Everyone knows summer is a great time for romance. The concept was first immortalized on the big screen for me thanks to one of the great culture-clash couples of cinema – Sandy and Danny in the 1978 musical “Grease,” one of the first movies I ever fell for. Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta are terrific playing two teenagers who become sweethearts over the summer but then have to face the realities of their different cultures when they end up at the same high school in the fall.
Set in the 1950s, Sandy is the sweet, wholesome girl next door, and Danny is a greaser – wild, leather-clad and way-too-cool for school. It’s all very “The Outsiders” with music and without the class overtones. Their troubles don’t stem from Danny being from the wrong side of the tracks, but from Danny having to project a tough, bad-boy image that doesn’t mesh with actually caring about a girl. He’s conflicted because he really does love Sandy, but he’s supposed to be about sex, not love. And Sandy has to decide if she’s going to maintain her standards and squeaky-clean image, or throw all that out of the window to be more like the type of girl she thinks could win Danny’s heart for good. Although set more than 50 years ago, these issues are just as common today – and not just for teenagers.
My friends and I saw “Grease” when we were little and had all the songs memorized – from the opening number, “Summer Nights,” to the closing tunes, “You’re the One that I Want” and “We Go Together” ("like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong"). I especially liked “Hopelessly Devoted to You” because I fancied myself a singer from a young age and was already attuned to my penchant for unrequited love songs. I also loved Stockard Channing’s rendition of “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” because it was so catty and clever.
If you haven’t seen “Grease” in a while or for some unfathomable reason have never seen it, late summer is a great time of year to be transported to that ‘50s era with great songs, classic performances and a timeless story about what could happen after a summer romance.