Concluding my personal ranking of the 25 movie musicals deemed essential by the American Film Institute…
#1. Grease – 1978
(#20 on the AFI list)
I don’t know if this will be a controversial choice as my #1 musical on the AFI list, but I have to say it wasn’t even close. Since I first saw Grease as a kid, this has been not just the best musical I’ve ever seen but one of my favorite movies, period.
This movie is such a blast from start to finish — from the melodramatic beachside embrace to the greatest end-of-school carnival ever. It’s impossible to start Grease and not finish it.
Grease is primarily about the unlikely romance between greaser Danny Zuko and good girl Sandy Olsson, but I always found more emotional resonance in the sub-plot concerning the rebellious Rizzo, played by Stockard Channing.
Rizzo provides comic relief but also has a pregnancy scare that complicates her relationship with Kenickie, and in one of the film’s most touching scenes (embedded below) she gives us a rare glimpse of her vulnerability.
I believe there is a version of this song with lyrics (courtesy of The Four Aces), but it’s not the version I own.
That’s because the version I own is the one that accompanies the opening scene of Grease — captured in all its glory below.
Enjoy the romance-filled summer of Sandy and Danny, including a moment when Danny gets a little too grabby, set to this wonderfully over-the-top orchestral arrangement.
I never thought I could milk a week’s worth of blog posts out of the Schooner Bar on the Liberty of the Seas, but here we are.
One night, Paul O’Shea played the first few notes of ‘Summer Nights’ from the Grease soundtrack and then looked to the audience for a Sandy to sing alongside him.
No, I’m not going to tell you that Alex (or I) volunteered. This isn’t that good a story.
I originally planned to post today’s clip as part of my week on musicals, but it felt like too much of a cheat so I swapped it out for ‘Summer Nights.’
But I’d hate to see it go to waste so I’m resurrecting it today.
I love this animated title sequence. It gives you a great feel for the setting and characters of the film as well as the overall tone. It’s corny, fun and mischievous. And I must admit I’ve always been more than a little stirred by the cartoon body of Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy.
As for the song, it’s a true classic. Penned by Barry Gibb and performed by Franki Valli (whose music I saw spotlighted this summer on a terrific cruise show modeled after The Jersey Boys), it’s a perfect bridge between the 70s and the 50s.