It hit the big screen June 18, 1978. Since then, “Grease,” the Broadway blockbuster musical turned Hollywood classic, has been “the one that we want” for 40 years. It’s been revival-ized and sequel-ized and fans across the country (including us here at Fred Astaire Dance Studios) were thrilled to see the movie hit the silver screen again back in April. When it was released in 1978, it was the highest grossing movie musical of all time. Others have taken its place on that list, but “Grease” is still “the one that we want!”
As with most timeless classics, “Grease” has a backstory that not everyone knows. Most people know that the movie was based on the Broadway musical, but over the years bits of trivia and theory have made their way into pop culture. In celebration of its 40th anniversary, Fred Astaire Dance Studios offers four things you might not know about “Grease.”
The original trailer from 1978.
- Coke vs. Pepsi. Several scenes were filmed inside a soda shop (it was set in 1958 after all!) and the set was decorated with props appropriate to the time period. After filming was complete, the producer struck a product placement deal with Pepsi. Trouble is, there were already several scenes where the Coca-Cola logo is very visible. Deciding reshooting was too expensive, the Coca-Cola logo was “blurred” in most cases. Some fans didn’t even notice, but it was always something that director Randal Kleiser says always bothered him. As part of the 40th anniversary, Kleiser oversaw a full restoration of “Grease” and he was able to digitally replace the blurred-out sign with a Pepsi image… 40 years later.
Notice the blurred sign?
- The song that almost wasn’t. The movie version left out some of the fan-favorite musical numbers from the stage version; but added some pretty catchy tunes to take their place. Can you imagine “Grease” without “You’re the One That I Want”? Anyway, another hit song wasn’t even completed and filmed until after the rest of the shooting wrapped up. “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was added at the end. It went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
The hit that was almost a miss.
- A freaky fan theory. So, 40-year-old spoiler alert: the ending of “Grease” finds Danny and Sandy in a car flying off into the clouds to live happily ever after. It seemed a little off for some fans, as the rest of the movie was fairly realistic for a musical with dance numbers! As the years passed, some fans developed a theory about the ending, using clues from one of the movie’s songs. Some fans speculated that Sandy drowned while at the beach with Danny at the start of the movie and that the entire movie is actually her coma fantasy. The flight into the clouds at the end is symbolic of her passing away and ascent into heaven. Fans of the theory point to the lyrics of the song “Summer Nights.”
“I saved her life; she nearly drowned.”
Pretty heavy stuff. The director of the movie hasn’t commented on the fan theory. Star John Travolta credits their imagination, saying he thinks Danny is just bragging to impress his friends and is exaggerating the beach encounter. The actor told USA Today that he believes that Sandy and Danny are still together somewhere. “I think they had several kids, which people did in those days, they adored their kids, and they held onto their romance,” Travolta said.
Soaring toward happily ever after.
- Could-have-been. After 40 years, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John have become Danny and Sandy. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing those roles. But according to legend, Henry Winkler, who played Fonzie on “Happy Days” was considered for the role of Danny. The list of could-have-been-Sandy is much longer. Marie Osmond reportedly turned down the role, telling interviewer Larry King that she didn’t want her children to one day think that a good girl had to turn bad to get the boy. Also considered; Carrie Fisher; Susan Dey of “Partridge Family” fame (who reportedly turned down the role on the advice of her manager!); Deborah Raffin; and singer Linda Ronstadt. It’s rumored that Elvis Presley turned down the role of the teen angel played by Frankie Avalon. Lucie Arnaz was reportedly the first choice for the role of Rizzo; but was allegedly dropped when her mother, Lucille Ball, called the studio and pitched a fit over a required screen test.