You probably wouldn't be here if you didn't know that Grease was the word - particularly in 1978! Naturally musicals are Olivia's strong suit - there is the fabulously successful Grease which eclipses her other movies, but here is a roundup of Olivia on the silver screen and the small screen! Olivia has also graced TV screens countless times in the course of her work, and some of these are listed in TV programs.
She starred in seven movies and four TV Movies, as far as I know. One was extremely, stupendously and incredibly successful, and the others, well, a little bit less well-known ;-) The descriptions reflect my own opinions - disagree by all means! The movies are:
Funny Things Happen Down Under (Pacific Films, Aus 1965)
Yep, an 17-year old darling Olivia singing the title song ever so sweetly! A rather forgettable plot about a bunch of kids who discover how to make sheep grow coloured wool and then stopping some old codgers swindling them out of the proceeds. More From Funny Things Happen Down Under
Directed by the legendary Don Kirshner, no less. This could achieve cult status if re-released on video... Space Aliens descend to get a fix of the music of the band Toomorrow. The aliens need the effect of a piece of kit that Toomorrow use called a tonaliser. They first try and abduct the band but they dont play so well in space so the aliens make do with a concert instead. The film didnt do so well but I think the band worked well together, from the OST LP. Olivia sounds lovely on the track Goin Back - the first promise of what is to come. More From Toomorrow
Grease (Paramount, 1978)
You've heard of this one, right? Incredibly successful as a movie, incredibly successful as a soundtrack and spawned some hugely successful singles, Hopelessly Devoted to You, Summer Nights, Youre the One that I Want. Timeless 50s high-school romance - perfectly cast Olivia is gorgeous in this. More from Grease and Memorabilia
So successful, indeed, that they re-released it in 1998 as a 20th anniversary edition - see http://www.greasemovie.com for details
I dont understand why this got such a panning from the critics - I like it better than Grease! Anyway, Xanadu wasn't that successful on the silver screen, but the combined Olivia/ELO soundtrack album was enormously successful, with some great songs like Xanadu and the #1 single Magic. Olivia is cast as Kira, a muse sent from the gods to inspire two people to create something they believe in, rather than just looking out over the ocean moping, or wasting talent on a routine day job. It was on the set of Xanadu that Olivia met the father of her daughter Chloe, Matt Lattanzi. More from Xanadu
Olivia teamed up again with John Travolta, her co-star in Grease. God will destroy the world unless Olivia and JT fall in love, which takes a little doing as he gets her thrown out of work by robbing the bank where she is a teller. Mind you, Olivia is hardly purer than the driven snow since she runs off with his loot. Olivia was seeking a non-musical movie for some reason and this was the result - it didnt do so well…
Eric Roberts stars in the story of a man who celebrates life as he faces death. Nick Stark is a successful architect who learns that he is about to lose his long battle against the AIDS virus. Rather than succumb to the disease, Nick decides to end his life as he lived it--filled with vitality and joy and surrounded by loved ones in a two-day farewell party. With Gregory Harrison, Margaret Cho, Bruce Davison, Olivia Newton-John, Marlee Matlin, Lee Grant, Christopher Atkins, Nina Foch, Roddy McDowell, Bronson Pinchot, Paul Regina, George Segal. Directed by Randal Kleiser (of Grease fame)
Sordid Lives (made 1999 independent/Regent)
A dsyfunctional Texas family gather for the matriarch's funeral. Olivia plays an ex-con bar singer called Bitsy Mae Harling, a close friend of the deceased Peggy. This comedy was released in independent theaters in Spring 2001 and on DVD Spring 2003. It's a small but integral role for Olivia and she sings!
Made by the BBC and Swedish TV, this is from a time when Olivia frequently appeared on Cliff Richard's BBC TV show in the UK. The plot involves Cliff picking up the wrong suitcase at a railway station which just happens to have the loot from a bank robbery. A chase involving Cliff, the bank robbers, and the police follows - Olivia is the singing act on the ferry to Sweden and helps Cliff out a few times - she gets to sing a few of her hits from that time as well as a duet 'If I was Close to You' with Cliff which is otherwise unavailable.
TV Movie where Olivia plays a store mannequin that comes to life for one Christmas to be Mom for an motherless child. This achieved good ratings for her at last! It's also the time of the skunk hairstyle as some fans affectionately call the streak in Olivia's hair. There was a home video released in the UK (very hard to get hold of now).
TV Movie where a debt collector gets stranded by bad weather at the house of the lovely single mother (Olivia) he is harassing for unpaid debts... This did very well in the 1994 Christmas ratings, reaching #7 in 1994. There was a home video released in Europe.
Olivia guest stars in three episodes of this TV series, playing the part of Joanna, searching for the father she has never known.
Olivia and daughter Chloe star as the "Wilde girls". Olivia plays a one-hit wonder now a vet in small town Georgia. Her daughter Izzy (Chloe) wants to become a singer in big, bad Hollywood and persuades her mother to take her there. Hollywood is not what it seems for either mother nor daughter but the family is reunited with Izzy's father along the way.
Montage by Philippe Roumila