Looking at Film – Grease

GreaseMoviePoster
THEORPHEUM, 2015. Grease – Rockin’ Rydell Sing-A-Long. In: The Orpheum. 23 May 2015 [8 October 2015]. Available from: http://www.wichitaorpheum.com/events/120/grease-rockin-rydell-sing-a-long/

Plot/Storyline
Grease was a broadway show made into a film in 1978. The film starts off showing two young teens playing around and falling in love on a beach in America, but the bliss ends when the end of summer arrives and Sandy has to move back to Australia. Fate plays it’s part and they end up going to the same school, Rydell High, but when they eventually meet Sandy is disappointed to find that Danny is not the same Danny she had fallen in love with at the beach. He feels he has to uphold his hard T-birds reputation and doesn’t want to be seen as soppy or uncool. However after trying to change their ways and prove to each other that they both want to be together, they end up driving away into the clouds (literally) to start their new adult lives together.

Motifs
I think a motif in Grease would be the use of cigarettes to show how cool and rebellious the character is. Characters such as Rizzo and Kenickie are seen smoking cigarettes to show their ‘cool kid’ status and characters that are seen as more geeky are never seen to be smoking. When Danny is first introduced (image below) he is seen talking to some attractive girls and then turns around and has a cigarette in his mouth which shows his rebellious, cheeky chappy, ‘top dog’ status. Sandy is never seen to smoke, apart from when she is pressured into it once by the Pink Ladies at a sleep over, however at the end of the film when she has her makeover she is seen with a cigarette in her mouth. I think this represents how she is trying to be very cool and seductive and show that she isn’t just a ‘good girl’ and has a naughty side too.
grease-john-travolta
ALDERSON, M., 2011. A hickie from Kenickie is like a Hallmark card… In: Style Notes. 30 May 2011 [8 October 2015]. Available from: https://maggiealdersonstylenotes.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/a-hickie-from-kinickie-is-like-a-hallmark-card/

Sandy wears very light and pale coloured clothing and accessories to show she is pure, youthful and light hearted; whereas I noticed that all the characters that wear seen to have more of a dark side, wore very dark and deep colours to show how dangerous and mean they could be. The perfect example of this is the outfit choices at the end of school ball. Sandy wears a white flared dress, white low heels and a white hair accessory; I think this all white outfit represents her innocence, purity and virginity. Frenchie wears a yellow, frilly dress and the colour yellow is associated with happiness, joy and energy, which are three words you would use to describe her fun loving personality. On the flip side, Rizzo wears a very sexy, body tight, red and black spotted dress with high heels. I think the deep red in her dress represents her passion, anger and longing for leadership; and I think the black in her dress shows her mysterious, evil and power hungry personality. This could also be said for Cha-Cha’s all black outfit. The ‘good’ characters mostly seem to have light coloured hair and the ‘bad’ characters seem to have dark coloured hair, to represent their dark or light sides.
Grease-Danny-Sandy-Dancing
MAIER, J., 2013. Grease Is A Bad Movie And I’m The Only One Brave Enough To Say It. In: Crushable. 26 September 2013 [8 October 2015]. Available from: http://www.crushable.com/2013/09/26/entertainment/grease-is-a-bad-movie-olivia-newton-john/

rizzo-stockard-channing
JESSICANIXSON1, 2013. Costume Research. In: Grease!. 22 January 2013 [8 October 2015]. Available from: http://jessicanixongrease.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/costume-research.html

I think a motif for the T-Birds would be how they comb their greased up hair up and into a twisted point. I think this is a sign of them showing how cool their style is. An example of both Danny and Kenickie doing this is just after Kenickie asks Danny to be his wing man at the race and they hug excitedly. Once they realise that they are being soppy by hugging each other, they both immediately take out their combs and start combing back their hair to show that their ‘hard man’ image is still very present. Another motif to show that they like to keep up their cool image is the use of leather jackets. Danny and Kenickie are almost always seen wearing black leather jackets, with their collars up and laid back walk to give off a hard and cool image. When Sandy is given her makeover she is seen slowly strutting up to the boys in a leather jacket, which was very different from her usually attire, representing how she could now have the same ‘bad girl’ image as Danny.
danny and kenickie
CHARITY EVENTS UK & NEWS, 2011. “Grease” and “Taxi” Actor Jeff Conaway Has Died. In: CharityUKNews. 29 May 2011 [8 October 2015]. Available from: https://femaleimagination.wordpress.com/2011/05/page/3/

Stock Characters
Musicals are always mixed with another genre to shape the storyline. In Grease the genre crosses over with the romantic-comedy genre to create the love story between Sandy and Danny. I will therefore give a list of stock characters more focused on a romantic comedy. Below I have listed the commonly used stock characters and matched them up with characters from Grease.
The male would be Danny as he is the lead male character that falls in love with a beautiful girl.
The love interest is Sandy as the storyline follows how Danny and Sandy fall in love and find a way to be together.
The unsuitable partner would be Tom Chisum, who Sandy briefly dates but realises that he is too boring and stilted for her, this makes her realise how much she wants to be with Danny.
The evil one could be argued to be Rizzo at points because she makes fun of Sandy and takes pleasure in awkwardly introducing Sandy to Danny. However it could also be argued to be Leo from the Cycle Lords because he is very cruel when he races Danny and he steals Kenickie’s prom date off him and then flaunts her in front of him at the dance.
The side kick for Sandy would be Frenchy as she is always a shoulder to cry on for Sandy and is always there for support. Danny’s side kick would be Kenickie because they are best friends and have each other’s backs.
The good gang for the females would be the Pink Ladies, which is the group of girls Sandy is adopted by, formed of Rizzo, Frenchy, Marty and Jan. For the boys, the ‘good gang’ would be the T-Birds, who have a cool and hard reputation to uphold, formed of Danny Zuko, Kenickie, Sonny, Doody and Putzie.
The bad gang would be the Cycle Lords as they are the rival gang to the T-Birds.
The comedic character could be seen as Blanche as she always acted very over the top and ditsy, however it could also be seen as Frenchie as she is poked fun at for dropping out of beauty school for messing up, especially her hair colours! The trio of T-Birds could be seen as a comedic group as they are always messing around and making up silly dances. Many of the characters have comedic value in Grease, so there are many arguments for this role.

Genre
The film Grease doesn’t fit perfectly into just one genre. It is a musical, because there are songs sung by the characters throughout the film, with dancing; but it is also a romantic comedy because it is about two teens going through struggles but finding love in the end.

When technological advancements towards the end of the 1920’s meant that films could be produced with a soundtrack, the genre of musicals was a natural development within films and became instantly popular with audiences. The Jazz Singer (1927) was a precursor of a true musical, having just a few sound sequences rather than a full soundtrack, but it was the first such film to be produced and was a box office hit. This encouraged other studios to produce musicals and a large number, 125, were made between 1929-1930 to take advantage of this new market. This was at the time of the Great Depression, but the films continued to show rich and happy people living in opulent surroundings, with audiences keen to enjoy this fantasy life. Warner Bros, however, did start to produce films which reflected the poor economic state of the country at the time, with films such as 42nd Street (1933) and Gold Diggers of 1933 commenting on the struggle for employment and of everyday living. Also in 1933 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers appeared in their first film together – Flying Down to Rio – a pairing which caught the audience’s imagination and they went on to star in a total of 9 musicals in the 1930’s, with music written by well respected songwriters of the time, including George and Ira Gershwin and Irving Berlin, ensuring musicals were a highly regarded and popular genre. Towards the end of the decade, in 1939, The Wizard of Oz was released; still one of the most popular of all genres of film of all time.

Unlike some other genres, musicals remained popular during World War II, and they enjoyed another ‘golden era’ of popularity between 1944 and 1958, with stars including Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron performing in classic films such as Gigi (1958) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952). However, their popularity began to wane in the late 50’s/early 60’s when most musicals were merely screen adaptations of popular Broadway musicals which failed to bring anything new and exciting to the genre. Around this time most of the few original musicals that were made were aimed at the youth market, such as films starring Elvis Presley, including Hawaii and Las Vegas.

In the late 1970’s two musicals starring John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease (1978), were massive hits. They were both aimed at younger audiences, showing them how they could use dance to affect their lives and friendships, and were the beginning of a group of similarly structured films, such as Flashdance (1983) and Footloose (1984). The musical then became particularly popular again with a new audience when Disney began producing a series of very successful animated musicals, such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Lion King (1994), aimed at a much younger audience. Similarly, Disney went on to develop the highly successful High School Musical brand between 2006 and 2011, which was again aimed at a specific young age group, rather than having the broader appeal of the original musicals, which were aimed at a much wider age group.

Musicals this century have had mixed success. Hairspray (2007), Mamma Mia! (2008) and Les Miserables (2012), which received 8 Oscar nominations and won 3, including Makeup and Hairstyling, were all box office hits; whereas Rent (2005) and Sweeney Todd (2007) were both badly received. Unlike in their ‘golden eras’, producing a musical at the moment does not guarantee success, with each film being judged on its own merits and individual appeal.

When the genre ‘musicals’ was first introduced, a film which included three or more songs was considered to be a musical. More recently, the songs must be an integral part of the film and actually help to tell the story or move the story along. However, as with other genres, musicals often incorporate elements of other genres, such as Westerns (Annie Get your Gun 1950) or romantic comedies (Grease). There have been two main attempts to categorize musicals further than just the musical element. The original subdivisions were: the revue; the operetta; the backstage story; the star vehicle; the musical biography; the integrated musical. In his book The American Film Musical published in 1987, Rick Altman suggested different categories: the fairy-tale musical; the show musical; the folk musical – which managed to incorporate the previous categories into just 3 new categories. Across all these sub-categories, however, there is one element which is common to most musicals; bringing two people together against the odds.

Resources:
PITTISING_POYNS, 2010. Musical Theatre Stock Characters. In: Musicals dot Net. 3 March 2010 [8 October 2015]. Available from: http://musicals.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=78360

FRIEDMAN, L.; DESSER, D.; KOZLOFF, S.; NOCHIMSON, M.; PRINCE, S., 2013. An Introduction to Film Genres. New York: W. W. Norton & Company

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