A very iconic musical; showcases the fifties with the diner and milkshakes, the occasional poodle skirt, gangs and rumbles, and how the men styled their hair. The film was made in the seventies and stars Olivia Newton-John (renowned singer) as Sandy and John Travolta (who would also star in a movie about the seventies a year prior to Grease’s release: Saturday Night Fever) as Danny. While the story is about high school seniors, all of the actors and actresses were significantly older. Sandy and Danny meet at a beach during the summer and have a summer fling at the beginning of the film. They have to separate and we have an animated intro with Grease (and for some reason, Sandy appears like Cinderella with helpful woodland creatures). The T-Birds, of which Danny is a leader, and their opposites, the Pink Ladies return to Rydell High School for their final year. Frenchy brings a new girl; Sandy. When the Pink Ladies ask Sandy and the T-Birds ask Danny separately what they did for their summer, the two tell them about their Summer Nights (the guys are more focused on getting into a woman’s drawers…and there are some questionable lyrics; and as a kid, I even questioned Sandy about making a big deal that they “stayed out, ’till ten o’clock”…maybe it’s a fifties’ thing). Sandy reveals to the ladies that she met Danny Zuko over the summer. The Pink Ladies are familiar with Danny; it seems like Rizzo had gone out with him before in addition to being a classmate.
The ladies decide to surprise the couple and reunite them; Sandy is initially pleased to see Danny again and he starts out as the caring guy she met, but then puts on a tough guy act for his buddies. Sandy storms off and Rizzo is not surprised. Frenchy invites Sandy to a sleepover and the ladies try to get her to smoke and drink and Frenchy tries to pierce Sandy’s ears; she’s an aspiring beautician and has dropped out of high school to attend beauty school. Sandy does not react well to any of those and while she’s in the bathroom Rizzo mocks her with “look at me, I’m Sandra Dee/ lousy with virginity.” Sandy walks out and they have to stop. Outside, the T-Birds crash the party. Rizzo climbs out the window and hooks up with Kenickie. Sandy is still hurt from Danny; Hopelessly Devoted.
Tensions rise between the T-Birds and the Scorpions. Kenickie wants to soup up his car so he can challenge the Scorpions’ leader. Danny says they’ll make it “systematic, hydromatic, ultramatic; [different names for transmissions; I asked my mechanic father because I do not know cars]” they’ll make it Greased Lightning! (more suggestive lyrics). They drive it to a diner where Danny encounters Sandy on a date with a nice, but dull boy. She challenges him to prove that he can be the guy she remembers. So Danny tries out for several sports, settling on track. Sandy gives him another chance, but their date is crashed by their friends, ending with Rizzo throwing her milkshake on Kenickie. Frenchy stays behind, revealing to the waitress that she made a mistake on her hair and it’s not bubble-gum pink. She dreams Beauty School Dropout and is told “go back to high school.”
The big event of the school year is the filming of National Bandstand in their gym. Their principal instructs them to be on their best behavior; but of course they’re teenagers so the likelihood of that happening is…slim. Several are ousted from the dance competition for inappropriate moves. Rizzo goes with the Scorpions’ leader and Kenickie goes with Cha Cha, who recognizes Danny (seriously, has this guy dated all the girls?). Sandy is having a nice time with Danny during Born to Hand Jive, until one of the guys pulls her away and Cha Cha leaps in to finish with Danny, winning the competition. Sandy leaves the dance before the slow dance and several of the T-Birds demonstrate their immaturity by mooning the camera during Blue Moon.
Danny attempts to make it up to Sandy with a drive-thru movie and gives her a ring, asking her to “go steady.” She happily accepts, but storms away when Danny goes to make a move [hmm, he might have been exaggerating about his summer with Sandy]. Rizzo reveals to Marty that she skipped a period and fears she may be pregnant and begs for Marty’s silence. That doesn’t last long. It makes it to Kenickie and he tries to talk to Rizzo, who insists the kid isn’t Kenickie’s. Danny mourns for Sandy. After talking to Sandy at school, Rizzo admits There are Worse Things I Could Do. She’ll take care of herself and anyone else that happens to come along.
It’s time for the car race between the T-Birds and the Scorpions. Kenickie asks Danny to be his second…proving that “tough” guys can actually stop being “cool” for a minute if they want. One of the other idiots hits Kenickie in the head with the car door, so Danny drives. Sandy is sitting far on the sidelines, watching. As can be expected, the Scorpions drive dirty, but Danny evades for the most part. For some reason he thinks jumping the car over a concrete ramp is a good idea…I doubt that car would actually survive [Dukes of Hazzard wrecked between 250 and 300 cars during its run]. It sends the Scorpion’s car into the water and stalls it. Anyhow, Danny wins! And Sandy has come to a decision, though she needs Frenchy’s help.
The last day of the school has arrived and there is a carnival outside for the students. Rizzo is not pregnant and makes up with Kenickie. Danny is sporting a letter sweater and admits to the T-Birds he is trying to impress Sandy. Then they turn and find a new Sandy, in tight leather pants, hoop earrings and smoking a cigarette. Danny is very surprised and eagerly whips off his sweater. Sandy informs him “you better shape up/ ’cause I need a man/ and my heart is set on you.” You’re the One that I Want. Danny follows her into a fun house and they dance together. One of the Pink Ladies announces the whole gang is back together. We Go Together is full of fun words and the two groups pair off. Danny drives Sandy away in the fantasy car from Greased Lightning and they fly away to the Chipmunks’ Witch Doctor.
I prefer the ending of the film; very happy and upbeat; my favorite songs are the last two. Yes, Sandy changed for Danny, but Danny did at least try. I think they will find they’re happiest when they meet in the middle; Danny doesn’t have to be cool all the time (and once you get him away from his buddies, particularly some of the dumb ones) and Sandy could stand to loosen up. [Do I recommend taking up smoking and drinking? No.] Most of the innuendos went over my head as a kid, which is probably how they got away with them. I dislike the theory out there on the Internet that this is all just a near-death hallucination of Sandy’s before she goes to heaven at the end. The sequel is also really bad. There was a live action performance on television a few years ago (a new trend) featuring Julianne Hough as Sandy. And while my younger cousin was in high school (different school than me), they performed Grease.
Next Time: Sister Act