Grease has gone down in history as one of the best musical movies ever made. As with most movie productions, there are all sorts of juicy tidbits of information about what goes on behind the scenes and we wanted to point out some of the most well known from the movie Grease. How many of these did you know about?
Two Left Feet
Not everyone in the film could dance. Dinah Manoff, who played Marty, apparently had absolutely no rhythm or coordination so she had to sit those scenes out. It seems like it was very rare at that time for actresses and actors to not be able to dance, but there’s always an exception to every rule, right? Marty happened to be the character I had a crush on, behind both “Good Sandy” and “Bad Sandy”.
Most people’s favorite part of the movie Grease is without a doubt going to be the final scene where “Bad Sandy” shows up and blows Danny Zuko’s mind, as well as every other man watching. The whole production with the carnival, the dancing, and of course the hit song “You’re the One that I Want” was apparently shot in just one afternoon. Normally, scenes like these take months of shooting, but hey when it’s good it’s good, right?
Actors and actresses are usually willing to do whatever is necessary for the role they’re playing. When you’re playing the role of a teenager about to graduate high school, having grey hair just isn’t going to cut it. Now we know it’s an unwritten rule that you’re not supposed to point out a lady’s age, but according to reports, Jamie Donnelly, who played the part of Jan, already had a significant amount of grey hair which required her to have her hair dyed dark brown.
During the filming, there were rumors that Jeff Conaway, who played the role of “Kenickie”, had a major crush on Olivia Newton-John. Now our first thought is, who didn’t have a crush on Olivia Newton-John? But that’s beside the point, Conaway apparently had such a crush that when he couldn’t get Olivia he switched gears and went for her sister Rona. Jeff and Rona got married in 1980, just two years after the release of the film.
Tribute to Elvis
Unfortunately, Elvis passed away on August 16, 1977, just under a year before Grease was released in June 1978. It just so happened to be the same day of the girl’s slumber party scene and the “Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee” routine. As a tribute to The King the producers added in the subtle line ‘Elvis, Elvis, Let me be, keep that pelvis far from me”.
No Nameless Parts
Even the background dancers were given named parts in the film to make everyone feel part of the film crew. Names like Bubba, Moose, and Bart were given for even the smallest of roles. This must’ve been equivalent to the “participation” trophy that everyone gets just for showing up. It obviously worked, because Grease has gone down as one of the all-time most popular films.
Probably the most iconic scene in the movie is the last part where “Bad Sandy” makes her debut and her and Danny sing the hit song “You’re the One that I Want”. According to reports, that scene almost didn’t happen due to Newton-John’s crippling stage fright. Travolta himself had to give her a pep talk and coax her into feeling confident enough to make movie history.
Age Is Just A Number
The entire storyline of Grease is based on the lives of a group of high school students, but truth be told there was maybe only 1 of the main characters that were anywhere close to high school age during filming. Dinah Manoff, who played Marty, was 19 at the time, but other stars like Travolta were 23, and our beloved Sandy was 28! This is, of course, the common practice for films about high school students, but still, it definitely makes you look at the film in a different light.
Lost Opportunity For Coke
During the filming of the movie, Coca-Cola had a lucrative ad placement deal that would’ve strategically placed Coke logos thought the film. I guess you could call them subliminal messages, but the agreement stopped right towards the end. This meant all hints of Coke were blurred out during the final edits. I bet they wish they could do that all over again.
Subtle Nod to James Dean
Do you remember the scene where Danny and Sandy were on the beach, I believe it was a flashback from their time spent together during the summer? Well, the blue windbreaker that Danny was wearing might’ve gone unnoticed as just a regular part of the wardrobe, but there was actually some meaning behind it. It apparently was a nod to the great James Dean due to him wearing something similar.
Almost No Sandy
Now, this was hard for me to believe, and I’ve got a feeling it might be the same for you. According to reports, there was almost no Sandy in Grease! At least not the Sandy we all fell in love with because it would have been a different actress playing the role. Apparently, Olivia Newton-John felt she looked to old the play the part of a teenage girl. While technically she actually was 28 years old at the time, she sure didn’t look like it. She performed in some screen tests and she obviously saw what we all did because she made the movie.
Now this is something that could have completely changed the entire outcome of the film; Grease was almost made as an animated film. That’s right, in the early stages of the film, there was talk of creating the entire thing using animation. It’s a pretty big jump to go from a cartoon film to a musical, but in the end, it was obviously the right move.
Princess Leia and Sandy?
What if we told you that Princess Leia, also known as Carrie Fisher to the people that are anti-Star Wars, was first considered for the lead role of Sandy? However, it was reported that the director stepped in and put the kibosh on it due to the fact that Fisher didn’t have the “right look” to play Sandy. As much as we love Leia, don’t mess with Sandy.
Keeping It Family Friendly
Grease was technically classified with a PG-13 rating due to things like teen drinking and smoking, as well as the slight sexual innuendos that pop up from time to time. But overall, the filmmakers wanted it to be family-friendly. In the beginning stages, they were apparently looking at adult film star, Harry Reems, to play the part of Coach Calhoun, but decided against it in the end because they didn’t feel as if it would be appropriate.
Changing It up
According to reports, the character of Sandy in the stage version of Grease actually had the last name of “Dumbrowski” and was a native of the United States. However, when the film version came along and Olivia Newton-John was finally cast for the now famous role, the directors decided to change it up. Since Newton-John happened to be a native of Australia, they decided to create the backstory of Sandy being from down under and having made her way up to the states. See, change is good!
Keeping It Real
Do you remember when Rizzo was trying to cover up the hickeys she had on her neck that Kenickie had given her the night before? Did you notice how they looked like real hickeys? Well, that’s because they were! In the spirit of keeping it real, apparently Jeff Conaway actually gave Rizzo (played by Stockard Channing) real hickeys in order for it to look better on film. Now that’s some dedication!
Honoring Te Stooges
As maybe you’ve started to notice by now, there were quite a few subtle little things here and there that we completely overlooked as we watched this show. If you had little sisters like I did, you’ve probably seen this movie more times than you can count. But did you ever notice the resemblance of Putzie, Sonny, and Doody, the three little friends of Danny and Kenickie, and the Three Stooges? It was reported that the actors playing the roles requested to pay tribute to the famous comedy trio and even did a small reenactment during the bonfire scene.
John Travolta first met Olivia Newton-John at her home, and to say that he was star stuck is a serious understatement. Travolta was apparently a huge fan of Olivia’s and was completely blown away to find out that he would not only be working alongside her in the film, but that she would be his love interest. That must’ve been rough working with the beautiful and talented Newton-John for the duration of the filming right? Ya, I didn’t think so either.
The Man Hug
One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when Kenicke and Danny breakdown and give each other a hug, but when they realize what they’re doing they play it off like they’re combing their hair. During the 1950’s, it was extremely uncommon for men to show this sort of affection for each other, even if they were friends. Apparently, Jeff Conaway came up with the idea for the scene, and what a classic!
Whatever It Takes
Jaws hit the floor when “Bad Sandy” comes out towards the end of the film in that all black leather body suit and is one of the most memorable looks of the entire film. But apparently, Olivia Newton-John had to do some serious work for that look. According to reports, Newton-John literally had to be sewn into the suit, and when shooting was completed she had to be cut out of it. I mean we knew it was a super tight outfit, but not that tight.
Don’t Drink The Water
As a kid growing up, my favorite scenes were the ones featuring “Grease Lightning” or cars of some sort. Especially the drag racing scene where the flame car has those spikes on the rims and tears up the side of Zuko’s car. As great as that scene was, according to reports over half the crew became very ill after the filming due to bacteria found in the stagnant water.
Mommy Knows Best
Lucie Arnaz, who is the daughter of Hollywood legends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, originally was the intended actress to play the role of Rizzo that ended up being played by Stockard Channing. The reason that little Lucy didn’t get the part had nothing to do with her acting ability or anything in that regard. When it came down to auditioning for the role, Mama Lucille felt as if her daughter was too good to audition and she apparently called the film producers to tell them so. Needless to say, she didn’t get the part. Oh Lucy, always causing trouble.
Sandy’s Jock Boyfriend
You remember the jock boyfriend named Tom that Sandy was using in an attempt to make Danny jealous? Well, if you’re like me you didn’t realize that Tom was played by none other than Lorenzo Lamas. Although there are reports that indicate the part was first given to the son of Gerald Ford, who would’ve been President of the United States at the time. But Ford’s son actually declined the role because he was too nervous, even though Tom has no speaking lines.
So we know that Elvis almost played the part of Frenchy’s mentor and Princess Leia almost played Sandy. But what if we told you that Henry Winkler, aka The Fonz, was originally offered the part of Danny Zuko but he apparently turned it down. As cool as Fonzie was in those days, it probably wouldn’t have hurt the movie to have him starring in it, but at the same time, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Travolta playing that role.
You may think that being an actor is a “safe” and easy job, but that’s not always the case. During the filming of the famous Greased Lightning scene where the boys are in the garage working on their new drag car, Kenickie, played by Jeff Conaway, apparently fell and cause major damage to his back. He was able to recover with the help of some pain medication. But unfortunately, that injury would lead to him having a significant problem with prescription pills late in life.
Is it Danny or Doddy?
We know that John Travolta almost lost the part as Danny to the Fonz, but did you know this wasn’t the first time he had been in Grease? According to reports, Danny Zuko himself actually played the goofy role of Doody (Played by Barry Pearl in the movie) in the Broadway musical! Can’t you just see it now, a young Travolta up on stage acting the part of a goofy teenage boy? Apparently, there were quite a few of the cast members that had played parts in the Broadway version at one point or another.
Box Office Smash Hit
When Grease was produced it had a budget of just under $6 million, which is fairly small for a full feature movie. But that didn’t cause any problems as far as the box office went. Grease was an immediate hit and cleared an estimated $395 million once all was said and done. It was the most popular movie of 1978 and has remained a cult classic since then.
Whether or not he intended to do it or not, Travolta apparently stole the thunder away from Jeff Conaway during the “Greased Lightning” performance. The song was originally supposed to be sung by Kenickie but Travolta talked with the director and they determined it made more sense to have Danny sing and remain on the center stage. Then to make matters worse for Kenickie, Danny gets to drive the car during the famous drag race!
The Burger Palace Boys
Would you have looked at the Danny Zuko and his boys the same way had they called themselves the “Burger Palace Boys” instead of the now famous “T-Birds”? Well in the Broadway musical version of the story that debuted in 1972, that’s what the name of the group before it was later changed for the big screen debut in 1978. I mean it was bad enough that generally speaking they were referred to as “greasers” so to add in burger boys seems like an insult.
Elvis or Frankie?
You know that musical scene where Frenchy is daydreaming abut what to do with her life and she’s visited by Frankie Avalon and he sings that “beauty school dropout” song? Well, apparently Elvis was asked to play the part of her mentor but he declined and the part went to Frankie Avalon instead. Can’t you just picture the King serenading Frenchy while also giving life lessons?