Tag Archives: John Travolta

Thoughts On The 40th Anniversary Of Grease

Grease is one of those movies. We’ve all seen it at least a dozen times. We’ve sung along to the songs during karaoke. Grease has been the go to musical for high schools, colleges and local community theater groups for decades.

On June 16th, Grease will be celebrating its 40th anniversary.

On the surface, it’s just the simple will they or won’t they story set in high school. Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) have a brief relationship one summer. After the summer ends, they don’t expect to see each other again. Then Sandy transfers to Danny’s high school. Danny is the bad boy, Sandy is the good girl. Their relationship, such as it is, is not easy.

This narrative is the blue print for many high school romance movies that have come down the pike since 1978. While the movie is cute and predictable, I have a few issues with it.

  • The actors do not look like they are high school. While some creative teams who are also working on films/television shows set in high school have cast actors who look young enough to be in high school, it’s clear that most of the cast were way past their teens when they made this movie.
  • The amount of sexism is astounding. Granted, the film is set in 1950’s, but still hard to ignore the sexism coming out of the script.
  • Danny tried to force himself on Sandy and Marty (Dinah Manoff) is nearly given a roofy by Vince Fontaine (Edd Byrnes).
  •  Rizzo  (Stockard Channing) has more depth than Sandy. How is it that Sandy is the lead female character, but Rizzo has the better character arc?
  • Sandy changes for Danny. While Danny tries to change, he really doesn’t.
  • I hate to say it, but Danny and Sandy are not going to last. While they do ride off into the sunset at the end of the movie, that sunset is short-lived at best.

Regardless if the bullet points above, Grease has something going for it. It’s been popular for 40 years for a reason.

Happy 40th birthday, Grease.

 

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Throwback Thursday-Grease (1978)

The themes of high school, young love and growing up are timeless. Add in a very catchy soundtrack, an iconic movie musical and you’ve got Grease (1978).

The go to musical for school productions and local theater groups for over 40 years, Grease is the story of a high school romance set in the late 1950’s. Sandy (Olivia Newton John) and Danny (John Travolta) had a brief summer romance. But summer is over and school has started. Sandy is now the new good girl and Danny is the leader of the T-Birds, bad boy greasers.

Danny is not the same boy Sandy knew over the summer. Sandy is spending her time with the Pink Ladies, the female equivalent of the T-Birds. Will Sandy and Danny’s romance be nothing more than a summer romance or can they bridge the gap that is keeping them apart?

We all know this movie. We all know the songs. The stage musical premiered in 1971 and has not left the public consciousness since then.

Do I recommend it? Why not?

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Throwback Thursday-Classic 70’s Sitcoms- Welcome Back Kotter, Three’s Company & Maude

There is something about reruns of 1970’s sitcoms. The g-d awful clothing, the way too catchy music and the way that many shows broke new ground for different faces and voices to be heard and seen by audiences.

Airing from 1975-1979, Welcome Back Kotter revolved around a teacher, Gabe Kotter (Gabe Kaplan) who decides to teach the school’s most unruly, unteachable class in a Brooklyn high school. The students, led by Vinnie Barbarino (a young John Travolta) are not the easiest students to teach. But Mr. Kotter is up to the challenge.

This show was and still is very funny. It was also ahead of time with it’s racially and ethnically diverse cast.

In the late 1970’s Three’s Company was either loved or hated, depending on the viewer. Jack Tripper ( the late John Ritter), Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt) and Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers) are roommates. A straight man who has two female roommates in the late 1970’s was bound to raise a few eyebrows. So Jack pretends to be gay. Meanwhile, the owners of the building, Stanley Roper (Normal Fell) and his wife Helen (Audra Lindley) have their own problems. Stanley is not sure that Jack is actually gay and Helen wants some from her husband, but he is not interested.

This show is so full of sexual innuendo that it would have and still today raises some eyebrows. But that doesn’t stop the audience from laughing.

And then there is Maude. A spinoff from All In The Family, Maude (Bea Arthur) is Edith’s liberal, independent and sometimes loudmouthed cousin. Married to husband number four, Walter (Bill Macy), Maude’s adult daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau) and young grandson live with them.

For the 1970’s, this show really (and I mean really) pushed the envelope. Maude was unlike any female character that viewers had seen on television. But if we are to look back, Maude paved the way for the strong female characters that dominate today’s television programs.

I recommend all three.

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Throwback Thursday-Look Who’s Talking (1989)

First person narrative is a common storytelling technique. But it is uncommon when the first person narrative is through the eyes of a baby.

In Look Who’s Talking (1989), Mollie (Kirstie Alley) is a single, career focused woman who only wants a normal boyfriend. Unfortunately, she has a penchant for unavailable, older men. She soon finds herself pregnant by a married colleague.  While in labor, she hails a cab to get to the hospital. The  man in the drivers seat, James (John Travolta), might be the man she is looking for.

The story is told through voice over of Mikey (voiced by Bruce Willis), Mollie’s son. It’s one of those movies that is enjoyable, funny and still relevant after 26 years. Adding to it’s likability is that contrary to the rules in Hollywood, the sequels to this movie,  Look Who’s Talking Too (1990) and Look Who’s Talking Now (1993), do not decline in quality as some movie sequels do.

I recommend it.

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Throwback Thursday- Saturday Night Fever (1977)

The thumping beat starts as the first chorus of the song plays.

The camera pans up to see a pair of dark brown boots. The boots belong to a young man carrying a paint can, walking with a confident swagger. His hair is slicked back, heavy with oil. Above him, the train moves along the elevated track.

That opening song is Staying Alive. The movie is Saturday Night Fever, released in 1977. The character is Tony Manero, played by John Travolta. His parents misunderstand him; his job at the local hardware store is getting him nowhere. Tony finds haven from the hated monotony of his life at the 2001 Odyssey, the local discotheque where he is known as the “King of the Dance Floor”.

Set in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Tony is representative of many young people. Listless, angry and unsure, he finds solace in the dancing. He wants more out of life, but is unable to take the steps needed to move forward with his life.

The music is iconic, as is the movie. Tony’s struggle to free himself from his dead end job, his dead end life and define life on his own terms is a familiar struggle. While some elements of the movie would be today considered very un-politically correct, Saturday Night Fever is a certified classic. The Bee Gees music and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is known the world over; their songs never fail to bring people to the dance floor.

While the times and Bay Ridge have changed, the music, the movie and the need to find ourselves will never change.

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