Grease (1978) – Randal Kleiser

The joyous, infectious, and iconic screen adaptation of the classic stage musical is the next stop in the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film as I return to the musical chapter of the book.

Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Jaws, Star Wars, these and a few select other films were staples of the 1970s. You couldn’t go to someone’s house, and leaf through their albums and not come across the soundtracks for one of those films.

Whether you’ve seen the movie or the stage show, the musical numbers that populate this film have sunk their way into the popular consciousness, and are known around the world, Summer Nights, and You’re the One I Want can fill a dance floor each and every time.

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John headline as the high school sweethearts Danny Zuko and Sandy, after a summer of romance, Sandy is shocked to discover that Danny isn’t the boy she thought he was when he meets her at Rydell High.

Kept apart by their mutual cliques, both try to find a way to live up to what the other one expects them to be.

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There’s a sense of nostalgia by setting the film in the 50s, so the innocence of that time is happily re-imagined for the screen. And while Travolta and Newton-John add their energy to the leads, the supporting characters are brought to life by Jeff Conway, Stockard Channing, Frankie Avalon, and Dinah Manoff with wondrous effect.

The choreography, and numbers have become iconic, and yes, incredibly fun to sing along with, or dance to.

Yes, there are some questionable moments, and messages conveyed in the film, just like the original musical, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an incredibly fun film to settle in for. The sheer energy from the dance sequences, Travolta in particular just bursts off the screen.

Being a child of the 70s, I also loved that the retro group, Sha-Na-Na was cast as the band for the dance contest. I remember their television show. Back in the day when variety shows were the thing, it seemed any singer could get their own show.

The film features a large percentage of the numbers featured in the stage musical, which was written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Barry Gibb penned the title song, and Hopelessly Devoted was written for the film when it was decided that Newton-John needed a ballad for the film – it garnered an Oscar nomination.

This one is just so much fun to watch, and I’ve seen it countless times, and it still flies by each and every time I watch it.

I’m looking forward to seeing what some of the recommendations are to follow it up with.

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