Olivia Newton-John, Grease star, dies at 73

Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John (Image credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Olivia Newton-John, most known by movie fans for playing the effervescent Sandy in the 1978 musical Grease, died at the age of 73 on Monday, August 8. Her husband, John Easterling, shared the news on Facebook.

Newton-John, who was born in England but was raised in Australia, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and had been in remission for 25 years before announcing that cancer had come back in 2017, this time in her lower back.

Newton-John was an actress and singer, though she was probably more iconic for the latter. Throughout her career she had almost 40 songs land in the Billboard Top 100 charts, including five number one singles — "Physical," "Magic," "Have You Ever Been Mellow," "I Honestly Love You" and "You’re the One That I Want," the iconic duet with John Travlota from the Grease soundtrack. Her albums sold more than 100 million copies over her five decade career.

Many have come out expressing their grief over the passing of Newton-John, including her Grease co-star John Travolta:

With the role of Sandy in Grease, Newton-John became a superstar. After a summer love with Travolta’s Danny, Sandy becomes a new student at his high school but is surprised that the boy she knew that summer is different — a 1950s greaser compared to her straight-laced cheerleader. In addition to "You’re the One That I Want," Newton-John sang a number of memorable songs for Grease, like "Summer Nights" and "Hopelessly Devoted to You," the latter of which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song.

You can watch Grease, which we believe is one of the best movie musicals of all time, right now on Paramount Plus.

TV tonight Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta star.

Olivia Newton John and John Travolta in Grease (Image credit: C4)

Newton-John would act sparingly for the rest of her career, focusing more on music. But some of her other roles included 1980’s Xanadu; a reunion with Travolta in 1983’s Two of a Kind; appearing in a number of TV Christmas movies like A Mom for Christmas, A Christmas Romance and The Christmas Angel: A Story on Ice; Sordid Lives and the Sordid Lives: TV series; she even appeared in the Sharknado franchise with Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. Her final role came in 2020 with The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee alongside another Australian icon, Paul Hogan.

The Facebook post announcing her passing said:

"Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer. Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made in her memory to the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund."

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.