has just turned 40. FORTY YEARS since we first crushed on the T-Birds, wanted to be Pink Ladies, and learnt all the moves to the Hand Jive.
Because we didn’t have time to put on a birthday party, we thought we’d do the next best thing and share some cool facts from the movie – most of which we never knew. It’s the stuff every Grease fan needs to know and it’ll make you want to go back and watch it all over again with fresh eyes.
– Grease debuted on Broadway as a musical in 1971 before it was adapted for the big screen, premiering for us Aussies on August 3, 1978.
– NONE of the cast were high school-aged. The youngest cast members were Pink Lady Marty Maraschino (Dinah Manoff) and Sandy’s jock BF, Tim (Lorenzo Lamas), who were both 19. Olivia Newton John (ONJ) was 29, John Travolta was 23, Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) was 26, ‘Crater Face’ was 30 and the oldest cast member was Rizzo (Stockard Channing) who was 33 at the time of filming. This was pre-Botox, so I reckon they all looked pretty amaze.
– The first choice for Danny Zuko was actually The Fonz, Henry Winkler, who turned down the role because it was too close to his character on Happy Days.
– Marie Osmond, Linda Ronstadt and Carrie Fisher were all scouted to play the character of Sandy.
– John Travolta pushed for Olivia Newton-John to be considered for the part of Sandy. In 2016 he told Vanity Fair, “She had a brilliant voice, and I didn’t think there could be any more correct person for Sandy in the universe. I insisted that she be met and that we cast her.”
– Elvis Presley was originally offered the part of the Frenchie’s guardian angel in the ‘Beauty School Drop Out’ scene, but didn’t accept, so it went to Frankie Avalon.
– The slumber party scene, where Rizzo sings, Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee with the lines – “Elvis! Elvis! Let me be. Keep that pelvis far from me” was actually shot on August 16, 1977 – the same day Elvis Presley died.
– The ‘hickey from Kenickie’ that Rizzo showed off on her neck in the diner was legit given to her from Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) before shooting the scene. He was going for authenticity apparently.
– The Glad Wrap the guys threw around in the Greased Lightening musical scene in the garage was a reference to condoms.
– Jeff Conaway injured his back during the Greased Lightening scene, which he later told Dr Drew resulted in his addiction to prescription medication.
– After a long battle with drug and alcohol addiction, Jeff Conaway sadly passed away in 2011 at age 60 from pneumonia with sepsis. RIP Kenickie.
– Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into her black pants for that final carnival scene because they were so tight that the zip broke.
– It took just one afternoon to film the ‘You’re The One That I Want’ scene.
– The dance contest took a full week to film in sweltering conditions. The temperature in the hall they were shooting in was apparently 46 degrees and several extras had to be treated for heat stroke.
– Jeff Conaway was apparently super infatuated with ONJ and would get flustered whenever she was around. He later went on to marry her older sister, Rona. The marriage lasted from 1980 – 1985.
– Michael Tucci, who played T-Bird Sonny LaTierri, currently teaches performing arts in a high school in Cali and most recently played Melissa McCarthy’s dad in the movie, The Heat, co-starring Sandra Bullock.
– Sandy’s original surname in the musical was Dumbrowski but was changed to Olsson for the movie to make it sound more Aussie. Oi!
– The premiere after party was held at iconic nightclub, Studio 54.
– There’s a big fan conspiracy theory that’s been circulating for ages that Sandy actually drowned on the beach when she and Danny met and the entire movie is her journey to Heaven. The end scene, where her and Danny fly into the sky in the car, is meant to be her final journey to the pearly gates. I’m living for this theory.
And my fave… In Venezuela and Mexico, Grease is known as Vaselina.