The Big Picture
- The song “Hopelessly Devoted to You” is essential to Grease because it showcases Olivia Newton-John’s talent and vulnerability.
- The song was added late to the film’s soundtrack and became one of the most beloved aspects of Grease.
- Grease has had a lasting legacy on pop culture, inspiring stage adaptations and a re-release for its 45th anniversary.
Although a majority of the most iconic musicals of all-time were released in the 1950s and ‘60s, the 1978 hit Grease established itself as a modern classic within the genre. Although Grease depicted a stage of adolescent anxiety that any young audience could relate to, its visual and aesthetic homages to the 1950s gave the film a warm, nostalgic tone. Grease is highly satirical of the recurring hallmarks within young adult films, but managed to generate empathy for its characters thanks to the breakout performances by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. Even though Sandy is now one of her most iconic roles, Newton-John’s standout musical number “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was the result of a last-minute reshoot.
Good girl Sandy Olsson and greaser Danny Zuko fell in love over the summer. When they unexpectedly discover they’re now in the same high school, will they be able to rekindle their romance?
- Release Date
- June 16, 1978
- Randal Kleiser
- John Travolta , Olivia Newton-John , Stockard Channing , Jeff Conaway , Barry Pearl , Michael Tucci
Why “Hopelessly Devoted to You” Is Essential to ‘Grease’
Grease is set in the summer of 1958, where the teenagers of a small town reunite as they prepare for the impending year of school. Although the local greaser Danny Zuko (Travolta) met and fell in love with the Australian Sandy Olsson (Newton-John) during his summer vacation, he assumes that their relationship never amounted to anything more than a “summer fling.” It’s to Danny’s shock that he discovers that Sandy has enrolled in his high school, leaving room for them to continue their relationship. Grease embodies the heightened emotions of adolescents with its over-the-top sentimentality, satirizing the depiction of “greaser culture” in the films of the 1950s.
Although the somewhat ironic depiction of adolescent relationships is one of the key reasons that the film is so endearing, the earnest performances from Travolta and Newton-John ensure that the film does not become a parody. The love story between Danny and Sandy shows the pressures that both characters are under to embody the traits of their respective social groups. Danny responds to his friends’ jeers to “act tough” by cutting Sandy out of his social circle. Despite her misgivings about his behavior, Sandy finds herself unable to suppress her affections. While Travolta gives one of his best performances, it’s Newton-John’s authentic depiction of heartbreak that makes Grease’s love story so effective.
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Despite the great chemistry that Travolta and Newton-John had together, the film needed to indicate that the characters were still in love, despite the tension that is brewing between them. “Hopelessly Devoted to You” is Grease’s most important musical number because it’s the rare instance where Sandy is isolated. While tracks like “Summer Nights” and “You’re The One That I Want” feature elaborate dance numbers involving the entire cast, “Hopelessly Devoted To You” is a singular showcase for Newton-John’s abilities as a solo performer. By cutting off Sandy from her friends and showing her inner thoughts, the film gives her the chance to be completely vulnerable. It’s easily one of Grease’s best moments; following Newton-John’s tragic passing in 2022, “Hopelessly Devoted To You” was cited as one of her greatest onscreen moments.
Why “Hopelessly Devoted to You” Was Added to ‘Grease’
Despite the importance that it has within the context of the romantic narrative, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was a late addition to the Grease soundtrack that was added after principal photography had already begun. It was in Newton-John’s contract that she would have a solo number, so music producer John Farrar wrote and sent director Randal Kleiser the song. Farrar admitted he spent “the longest period writing lyrics for the song” in order to make it work properly, and faced skepticism from his director; Kleiser had to come up with an entirely new sequence to justify the number’s inclusion within the working cut. The scene featuring “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was shot and recorded after a rough edit of Grease had been completed.
Although being a last-minute addition to boost Newton-John’s star power, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” became one of the most beloved aspects of Grease. The power ballad serves as the perfect representation of Sandy’s feeling that she is being neglected by Danny, and marks the perfect midway point in the story when their relationship is being tested. While a majority of Grease’s musical numbers are energetic and fun, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” establishes an emotional undercurrent to the story that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. The tune earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song, which it would lose to Paul Jabara’s “Last Dance” from Thank God It’s Friday. Nevertheless, the acclaim Newton-John received for her performance allowed her to continue giving performances in musical films, including the 1980 cult classic Xanadu.
“Hopelessly Devoted to You” stands out as one of the aspects of Grease that has aged the best. Grease is one of the many 1970s classics that have outdated elements, as the sexist dialogue and allusions to sexual assault make it difficult to view in a modern context. However, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” is such a powerful track, even in isolation, that it succeeds in its own right. The film itself may contain a problematic message about relationships, but “Hopelessly Devoted to You” reflects a more innocent representation of young love.
The Legacy of ‘Grease’ Lives On
In the decades since its initial release, Grease became a powerful pop culture phenomenon that continues to have an influence on both cinema and musicals. The film’s popularity sparked increased interest in the stage musical of the same name that it was based on, with songs like “Hopelessly Devoted to You” becoming widely circulated in the aftermath. Grease was re-released theatrically for its 45th anniversary, allowing audiences from a younger generation to become lost in its candy-colored visuals and propulsive musical numbers.
Given the unique tone of the original film, the magic of Grease proved difficult to recapture. The ill-conceived 1982 follow-up Grease 2 starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield was criticized as one of the worst sequels of all-time, and the modern prequel series Grease: The Rise of the Pink Ladies was canceled after one season on Paramount+. While Grease’s lasting impact on pop culture may inspire other modern interpretations, viewers unfamiliar with the material are better suited to simply watch the original film instead.
Grease is available to stream on Max in the U.S.
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