FILMS… Flashback to the films from Aussie Actress and Soundtrack Siren, Olivia Newton John

#1970s #1980s

 

Since the age of nine, admit I’ve been hopelessly devoted to Olivia and her movies and music…

 

Remembering her with songs, movies and the one on my to-watch list.

 

 

It was late one night recently when Darlin Husband told me that the actress and singer, Olivia Newton John had passed away. This news was another devastating loss on a much more personal level. This singer and actress was one I grew up listening to and adoring in her contributions to movies and to their soundtracks.

This came about after I watched Grease as a kid in the cinema with my mum and wee sister. I was transfixed by this musical and loved the songs, the on-off love story and her later (then) inspiring role as Sandy. This film story focuses on her young innocent character’s on-off romance with John Travolta’s Danny.

My love for Olivia’s music grew after that and then I saw her as an actress once again in the musical, Xanadu. This was a tale of forbidden love on rollerskates between a mortal and a muse, which I watched back in the day as a teenage girl. This fantasy movie has my favourite Gene Kelly appearance and Olivia shines as a talented singer, actress and dancer in her scenes with him.

I then discovered her ballads, which deserve a post of their own…  But you have probably guessed by now, that it is her soundtrack and movie appearances that I love the most.  I am sharing more about those favourites with you now…

 

“Suspended in Time” in Xanadu (1980)

Xanadu | “Suspended in Time” – Olivia Newton-John & Electric Light Orchestra, Universal Pictures

This film tells of an artist called Sonny (Michael Beck of The Warriors (1979)) who is inspired to own a roller disco nightclub. In doing so, he meets the enigmatic blonde, Kira (Olivia Newton John). Unbeknownst to him, Kira is a goddess who has recently come to life, and whose sole mission is to inspire him to do just this.

They first meet, after this roller skates wearing muse bumps into him and then he pursues her after he paints her for an album cover. They fall in love as he goes into partnership with a clarinet player, Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly) to create his dream business. Danny remembers being inspired by a blonde back in the day in a flashback, cue dancing and singing.

Suspended in Time is the stuff that ballads are made of. This song comes late in the film and has Kira singing to the gods Zeus and Mnemosyne. As the lovelorn muse, she wants to become a real-life woman and not return to the heavens. So she begs them to let her love Sonny forever on earth… cue the above song from the love lorn muse.

On this film soundtrack, she also sang with ELO for the titular track, Xanadu, Gene Kelly in the track Whenever You’re Away from Me and Cliff Richard with Suddenly. This film was a joint Razzie winner with Valerie Perrine’s musical Can’t Stop the Music (1980). Both actresses got the last laugh, as both these musicals now have cult status. At the time they were remembered for a lead on roller skates and afterwards that both those leading ladies were destined for better movies…

 

“Hopelessly Devoted to You” from Grease (1978)

Grease – Hopelessly Devoted to You [1080p] [Lyrics], profbaratinha

It’s back to 1958 for this high school boy, Danny (John Travolta) meets high school girl, Sandy (Olivia Newton John), girl meets the boy, and the boy thinks the girl returned to Australia but doesn’t know girl stayed on in California story… Then in a film coincidence, the girl goes to the same high school as the boy… but the boy has hip friends and pretends he doesn’t know her… the girl is crushed and heartbroken and sings the above ballad …

High school musicals all began here, with Olivia as Sandy and the will they won’t they, of course, they will musical, Grease. This came with a soundtrack that everyone was singing in the summer of 1978, and the first album I owned. It was based on the Broadway musical and had feel-good ensemble numbers and ballads. This then was the perfect fodder for Olivia to showcase her talents in both musical genres. She also sang in duets including You’re the One That I Want and Summer Nights with her leading man, John Travolta. Hopelessly Devoted to You also won an Oscar Nomination for Best Original Song.

This musical inspired the role reversal sequel, with now the dream team of Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer with Caulfield as Sandy’s cousin. Interestingly it was John Travolta who suggested Olivia for this role. Actresses Carrie Fisher and Ann Margret were also in the running for her role as Sandy. It is hard to see either of these two actresses as the innocent virginal Sandy that we meet at the beginning of this film. Both actresses at this time had played more provocative and feisty roles and personally, I could see Ann Margret more as a contender for Rizzo, and Fisher as Jan.. what about you?

 

“Twist of Fate” from Two of a Kind (1983)

Two of a kind, Twist of fate, Olivia Newton-John, MEMMO FERRER-GALICIA

Another collaboration with John Travolta.. and one I wanted to see after seeing this song with Olivia. She makes the case for a forbidden love to be to those powers that be. I still haven’t seen this film, but do remember the trailer and music from its release, and it seems this failed at the box office. But its soundtrack was a hit despite the leads from Grease in those star-crossed lover roles once again.

It tells the story as four angels who learn that life on earth is dependent on our leading pair. He’s a bank robber, Zach (John Travolta) and she’s an Aussie bank teller, Debbie (Olivia Newton John). The angels hope they’ll find compassion for each other after God tells them he will let life on earth continue, only if they can prove man can redeem himself. This star crossed pair meet as he robs the bank and then she double crosses him…

It has a cast including Gene Hackman as God, Oliver Reed as the devil and some familiar faces as those four angels. If they remade it now it would possibly be the dream movie for those The Notebook (2004) devotees with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. But only if the roles were reversed… with her the wannabe robber. Anyway, the only thing criminal about this is those matching 80s mullets, and this film is still on the hunt down list…

In this trio of film plots with those songs listed above, you can feel the heartbreak and hope in Olivia’s singing performances in both her music and movies. And it’s a posthumous thanks to Olivia… as if not for you in Grease, I wouldn’t have taken a chance with your 80s film and musical hits and those ballads as sung from your heart.

 

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