When “Grease” came out in 1978, it was an instant phenomenon. 1950s nostalgia was all the rage, with both “American Graffiti” and “Happy Days” achieving major popular success at the time. This is to say nothing of the undeniable chemistry between bright-eyed young stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
“Grease” was a massive success among critics and audiences alike, and it’s clear that a huge number of people connected with the sugary sweet musical. To this day, “Grease” is one of the most well-known and beloved musicals in America. The success of the film has not only kept the original Broadway show from 1971 in the public eye but has spawned several revivals and more recently a televised live production.
“Grease” and the Oscars
When Oscar season came round, “Grease” was largely ignored. Its sole nomination was in Best Original Song for “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, which lost out to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” from “Thank God It’s Friday”.
Although fans may have expected nominations for several songs in the film, there’s one snag. The category’s rules are clear that songs from a previously released musical were not eligible, thus excluding the majority of the film’s soundtrack.
What Could Have Been
But were there any other awards that the film could have reasonably expected to be nominated for? Some could argue that perhaps John Travolta’s career-defining role as Danny Zuko was worthy of consideration. It’s not entirely without precedent for the Academy to award actors who acquit themselves well in musicals. However, considering that Gary Busey was also nominated for a musical performance in “The Buddy Holly Story”, maybe there wasn’t room for him in the category.
Is it more plausible that Stockard Channing could have received an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress? She does steal the show as Rizzo, and her performance is arguably the most complex and layered of any in the film.
But perhaps “Grease” received exactly what it deserved. It’s not a requirement that popular, fun movies also need to be rewarded on Oscar night, and maybe “Grease” should be satisfied with audience appreciation and the mainstay power in popular culture it has enjoyed since 1978.