American nostalgia as we all know it was invented within the nineteen-seventies. Contemplate that decade’s preponderance of backward-looking pop-cultural phenomena: Sha Na Na; Glad Days; “Yesterday As soon as Extra”; American Graffiti, whose tagline requested “The place had been you in ’62?”, a time simply eleven years earlier than the discharge of the image itself. However no piece of labor stands extra iconically for the seventies revival of the late fifties and early sixties than Grease. First produced as a stage musical in Chicago in 1971, it graduated to Broadway the following yr. However Grease wouldn’t take its most enduring kind till 1978, the yr that introduced Randal Kleiser’s movie adaptation starring John Travolta and the late Olivia Newton-John.
A 28-year-old Australian might need appeared an unconventional alternative for the a part of Sandy Dombrowski, the brand new woman at midwestern Rydell Excessive College. However after the alteration of some particulars within the character and story, she made the function fully her personal. “It was Newton-John’s dulcet intimacy as a singer that set her up completely to play the naïve Sandy onscreen,” writes the New Yorker‘s Rachel Syme.
Her “squeaky prudishness and moony innocence as she wails ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You‘ stands in such sharp, foolish distinction to her vampy fallen-woman persona on the finish of the movie that the entire thing seems like a camp commentary on the facility of costuming and collective fantasy (to not point out an excellent perm).”
It didn’t damage that Newton-John was already established as a singer: she’d represented the United Kingdom in 1974’s Eurovision Song Contest (dropping, in the end, to ABBA), and that exact same yr scored nation hits in the USA. Her abilities did a lot not simply to make the Grease soundtrack America’s second-best-selling album of 1978 (second to the soundtrack of Travolta’s personal car Saturday Night time Fever), however to maintain it enduringly in style all through the many years since. At Grease‘s 2002 DVD launch occasion, Newton-John and Travolta reunited onstage to sing “You’re the One That I Want,” a lot to the delight of the viewers — all of whom should nonetheless bear in mind the place they had been in ’02, no less than for these three minutes.
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Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His tasks embody the Substack publication Books on Cities, the e-book The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by means of Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The City in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.