Olivia Newton-John burst on the music scene with her debut album in 1971. But it wasn’t until several years later that the Australian star became an icon in Grease. Now in the wake of Newton-John’s 2022 death at the age of 73, fans are rediscovering her body of work, including the second movie she made with Grease co-star John Travolta a few years after that beloved musical.
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John were iconic in ‘Grease’
When Grease was released in 1978, Travolta was already a breakout star of TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter, and the previous year’s Saturday Night Fever. But Newton-John was a relatively new face on the big screen. Although she had already released hit songs such as “Let Me Be There” and “I Honestly Love You,” Newton-John had only a pair of movie credits to her name.
Grease catapulted everyone involved to new heights of fame. But in particular, Newton-John’s career benefited from the movie’s release. As Sandy Olsson, her performance has inspired generations of fans both to admire the character and, much like Travolta’s Danny Zuko, fall in love with her. So it makes sense why Hollywood would hope to recapture Travolta and Newton-John’s chemistry.
But their second movie together failed to recapture the magic
Just five years after Grease hit theaters, the two actors reunited for a very different movie. Two of a Kind stars Newton-John as a bank teller and Travolta as the inventor who attempts to rob her. But their story is really just a wager between four angels (Charles Durning, Scatman Crothers, Castulo Guerra, and Beatrice Straight) and God (voiced by Gene Hackman) to see whether mankind is worthy of salvation or deserves to start all over again.
If that premise seems like an unexpected fit for the stars of Grease, that essentially fits how critics at the time felt about Two of a Kind. Reviews almost universally despised the movie, which has an 18 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert even said Two of a Kind “should have been struck with a lightning bolt.” It ultimately earned just $23 million compared to Grease’s $190 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
Olivia Newton-John’s legacy extends past ‘Grease’
While few would consider Two of a Kind a career highlight for Newton-John, its existence is a testament to the work she left behind. Even though the movie was a failure, its soundtrack yielded three singles, including the hit “Twist of Fate.” Certainly, the movie wouldn’t have been as anticipated were it not for Grease, but that musical itself isn’t the only integral part of Newton-John’s legacy.
For starters, the star’s music career leaves plenty of iconic tunes for fans to enjoy. And on the movie side of things, Newton-John fans often cite 1980’s Xanadu among her most notable roles. That movie – not unlike Two of a Kind – was initially a box office and critical failure. However, it has evolved into a cult classic. Could fans rediscover and reevaluate Two of a Kind? Though unlikely, it’s certainly possible.