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Small Details You Missed In Grease

Multiple generations have enjoyed "Grease" since it came out during the summer of 1978. Regardless of your generation, many count the film as a favorite of our youth. The high scores on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic reflect this musical was a hit with critics and audiences, securing a place for itself as a cinematic icon because of our collective hunger for nostalgia. Many of us can still sing along with the entire soundtrack, proving this pop culture pastiche was seared into our brains by watching it repeatedly.

What is so endearing about "Grease" is how every actor embraced the intentionally campy attitude of the production, infusing the musical with shameless enthusiasm. It is as much about having fun as poking fun. It is a satire and an homage to teen exploitation films of the '50s. "Grease" walks a fine line between sarcasm and idolatry, looking back at the innocence of teen romance in the '50s with experience gained during the sexual revolution.

The older cast plays their characters with humor and kindness. They never make fun of the teenagers they are playing, instead the film makes fun of the conformity 1950s culture foisted upon teenagers. "Grease" explores the social pressures of sun-drenched southern California teen life with sly wit and warmth. This musical reveals something new each time you watch it because the audience brings something new to each screening. 

Sandy's introduction references Disney characters

The animated credits of "Grease" introduce the main characters as we watch them get ready for their first day of school. Danny (John Travolta) is shown waking up in a messy room before he greases and styles his hair. Rizzo's (Stockard Channing) room is covered in school paraphernalia and a James Dean poster, while Kenickie's (Jeff Conaway) introduction is all about cars.

From the very beginning, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) is depicted as being different from the other characters. Her room is clean and classic. White doves help Sandy put on her dressing gown after she gets out of bed, and a deer and rabbit greet Sandy when she crosses the room to her vanity. Referencing "Cinderella" and "Bambi" in her introduction sets Sandy up as the goody-two-shoes princess she is (per Insider). Sandy is the preppy golden girl who snags a spot on the cheerleading squad on her first day of school because she looks the part.

It is immediately clear Sandy and Danny come from different social cliques, and their families probably come from different socio-economic demographics as well. Despite being lighthearted, funny, and energetic, "Grease" explores how limiting adhering to a public persona can be for all our main characters. Danny, Sandy, Rizzo, and Kenickie all have a reputation they are trying to maintain, and all of them experience discomfort because this image holds them back from being more genuine about who they are and how they feel.

More animated 1950s pop culture references and products

During the animated intro, numerous references to 1950s Americana set the era the movie takes place during despite the film debuting in theaters in 1978. We see hula hoops, Elvis, Davy Crockett, jukeboxes, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean posters, and an "I like Ike" election pin in the film's animated opening montage (per Insider).

Once the opening credits leave the bedrooms of our main characters, we see the outside world, where classic 1950s cars cruise down a strip with soda shops and billboards advertising Lucky Strike, and automotive brands like Firestone, Pennzoil, and Ford that were popular in the era in which this movie takes place.

By the time the animated credits melt into the brick-and-mortar Rydell High School, everyone watching knows we have traveled back to the late '50s. If there was any doubt, the cuffed jeans, black and white Converse All-stars, and white T-shirts on the boys, and full skirts, sweater sets, and saddle shoes the girls wear cement us in mid-20th century Americana.

The pep rally is a little weird

Maybe pep rallies were a little different back in the '50s? Have you ever been to a school pep rally where it was appropriate to burn the mascot of your rival school in effigy? Everything about this nighttime bonfire pep rally is just a little off. Coach Calhoun's speech about tearing the other team apart, the signs that say "Death to the Gladiators" and "RIP Rydell" are a little intense (per Insider).

Of course, the absurd depiction of the pep rally might be because we are seeing it through the eyes of the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies, two social cliques that are set apart from the preppies and jocks. The T-Birds and Pink Ladies watch the rabid school spirit with a detached too-cool-for-school amusement in Danny's case or being made fun of with "Three Stooges" antics by Doody (Barry Pearl), Sonny (Michael Tucci), and Putzie (Kelly Ward).

The Pink Ladies and T-Birds who are spirited enough to attend, but not so spirited as to join in the cultish frenzy of teenage sports theatrics, juxtapose the overtly hostile school spirit of the preppy students. The pep rally highlights how even on her first day of school, Sandy is welcomed into the jock social circle instantly, nabbing a spot on the cheerleading squad and the interest of a football player while people like Danny, Kenickie, and Rizzo who have attended the school for years are still on the fringes.

Sandy never elaborates on why she stayed in Los Angeles

When the Pink Ladies take Sandy to meet the T-Birds after the pep rally to surprise Danny, all Sandy tells Danny when he asks why she didn't go back to Australia was, "we had a change of plans." 

Although his natural reaction is excitement, the moment he remembers his friends are watching him, Danny pretends he's the cool-guy persona he projects at school rather than the genuine-guy Sandy met at the beach that summer. "Grease" effortlessly shows how Danny and Sandy's interactions at the beach during the film's beginning differ completely from their interactions once other people are watching.

We never learn why Sandy's family stayed in Los Angeles because Danny's behavior upsets Sandy and she gets angry with him, blowing up in frustration rather than sharing why her plans suddenly changed. This scene also makes it clear Sandy and Danny learned little about each other over the summer if Sandy didn't even know which school Danny attended.

Maybe they did a little more kissing and less talking than she implied during their duet in the "Summer Nights" musical number? The discrepancy between how Sandy and Danny characterized their summer fling reveals how they want others to see them. Danny wants to project a too-cool persona, while Sandy wants to be seen as a good girl. Maybe the truth about each of them is somewhere between.

Kenickie didn't know Rizzo's first name

When Kenickie and Rizzo are making out in his car, she asks him to call her by her first name, and he awkwardly pauses a bit too long, making it clear he can't recall her name. Exasperated, she tells him to call her Betty and they continue making out until Kenickie tries to pull out a condom and it breaks while removing it from the foil. In a moment of frustration, he confesses he bought it in seventh grade!

This scene reveals a lot about Rizzo and Kenickie, suggesting the two of them are more innocent than they might imply to their friends. If Rizzo wants him to call her by her first name, maybe she isn't as tough as she pretends to be, and she likes Kenickie, contrary to what she said to her friends about their dalliance ending. Likewise, if Kenickie has been carrying a condom around since seventh grade, maybe he isn't as experienced as he might want his friends to think.

Despite acting tough, Kenickie stands up for Rizzo when the guys make a comment about her not being a lady and he ditches the T-Birds to spend time with Rizzo, despite the attitude his friends give him for choosing a girl over the guys. Maybe Danny could learn a little something from Kenickie and put Sandy above his immature need to impress his friends?

Grease is filled with innuendo

The dialogue and song lyrics in "Grease" are rife with sexually suggestive language, innuendo, and double entendre. When Rizzo isn't asking Danny if he's leaving to "flog your log," or making jokes about Marty's virgin pin being useless, she's flirting with Kenickie through thinly veiled dirty talk. The lyrics and dance moves to the "Greased Lightning" musical number certainly make you think twice about why you were allowed to watch this movie when you were 10 years old!

Unsurprisingly most of this suggestive language goes over younger viewers' heads, leading to big laughs years down the road when you finally watch "Grease" as a teenager or young adult. Experienced listeners realize "Grease" is all about the frustration of teenagers not knowing what to do with their surging hormones and their need to appear cool, but also find someone to love them.

Interestingly enough, the characters who are the most innocent and goofy, Jan (Jamie Donnelly) and Putzie, as well as Frenchy and Doody, have the easiest time establishing happy relationships because they are more interested in being genuine and having fun rather than playing it cool and hiding their feelings like Danny, Rizzo, and Kenickie. If only we had been paying attention to the securely attached nice sidekicks instead of the relationship drama of the main characters!

Frenchy doesn't use any of her wigs after her tinting disaster

From Rizzo's hilarious performance of "Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee" during the girl's slumber party; we know Frenchy owns multiple wigs. Jan, Rizzo, Marty, and Frenchy all wore a wig during the musical number. Oddly, Frenchy never considers wearing a wig after she accidentally dyes her hair bright pink during a tinting snafu at her beauty school. Despite owning at least four wigs, Frenchy shows up at The Frosty Palace with a scarf tied over her head to hide her flamingo pink locks.

Frenchy doesn't wear a wig because she needs to expose her mistake before confessing to Vi (Joan Blondell), the head waitress at the soda shop, that she's been struggling in all her classes at beauty school and she dropped out. In addition, Frenchy's bright pink hair looks absolutely fabulous and contrasts the white and silver color theme during the "Beauty School Drop-Out" musical number that follows her confession.

Frankie Avalon is a jerk

Word is, Elvis Presley was offered the part of Teen Angel, but he turned it down and Frankie Avalon took the part for the film adaptation of "Grease." Frenchy might make moon eyes at Frankie Avalon's Teen Angel like he's some super dreamy guardian angel, but once she catches what he is saying, she doesn't look too happy after realizing her guardian angel is a jerk!

At least, he's a jerk to Frenchy during the "Beauty School Drop-Out" musical number, where he insults her multiple times. He calls her a slob, says no one would be her client unless, "they were a hooker," and finishes his tough-love pep talk by saying she isn't cut out to have a job. It sure seems like Frenchy's guardian angel is verbally abusive and is trying to destroy her self-confidence!

Since this is a fantasy interlude it's probably fair to say the Teen Angel's words are actually that little voice in Frenchy's head, where she puts herself down and calls herself crazy for wanting a career as a beautician rather than finishing high school with her friends. Frenchy's guardian angel's advice might be good if you can get past his brutally honest delivery.

Marty tells Rizzo she caught Vince Fontaine putting something in her drink

These days, women are highly aware of people trying to drug their drinks at clubs or social events. We call it getting roofied, but back in the time of "Grease" they probably called it getting slipped a mickey. After Rizzo confesses she might be pregnant to Marty in the bathroom at the drive-in, Marty commiserates about how awful men are, telling Rizzo she caught Vince Fontaine (Edd Byrnes) trying to slip something in her drink at the dance-off. This attempted drugging slips right past most viewers. It seems to slip past Rizzo's notice, too. She doesn't even comment on it.

Maybe Rizzo was too preoccupied thinking about an unwanted pregnancy, or maybe this kind of thing was so common it's not something a jaded young woman like Rizzo would think twice about. Marty seemed interested in Vince Fontaine, despite his sleaziness. We knew the National Bandstand host and DJ was predatory when he asked Marty, "do your parents know I slip into your room every night?" Still, trying to drug Marty's drink at a school dance puts him in a new category of criminal instead of just creepy.

Grease includes several anachronistic elements

From the intro song, "Grease" clearly being a disco tune written by Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees when the film was set 20 years earlier during the Eisenhower administration, to Rydell High being named after a musician, Bobby Rydell, who didn't become famous until the 1960s (per Groovy History), this movie is filled with anachronisms.

Danny's suit during the dance-off with the matching pink shirt and socks, and the butterfly collar was super '70s, just as Sandy and Danny's dance moves during the competition would have been at home on the dance floor at Studio 54. Additionally, Mrs. Murdoch (Alice Ghostley) as a female shop teacher in the 1950s is also incredibly unrealistic and anachronistic, even a female high school principal like Principle McGee (Eve Arden) was uncommon during the Eisenhower era (per JSTOR).

"Grease" is a satirical and nostalgic look back at '50s teen culture through a '70s lens. While depicting the limiting and hypocritical sexual politics and sexism of the '50s, this musical pokes fun at the norms and mores of an earlier era by showing how incredibly absurd these double standards in dating were for young men and women. Rizzo is the progressive voice calling for the sexual revolution, while Sandy is the upper-class good girl holding to a code of ethics that is quickly becoming history.

There are continuity errors throughout the film

There is an abundance of continuity errors and mistakes in "Grease" that should have been caught during editing. For example, Crater Face aka Leo (Dennis Stewart), takes his sunglasses off twice while entering the dance flanked by Marty and Rizzo. In another scene at The Frosty Palace Vi, turns off the light, but her elbow was inches away from the light switch.

The biggest and most obvious continuity errors happen at Frenchy's slumber party. In one scene, Jan hands Sandy the wine bottle, and Sandy takes a sip, but when the camera cuts back to Jan during their conversation, Jan is also holding the wine bottle. They don't have two bottles of wine either! This error and many like it made it past editing. There is also an issue with the headboard of Frenchy's bed in these scenes. In some shots, the headboard is cluttered, while in other shots it is clean with a large black fan on the left.

In the scene where Danny falls while jumping hurdles trying to impress Sandy when she runs to Danny, the hurdle he tripped over has vanished. There are other instances where people switch places during dance sequences, suggesting they tried different things with the choreography and didn't notice they had continuity errors while editing the film. All these errors are minor, but once you look for them, you can find quite a few, as Diply pointed out.

Putzie is the only central character who looks remotely high school age

The entire cast is way too old to play teenagers. This is probably something that you didn't entirely miss. Although we've grown accustomed to seeing high school students portrayed by young adults in Hollywood, due to labor laws, some members of the "Grease" cast were more believable as teenagers than others. Director Randal Kleiser told Vanity Fair he performed a "crow's feet test" to determine which actors could suspend our disbelief and fly under the radar portraying believable teenagers.

According to Insider, Dinah Manoff was one of the younger members of the cast, playing Marty at 21 years old, while John Travolta was only 23 during filming. Olivia Newton-John, who turned 29 during filming, almost didn't take the part because she thought she was too old to play Sandy (per Vanity Fair). Stockard Channing, who played Rizzo, was the oldest member of the cast. Channing was 33 years old while filming "Grease," but her love interest, Kenickie, played by Jeff Conaway, was only 26 in 1977 during filming.

Sonny, Doody, and Jan definitely didn't look like they should be in high school, but Putzie, who was played by Kelly Ward, was only 20 years old while filming the movie. Ward is by far the most believable high school student in "Grease," not just because of his baby face, but because of his innocent questions and comments throughout the film.

Danny and Sandy might be doomed

The prominent "Danger Ahead" sign we see during Sandy and Danny's musical number, "You're The One That I Want" in the funhouse, suggests Danny and Sandy might not be out of the woods yet. Modern audiences have made a fuss about how toxic Sandy and Danny's relationship dynamic really was. No relationship based upon trying to change another person, or feeling like you must change to make someone else happy will work.

Of course, they might stay together if both of them give up caring so much about what others think. Perhaps both Danny and Sandy being willing to be more flexible at the end of "Grease" is actually a sign they are both learning to compromise and that Sandy and Danny realized they were too preoccupied with others' opinions. Who knows, maybe their role reversal is a sign they have turned a corner in their relationship?

After the film's 40th anniversary, Travolta told USA Today, that he thinks Sandy and Danny are still together, saying, "I think they had several kids, which people did in those days, they adored their kids, and they held onto their romance. Sandy and Danny were the real deal." But, then again, maybe that "Danger Ahead" sign was a valid warning. They might have flown away from their graduation carnival in a supped-up car, but that doesn't mean they necessarily took a walk down the aisle.