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Grease remains the word for cinema audiences

Story by: Jack Foley

GREASE is still the word among musical fans, it seems, as it has been named the nation's favourite musical of all time, in a Channel 4 poll.

The 1978 film, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, beat both The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz in the poll, which was screened as part of Channel 4's Christmas schedule (2003).

The film was released in the UK when it was still in the grip of punk rock, and was viewed by many as a harmless antidote to The Sex Pistols.

Set in 1950s America, it quickly became a global box office smash, raking in $340m worldwide, and giving rise to many timeless songs, such as You're The One That I Want, Summer Nights and Greased Lightnin'. All three enjoyed chart success.

The plot finds Travolta playing Danny Zuko, a leather-clad wild teenager who becomes smitten with Newton-John's Sandy Olsson, a beautiful but 'square' student at Rydell High School.

Needless to say, love eventually conquers all for the mis-matched lovers.

In true Hollywood tradition, the enduring appeal of the movie prompted movie executives to attempt to cash in with a sequel in 1982, but neither of the two principals could be lured back and the movie, which starred a young Michelle Pfeiffer, promptly bombed.

Of the other popular musicals, The Sound of Music came second and The Wizard of Oz third, with Julie Andrews (a regular musical performer), also commanding fifth spot, for her eponymous role in Mary Poppins.

Another of her successes, Thoroughly Modern Millie, came in at number 51.

The most recent film to make the top ten was last year's Oscar winner, Chicago, which took eighth place. The film starred Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta-Jones and was one of last year's most successful award winners.

Nominations for the 100 Greatest Musicals were submitted via the Channel 4 website, and follow in the tradition of several Channel 4 polls that have been conducted over the past year.

Jonathon Holmes, the programme's senior producer, commented: "I think everyone will be surprised at the musicals that the public have chosen as their top ten of all time and in particular that Grease, a modern-day classic, got the number one spot, and not an old favourite like Singin' In The Rain.

"The real thrill for me, however, was meeting all the Hollywood legends from the golden age of musicals - Jane Russell, Ann Miller, Esther Williams - to name just a few.

"It is fantastic to see that their work has stood the test of time and still appeals to audiences of all ages up to 50 years after the originals were made."

The programme, which also covered theatre and television work, included many of old favourites, such as The Producers, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but also conjured a few surprises.

Rapper, Eminem, came in at number 40, for his acclaimed movie debut, 8 Mile, while a musical version of cult TV hit, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, also found its way into the list.

Another recent classic, Moulin Rouge, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, completed the top 10.

The top 10 in full

1. Grease (1978)
2. The Sound Of Music (1965)
3. The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
4. West Side Story (1961)
5. Mary Poppins (1964)
6. Singin' In The Rain (1952)
7. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
8. Chicago (2002)
9. Oliver (1968)
10. Moulin Rouge (2001)

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