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Movies you missed: 'Grease'

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for movies you missed.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

HUMPHREY BOGART: (As Rick Blaine) Here's looking at you, kid.

CLARK GABLE: (As Rhett Butler) Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

MARLON BRANDO: (As Terry Malloy) I could have been a contender.

BETTE DAVIS: (As Margo) Fasten your seat belts.

CUBA GOODING JR.: (As Frank Sachs) Show me the money.

ROBERT DE NIRO: (As Travis Bickle) You talking to me?

ESTELLE REINER: (As Older Woman Customer) I'll have what she's having.

OPRAH WINFREY: (As Sofia) I ain't never thought I had to fight in my own house.

BRANDO: (As Stanley) Stella.

SIMON: This week, souped-up cars, poodle skirts, high school drama and a great musical score.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GREASED LIGHTNIN'")

JOHN TRAVOLTA: (As Danny Zuko, singing ) Go Greased Lightnin'. You're burning up the quarter-mile.

JEFF CONAWAY ET AL: (As the T-Birds, singing) Greased Lightnin', go Greased Lightnin'.

SIMON: "Grease," the 1978 musical with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as sweethearts at Rydell High in the '50s, a musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. You know it, right? Who doesn't? Well, Dori Bell of Houston never saw "Grease," but she watched it for us this week. Firstly, Dori Bell, thanks so much for being with us.

DORI BELL: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

SIMON: How did you miss "Grease"?

BELL: Well, when we were growing up - I grew up in rural southwest Louisiana. And we had an antenna. And we had one local TV channel that we would watch. And then we played outside most of the time. So if it wasn't Saturday morning cartoons or, you know, a series on NBC, we missed it - or a Disney movie. We watched quite a few Disney movies. But yeah, kind of missed us.

SIMON: You saw it with this conversation in mind this week. What was your quick overall impression?

BELL: When I first finished it, I was like, what did I just watch? (Laughter) Like, I thought it was so strange. And I thought it was really weird. And it wasn't at all what I thought it was going to be. But I will say that when I went to bed that night, I was singing the songs in my head, and the songs kind of got stuck with me and...

SIMON: Ha.

BELL: ...Stuff like that. So I did like the music. Some of the songs I thought were pretty good.

SIMON: Well, that's a good sign. Let me ask you about some of the fine points because over the years, many people have said some of the actors who played high school students looked like instead they should have been in "On Golden Pond"...

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: ...That they just look way too old to play high school kids. Did you notice that?

BELL: I absolutely noticed that. I took some notes. And one of the first notes I wrote was, these people are way too old to be in high school, dot, dot, dot. And then later in the film, when - I think they're at the dance...

SIMON: Yeah.

BELL: ...And that other guy comes in, who's, like, from a rival high school or whatever. He walks in. I literally said to myself, that is a grown man.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Well, maybe he just had problems getting through high school, OK?

BELL: Yeah.

SIMON: It happens to some of us.

BELL: I was like, who are these people?

SIMON: Oh, my word. What about John Travolta? One of the great movie dancers of all time, right?

BELL: I really liked his dancing. I liked - I enjoyed watching him dance. I'm a big fan of "Saturday Night Fever."

SIMON: Oh, yeah.

BELL: So I thought he was a little bit goofy through the movie. I mean, all the characters are. Like, that was one of the notes that I took. I thought everybody was kind of goofy through the whole thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GREASE")

TRAVOLTA: (As Danny Zuko) Sandy, what's a matter with you? I thought I meant something to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR DOOR SLAMMING)

TRAVOLTA: (As Sandy Olsson) Meant something to you? You think I'm going to stay here with you in this sin wagon? You can take this piece of tin.

TRAVOLTA: (As Danny Zuko) Sandy, you just can't walk out of a drive-in!

BELL: But I really enjoyed watching him dance. That was a lot of fun.

SIMON: Olivia Newton-John?

BELL: She was my favorite. Actually, I wrote that down. Like, she was my favorite character. I thought she was very grounded. I thought she was probably the most real out of all the characters. And I really liked her singing voice. And I thought she was very pretty. I liked her a lot.

SIMON: Yeah. So what did you think of the songs? I have a favorite, but I'm going to conceal it from you for a moment.

BELL: I actually really liked the opening song, the one that's overlayed on the cartoon when it opens. I liked that song.

SIMON: Yeah, I like that song, too. Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GREASE")

FRANKIE VALLI: (Singing) I saw my problems, and I'll see the light. We got a lovin' thing. We got to feed it right.

BELL: Yeah. I liked that one. But then I also liked the - "You're The One That I Want."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I WANT")

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN AND JOHN TRAVOLTA: (As Sandy and Danny, singing) You're the one that I want - ooh, ooh, ooh - honey - the one that I want - ooh, ooh, ooh - honey.

BELL: I've heard it before in karaoke bars at, like, 2 in the morning. But, like, I've never heard it in the context of the movie. And I really enjoyed it with the dance scene and the whole, like, carnival thing. Like...

SIMON: Yeah.

BELL: ...I liked that a lot. That was probably my favorite scene in the movie.

SIMON: All right. I got to tell you my favorite song.

BELL: Yeah. What's your favorite song?

SIMON: My favorite song is "Summer Nights."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUMMER NIGHTS")

TRAVOLTA: (As Danny Zuko, singing) Summer lovin', had me a blast.

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN: (As Sandy Olsson, singing) Summer lovin', happened so fast.

TRAVOLTA: (As Danny Zuko, singing) I met a girl crazy for me.

NEWTON-JOHN: (As Sandy Olsson, singing) Met a boy cute as can be.

NEWTON-JOHN AND TRAVOLTA: (As Sandy and Danny, singing) Summer days drifting away to, uh-oh, those summer nights.

BELL: She sounds so good on that. Yeah.

SIMON: Yes, doesn't she? Yeah. I like that song. Would you watch it again?

BELL: Probably not (laughter). I would watch clips on YouTube if...

SIMON: Oh.

BELL: ...I wanted to revisit some certain scenes, like the dancing at the end. If I wanted to see it again, I would rewatch it. I would not sit through the whole movie again, though. No.

SIMON: Let me - because you are, I think, a very perceptive critic, did you find a serious note about human civilization and human experience in "Grease"?

BELL: Yes. And actually...

SIMON: You did? I was asking the question as a joke. But let me hear this. OK.

BELL: Yes. And the reason I say that is because I didn't think the movie was very good overall.

SIMON: Yeah.

BELL: I can see why people like it. But I didn't know the musical preceded the movie. I thought that it was a movie, and then they made it a musical. I didn't know it was a musical beforehand. So I really didn't know if maybe when you go see the musical, maybe if it's kind of one of those things where it's a play on, you know, high school and the experience and how you can be from somewhere else, and you come to high school and it's all the same. Like, she's from Australia. There's no mention of culture shock whatsoever for her. Like, she's thrown into this love story, you know? And there's all these, like, petty fights and things like that. So really, I was like, maybe that's what they're saying. Like, that's kind of what I got from it.

SIMON: Aw. That's very reflective. I...

BELL: I'm reaching. I am reaching for meaning here (laughter).

SIMON: Well, welcome to our world.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: That's the job sometimes. Dori Bell of Houston, who watched "Grease" for us and reflected on it - thank you so much for being with us.

BELL: Thank you for having me. It was so nice meeting y'all.

SIMON: And if there's a movie you've missed and you'd like to watch it for us, you can go to n.pr/moviesyoumissed.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE GO TOGETHER")

NEWTON-JOHN AND TRAVOLTA: (As Sandy and Danny, singing) We go together like ramma lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong, remembered forever like shoo-wop sha whada whadda yippidy boom da boom, chang chang, changity chang shoo bop. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.