Things You Never Knew About The Movie 'Grease' - The Delite

Things You Never Knew About The Movie ‘Grease’

The 1978 hit musical and romantic comedy “Grease” is officially over the hill this summer. We’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of this timeless classic with lots of fun trivia about the movie. Did you know what famous actor almost played Danny Zuko? Did you know John Travolta’s sister had a role in the movie?

We won’t blame you if you’re inspired to re-watch “Grease” after you read this! Of course, it has all the elements for a perfect summer blockbuster: summer lovin’, drama, great tunes and fun dance moves.

Cast members were much older than the characters they played.

You probably knew the cast members of “Grease” had already graduated high school. But you might be surprised at just how old some of the actors actually were when they were starring as teenagers. The oldest high schooler in “Grease” was Stockard Channing (Rizzo), who was 33. John Travolta (Danny) was 23 and Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) was 26. Olivia Newton-John (Sandy) turned 29 during filming.

Three high schools played the “role” of Rydell High.

A trio of Los Angeles high schools was featured as Rydell High. Venice High School serves as the facade. The athletic field where the carnival takes place is John Marshall High School. And the interior shots for the dance-off are courtesy of Huntington Park High School.

John Travolta nudged Olivia Newton-John to accept her role.

Olivia Newton-John was nervous about playing Sandy for a few reasons, including her Australian accent and the fact that she had more than a decade on high school grads. John Travolta helped changed her mind, however.

“John really wanted me to do it, and that was one of the deciding factors,” Newton-John told The Telegraph in an interview. “He’s a lovely man. We became great friends and he was very helpful to me on set, as I was not an experienced actress.” The script, of course, was adjusted to accommodate her Aussie accent.

John Travolta wasn’t the first pick for Danny’s character.

Originally the studio wanted Henry Winkler to play Danny Zuko. But Winkler, who played greaser Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli on the sitcom “Happy Days,” passed on the role because he didn’t want to be typecast.

Several other actresses were considered for the role of Sandy.

Can you imagine “Star Wars” star Carrie Fisher or country crooner Marie Osmond playing the role of Sandy? The actresses, along with “The Partridge Family” star Susan Dey and Deborah Raffin, were all considered for the role. Osmond explained that she ultimately dropped out because good girl Sandy evolved into a rebel.

John Travolta’s sister has a small role in ‘Grease.’

Ellen Travolta, sister of John Travolta, plays a diner waitress in “Grease.” She has one line in the movie, exclaiming, “Oh, there’s Danny and Sandy” as she’s watching the dance on TV in the diner. (There she is, the brunette in the front. Do you see a resemblance between her and her brother?)

John Travolta was heartbroken during the filming of ‘Grease.’

Just before “Grease” went into production in 1977, John Travolta’s girlfriend Diana Hyland died in his arms of cancer. Understandably, the actor struggled with grief while filming.

“People magazine came out with a story about [Diana] that John didn’t like,” Randal Kleiser, the film’s director, said in an interview. “He was distracted by it. It was hard for him to concentrate.”

Olivia Newton-John’s husband was a latecomer to ‘Grease.’

Olivia Newton-John’s husband John Easterling had never seen “Grease” before marrying the star in 2008.

Newton-John relayed during an interview with “Today” that she and her husband were having dinner at John Travolta’s house and the tidbit came up in conversation. When Travolta found out Easterling hadn’t seen “Grease,” he served dessert and pressed “play” on the movie. Easterling approved, saying, “This is a really good movie. I can see why people like it.”

Olivia Newton-John’s daughter has been a long-time fan.

When Olivia Newton-John’s daughter, Chloe Lattazani, was young, she loved watching “Grease.” In fact, she liked to go to sleep with the tape playing on the VCR, Newton-John told People. Singer and actress Lattanzi remains a big fan of her mom, often referring to her as her best friend on social media.

A Coca-Cola sign was blurred out of one scene.

Pay close attention to the first scene at Frosty Palace and you might notice a blurry sign above the booth where Sandy and her boyfriend Tom Chisum (Lorenzo Lamas) were sitting. It turns out it was a Coke sign, and it went unnoticed until the film had been shot. It got blurred out because — you guessed it! — Pepsi had the marketing rights in the movie.

The song lyric about Elvis felt eerie.

In the song “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” Stockard Channing belts out a lyric about Elvis Presley while looking at a picture of the King of Rock ‘ Roll. The lyric goes: “Elvis, Elvis, let me be, keep that pelvis far from me.” Elvis had died earlier in the day, which made for an eerie day on set, director Randal Kleiser told the New York Post.

“It was all over the news, so everyone knew. We did this number, and everybody kind of looked at each other like, ‘Yeah, this is creepy.’”

The high school experience was very different for Olivia Newton-John.

While many of the cast members may have felt like they were going back to high school at the Los Angeles schools where “Grease ” was filmed, the experience was much different for Olivia Newton-John. She told The Telegraph she went to a strict school in Australia. Boys and girls had separate stairs and she wore a school uniform far more conservative than those famous skintight black pants she flaunts in “Grease.”

Olivia Newton-John still has her famous pants.

In one of the most iconic scenes in “Grease,” Sandy breaks from her good girl image and dons sexy, skin-tight black satin pants and a leather jacket to sing “You’re the One I Want.” And they could soon be yours! Newton-John has said she plans to auction the iconic pants off for charity.

Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into those tight pants.

Speaking of those iconic black pants, did you know that Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into them? “Grease” filmed during the 1970s and the pants were from the 1950s, which is the time period the movie was set. The pants were already old, and the zipper was gone, so Newton-John had to be sewn into the pants and then unstitched when she needed a bathroom break.

Stockard Channing’s hickeys were real.

Remember the hickeys on Rizzo’s neck? No makeup was needed as they were real hickeys that came courtesy of the late Jeff Conaway (Kenickie). According to Stockard Channing, Conaway gave the hickeys to her off-set. Ooh la la!

Olivia Newton-John played matchmaker off-set.

Olivia Newton-John introduced Jeff Conaway to her sister, Rona. Conaway and Rona married in 1980, a couple years after “Grease” came out. Their marriage lasted five years. When Conaway died at age 60 in 2011, Newton-John said in an interview: “Jeff had a good heart and was so very talented. He was a big part of our family for many years and he will be missed.”

Rizzo’s solo was almost cut.

Stockard Channing convinced producer Alan Carr not to cut her character Rizzo’s solo, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” in which she sings about what she thinks is an unplanned pregnancy. The song was imperative for Rizzo’s character development, she argued.

“That’s how you know what’s inside this little person,” she said she told Carr, according to ABC News. “Otherwise she’s just all that surface stuff.”

Thanks to a dream, Frankie Avalon agreed to a role in ‘Grease.’

Avalon’s gut reaction was to turn down the role of Teen Angel because he didn’t want to be typecast. But he told People that the scene in which an angel in white sings “Beauty School Dropout” to teenage girls was eerily reminiscent of a recurring dream his cousin told him about years ago.

Michael Tucci traded law for acting.

Michael Tucci gave up a career in law to try his hand in acting and landed the role as T-birds member Sonny. When he made the career change, his mother asked, “Who do you think you are? Sinatra?”

After “Grease,” he landed several other roles in television shows like “The Paper Chase,” “Diagnosis Murder” and “The Love Boat.”

Gerald Ford’s son turned down a role in the film.

Steven Ford (pictured to the right of his mother, below), the son of former President Gerald Ford, was too nervous to play the role of Tom, Sandy’s jock boyfriend. People points out the part had no dialogue! Lorenzo Lamas swooped in and was glad to land the role.

Lorenzo Lamas’ hair was dyed, and he definitely didn’t care.

Lorenzo Lamas looked too much like a T-Bird to play Sandy’s boyfriend Tom, according to producer Allan Carr. So Lamas’ hair was dyed lighter for the movie. According to an interview with People, he didn’t care one bit.

“I would have dyed it green, fuchsia, anything,” he told the magazine.

The actress playing Cha Cha went by a stage name.

You’ll remember Cha Cha as the “best dancer at St. Bernadette’s,” and she had a famous dancing scene with Danny Zuko. Cha Cha was played by Annette Cardona, but you’ll notice her name is listed as Annette Charles in the credits. Her manager suggested she go by that screen name, because, Cardona told People, “He thought an ethnic name would go against me.”

She’s pictured below with Eddie Deezen and Jeff Conaway in 2006.

The word ‘grease’ is missing from the script.

Can you believe it? The word “grease” isn’t actually ever said in the movie! Biography points out that only the word “greased” — with a “d” — is sung in the song “Greased Lightnin’.” So is grease actually the word, then?!

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta recorded a Christmas album together.

The “Grease” co-stars have remained close friends over the years. In 2012, they made a Christmas album together called “This Christmas” and crooned a duet titled “I Think You Might Like It.” They considered it a sequel to “You’re the One I Want,” as it had the same writer, John Farrar.

“We made a video with a 1950s Thunderbird, and wore similar outfits to ‘Grease’ as a homage to a wonderful time in our lives,” Newton-John told The Telegraph.

‘Grease’ debuted as a musical in 1971.

“Grease” originated as a musical in 1971 in Chicago, debuting in a converted trolley barn. An original poster from the Kingston Mines Theatre Company that was re-published by the Chicago Tribune advertised Grease as a “Rock ‘n Roll musical bout 50’s teens written by Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs.”

“Most people have forgotten that it all started here,” original cast member Gary Houston told the Chicago Tribune in a 2016 interview.

The original musical pushed the envelope

The original musical at the Kingston Mines Theatre was tougher and raunchier than any rendition of “Grease” since, according to the Chicago Tribune. Polly Pen was the youngest actress cast, playing a cheerleader. In an interview, Pen told the Chicago Tribune that she hid the script from her parents during rehearsal. Years later, she found her mom’s diary entry from after the play opened and it said: “Still can’t get used to the foul language — but the reviews are good.”

Posted by Kingston Mines on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The name ‘Grease’ has multiple meanings.

Happy Valentine's Day Grease fans! What do you have planned for today?

Posted by Grease on Monday, November 5, 2012

Curious how “Grease” got its name? It was a nod to the ’50s-era greasy hair, greasy engines and greasy diner food, according to Vanity Fair. Remember the scene where Danny uses his hair grease to slip off his class ring?

Happy Valentine's Day Grease fans! What do you have planned for today?

Posted by Grease on Monday, November 5, 2012

‘Grease’ had a modest budget.

Trivia Time: Do you know how old Olivia Newton-John was when she was filming the movie?

Posted by Grease on Friday, April 11, 2014

“Grease” was shot in just two months. It only had a budget of $6 million, which was small even by 1970s standards. As Vanity Fair points out, not a lot was expected of “Grease.”

Trivia Time: Do you know how old Olivia Newton-John was when she was filming the movie?

Posted by Grease on Friday, April 11, 2014

Olivia Newton-John was hesitant to take the role.

Before she was cast as Sandy in “Grease,” playing opposite John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John starred in “Tomorrow,” a sci-fi British musical that flopped.

“I was very anxious about making another film, because my music career was going well, and I did not want to mess it up by doing another movie that wasn’t good,” Newton-John told Vanity Fair.

The cast went through a ‘Crow’s Feet’ test.

Recognizing the show’s cast was much older than the high-school teenagers they were playing, “Grease” director Randal Kleiser administered a “crow’s-feet test” during auditions. He’d look for the marks around the actors’ and actresses’ eyes to determine if they could pass as teens, according to Vanity Fair’s deep dive into the success of “Grease.”

Posted by Grease on Tuesday, May 18, 2010

They added freckles to make Rizzo look younger.

At age 33, Stockard Channing — who played Rizzo — was the oldest of the main actors to be cast. She told Vanity Fair that producer Allan Carr showed up to the set with a brown pencil to dot her nose with freckles in an attempt to make her look younger.

“I said, ‘I don’t look younger! I just look dirtier!'” Channing told the magazine.

The critics didn’t love ‘Grease.’

In fact, they had some harsh words after the movie debuted, Vanity Fair points out. The Today Show called it “visual junk food.” The New York Daily News’ critic piled on the criticism saying that the film “should really be covered on the obituary page,” calling the music “atrocious.”

John Travolta mispronounced the lyrics of a song.

Actor John Travolta kept stumbling over the lyrics “heat lap trials” in “Greased Lightning,” lip-syncing “heap lap trials” instead, Director Randal Kleiser told the New York Post. Pay close attention to his lips in the film and you’ll notice the flub.

“I was beside the camera, yelling, ‘Heat! Heat!'” Kleiser told the newspaper.

Posted by Grease on Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Andy Warhol was almost cast in the film.

Producer Allan Carr wanted famed pop art artist Andy Warhol to play an art teacher in “Grease,” but ultimately didn’t get his way.

“One of the studio executives said, ‘We’ll give you everything you want, but I will not have that man in my movie,'” Carr recalled in a 1998 article in Entertainment Weekly. “It was some kind of personal vendetta.”

Sandy’s last name was changed.

Did you know: Due to a zipper breaking, Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into the pants she wears during the carnival…

Posted by Grease on Thursday, February 23, 2012

In the original Chicago theatrical performance of “Grease,” Sandy’s last name was “Dumbrowski.” But when Olivia Newton-John took the role, her character’s name was switched to Sandy Olsson, a better fit for the Rydell High School newcomer whose family had moved to America from Australia.

Did you know: Due to a zipper breaking, Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into the pants she wears during the carnival…

Posted by Grease on Thursday, February 23, 2012

People passed out during filming.

Several “Grease” stars recounted to Yahoo! in 2018 that it was so hot during filming, particularly while shooting “We Go Together,” people were passing out from dehydration and heat exhaustion. Sunburns also abounded from long hours spent outdoors.

Posted by Grease on Thursday, November 12, 2009

An adult film star almost starred in ‘Grease.’

Paramount didn’t like the idea of adult film star Harry Reems playing the role of Coach Calhoun and the studio shut it down. Sid Caesar got the role instead. Feeling bad about the situation, producer Allan Carr cut Reems a check for $5,000 from his personal bank account as an apology.

“The sexual revolution was happening, and porn stars were becoming somewhat accepted in media,” director Randal Kleiser told Vanity Fair. “I didn’t think it would be a problem.”

The T-Birds originally went by another name.

There are so many great songs in Grease! Which is your favorite?

Posted by Grease on Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Before they were the T-birds, the greaser gang went by a different name in the original theatrical performance. They were known as “The Burger Palace Boys.” Doesn’t sound too tough, does it?

There are so many great songs in Grease! Which is your favorite?

Posted by Grease on Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lucie Arnaz could have been Rizzo.

Originally, the role of Rizzo was offered to “Here’s Lucy” singer and actress Lucie Arnaz. A rumor circulated that her mother, Lucille Ball, wouldn’t let her screen test. But in an interview with the Austin Chronicle, Arnaz denied the rumor.

“My mother wouldn’t let me do it? Are you kidding?” she retorted. “She would never step in front of my career like that, ever. Ever!”

The real reason, according to the interview? The contract negotiation was drawn out, and the papers weren’t being signed, and Arnaz was already booked to be in “Bye Bye Birdie” at the Melody Top Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Jeff Conaway was a ‘Grease’ alum.

Jeff Conaway actually played Danny in the Broadway production of Grease prior to the movie. He joined the “Grease” film cast as Kenickie, a T-Bird and Danny’s best friend. He went on to star in “Taxi” and earned two Golden Globe nominations.

Jamie Donnelly also starred in the Broadway production.

Actress Jamie Donnelly also starred in the Broadway production of “Grease” before joining the film’s cast. She kept her role as Jan, a Pink Lady, in the film.

The original musical was so popular, it became standing-room only.

In fact, even Dick Clark showed up for a performance, according to the Chicago Tribune. The theater’s fire code was a max of 300 people, but there were often 500 people in the audience, with some standing in the aisles. The performance ran for eight months in Chicago.

The ‘Grease’ musical became an international phenomenon.

After its successful Chicago debut in 1971, “Grease” opened in theaters worldwide, including in Paris. In Mexico City, it was known as “Vaselina.” A discussion on Reddit delves into the Spanish translation of the movie’s name and includes a “Vaselina” poster.

In Mexico and Venezuela, the movie "Grease" was released under the title "Vaselina". from movies

Michael Tucci played Melissa McCarthy’s father in  ‘The Heat.’

After “Grease,” Michael Tucci, who played T-Bird Sonny LaTierri, continued his acting career. He also became a high school performing arts teacher in California. You may have recognized him in the 2013 comedy “The Heat,” too. Tucci starred as the father of Melissa McCarthy’s character. In this photo from 2015, Tucci (left) is alongside “Grease” alums Kelly Ward, Jamie Donnelly and Barry Pearl.

‘Grease’ has been performed thousands of times worldwide.

Since the 1971 theater debut of “Grease” in Chicago, the performance has been replicated thousands of times around the world. Vanity Fair puts the count at 123,000 reproductions worldwide of the stage musical.

Posted by Grease on Wednesday, May 19, 2010

There was a ‘Grease’ sequel.

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In 1982, “Grease 2” came out, starring Michelle Pfeiffer as Stephanie Zinone at the helm of the “Pink Ladies.” After she breaks up with a T-bird greaser, she’s pursued by an English exchange student. Despite the success of “Grease,” the sequel never took off and bombed at the box office.

John Travolta wasn’t a fan of ‘Grease 2.’

In a January 2020 interview with radio station Nova 96.9, John Travolta said he watched the “Grease” sequel once, years ago.

“I’ll leave it as there’s only one Grease… Grease is the word, forever,” he said in the radio interview.

It doesn’t sound like this T-bird was a fan!

The cast chewed a lot of bubblegum.

Bubble gum made frequent cameos in “Grease.” According to the Hartford Courant, the cast chewed about 100,000 pieces of bubble gum while the movie was being filmed. And, apparently, old habits die hard! Didi Conn, who played Frenchie, and Dinah Manhoff, who starred as Marty Maraschino, were both chewing gum while on the red carpet at a “Grease” re-release in 1998 as a fun nod to the musical.