Michelle Pfeiffer has been nominated for an Academy Award on three occasions, losing to Geena Davis, Jessica Tandy, and Emma Thompson. Best as I can tell, her first experience missing out on an acting award came in late 1982, when her turn as Stephanie Zinone in the misbegotten sequel Grease 2 made her a contender in the category of Best Young Motion Picture Actress at the 4th Youth in Film Awards. The winner was Aileen Quinn in the title role of John Huston’s film version of the musical Annie. (That same year, Nancy McKeon absolutely cleaned up at the Youth in Film awards, winning three separate statues for her acting in the TV series The Facts of Life, the TV movie The Facts of Life Goes to Paris, and the TV special Please Don’t Hit Me, Mom!) Pfeiffer has long known that awards season can be cruel.
Presumably, Paramount Pictures one point expected Pfeiffer might need to perform a Best Original Song nominee at the 55th Annual Academy Awards, presented to films released during 1982. They had big plans for the Grease franchise. Grease 2 was to be the first of three sequels and a spin-off television series. Then the film was released and proved to be a box office disaster. It opened the same week as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which didn’t help. Meager ticket sales isn’t necessarily a barrier to receiving a nomination in arguably Oscar’s oddest category — duds Best Friends and Yes, Giorgio nabbed Best Song nominations that year — but the sense of disaster around Grease 2 was simply too pronounced.
Of course, Pfeiffer went on to be major movie star and a revered actress, so every bit of Grease 2 that includes her is retroactively fascinating. That includes her showcase number, “Cool Rider,” in which she pines after a mythical “dream on a mean machine/ With hell in his eyes.” It may not have the elegant arresting charisma of “Makin’ Whoopee” delivered from the top of a grand piano, but I will acknowledge that the track demolishes my music snob defenses. (Generally speaking, I don’t have the most robust defenses where Pfeiffer is concerned, I will further admit.) A tepid endorsement like that may not make the strongest argument for “Cool Rider” as Oscar-worthy, but, hey, far worse songs have won.
Listen or download –> Michelle Pfeiffer, “Cool Rider”
(Disclaimer: For all I know, the Grease 2 soundtrack is readily available out there in the world and I’m doing it a grave disservice by giving away one of its songs for free. If you’re clamoring to own the song about sex ed class or the labored tune that employs bowling as a metaphor for teen lust, run don’t walk to your favorite local, independently-owned record store. Don’t let me and my weekly exercise in song socialism stop you. In any event, I know the rules, and I will gladly and promptly remove the file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)