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Culture Re-View: Beloved musical 'Grease' is launched

The late Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in 'Grease'
The late Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in 'Grease' Copyright Paramount Pictures/Getty Images
Copyright Paramount Pictures/Getty Images
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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The 1978 musical romantic comedy was successful both critically and commercially and, at the time, broke records as the highest-grossing movie of its genre.


Grease is one of the most successful film musicals of all time, both critically and commercially, and it was on this day in 1978 that it was released to widespread acclaim in the United States.

Directed by Randal Kleiser and based on the stage musical of the same name by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, the cult movie depicts the relationship between Danny Zuko - played by John Travolta and Australian transfer student Sandy Olsson - portrayed by the late, great Olivia Newton-John - as they navigate life at the fictional Rydell High School in Northwest Chicago in the late 1950s.

Paramount Pictures/Getty Images
A dance scene from 'Grease'Paramount Pictures/Getty Images

Following its release in the United States and globally, Grease became the highest-grossing musical ever at the time, beating a 13-year-old record held by The Sound of Music.

Worldwide, it grossed some $341 million (or about €312 million) and, in the UK, it made a record $2.2 million (roughly €2 million) in its first eight days after release, soon becoming the highest-grossing film in the country.

Its iconic soundtrack is still as popular now as when the song 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 51st Academy Awards and it ranked as the second-best-selling album of 1978, just behind the soundtrack of the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever, which also starred John Travolta.

Nick Ut/AP2010
Newton-John poses with co-star Stockard Channing on the set of 'Grease'Nick Ut/AP2010

Grease also received an impressive five Golden Globe nominations and its legacy lives on. In 2020, the film was chosen for preservation in the prestigious United States National Film Registry which meant it was deemed as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

1982 Ron Galella
Producer Allan Carr and actress Michelle Pfeiffer attend the 'Grease 2' New York City Premiere in 19821982 Ron Galella

A 1982 sequel - Grease 2 - starring Michelle Pfeiffer was less successful but remains a cult hit.

Proving its staying power, a prequel television series ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’ was released in April this year to mixed reviews and a prequel film Summer Lovin' is in the works. 

Branimir Kvartuc/AP2006
Olivia Newton-John - pictured her with her co-star John Travolta in 2006 - died last year at the age of 73Branimir Kvartuc/AP2006
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