' ' Cinema Romantico: Shout-Out to the Extra: Grease Version

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Shout-Out to the Extra: Grease Version

Shout-Out to the Extra is a sporadic series in which Cinema Romantico shouts out the extras, the background actors, the bit part players, the almost out of your sight line performers who expertly round out our movies with epic blink & you’ll miss it care.

As I recollect, my parents had taped the 1978 movie version of the stage musical “Grease” to our Betamax at some point in the 80s, but I don’t ever remember watching it nor listening to the “Grease” soundtrack until high school, right around the point where my circle of friends and I were devouring music, I mean any and all music, anything we could get our ears around, far beyond the basics of the mid-90s Billboard charts. We’re talking Drifters and Three Dog Night deep cuts and jazz fusion and Uriah Heep and Yanni: Live at the Acropolis and yes, the “Grease” soundtrack entered the mix there, too, at some point. I remember my friend David telling me that he listened to the “Grease” soundtrack every night went he went to bed, but that he didn’t go to sleep until he got in all his favorites. One of those favorites, it probably goes without saying, was “Summer Nights,” the cross-cutting duet in which Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy and John Travolta’s Danny recount their summer romance, unaware that they are now both enrolled in the same high school.

At some point during the lockdown portion of the Pandemic My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife and I happened upon “Grease” showing on some TV channel and watched part of it, including “Summer Nights” where we noticed something new. It’s an extra, one who pops up on Sandy’s side of the story in the school cafeteria. Right at the song’s turn, when it briefly downshifts and Sandy laments “It turned colder, that’s where it ends,” hugging herself as if she feels the chills from her memory and walks heavily left to right. As she does, the camera tracks with her and picks up an extra in the background, sitting on top of a lunch table, his feet on the bench, his chin in his hand, staring off into the distance.

Rather than merely going through the background motions, our heroic extra has channeled the spirit of the scene, of Sandy, of Olivia Newton-John (RIP), like if Rodin’s Thinker had been plunked down on the edge of a 35mm Metrocolor version of a Renaissance painting, compelled it would seem to remember his own teenage dream, to wonder what she’s doin’ now. Those summer nights, man.

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