Nobody puts ‘Dirty Dancing’ in a corner
Ah the 80s… what a time to be alive (or so I’ve heard anyway). This wonderful decade gifted us with so many things: Big hair, bold outfits and of course “Dirty Dancing.”
“Dirty Dancing” was released in 1987 and stars Jennifer Grey and 80s heartthrob Patrick Swayze. The movie was written by Eleanor Bergstein, produced by Linda Gottlieb and directed by Emilie Ardolino.
“Dirty Dancing” centers around the romance between young Frances “Baby” Houseman (Grey) and bad boy Johnny Castle (Swayze) during a summer at Kellerman’s, an upscale Catskills resort in 1963.
Johnny is a skilled dancer who works on the entertainment staff where Baby is spending the summer with her dad, Jake (Jerry Orbach), mom Marjorie (Kelly Bishop) and older sister Lisa (Jane Brucker).
Johnny almost immediately catches Baby’s attention on the first night when she secretly observes Max Kellerman (Jack Weston) tell the wait staff, made up of Ivy League students, to romance the daughters. He follows up this less than savory order by demeaning Johnny and the rest of the entertainment staff, demanding they stay away from the guests.
The pair later meet again when Johnny’s cousin Billy (Neal Jones) takes her to one of the staff’s dirty dancing parties.
Baby, a protected daughter of a wealthy family, is obviously enamored by this world she knew nothing about and is even more smitten by Johnny. Johnny of course isn’t taken by Baby at first, instead viewing her as a spoiled little rich girl.
This changes when tragedy strikes. One night Baby discovers that Johnny’s dance partner and long time friend Penny (Cynthia Rhodes) is pregnant by sleazy waiter Robbie (Max Cantor) who refuses to help her. Side note: He’s also trying to romance Lisa. If I were Baby I’d go scorched earth on anyone who tried to take advantage of my sister.
Billy suggests Penny go see a doctor who will be in town one day to get an abortion. After Baby asks her father for money, who does so with no questions asked, the dancer still refuses because she and Johnny have a performance at a nearby resort and missing it would cost them their salary.
However, Billy suggests Baby take on her role much to Johnny’s dismay. Faced with no other option the two get to work. With Penny’s help and a montage — because the 80s perfected that specific scene–Baby begins to hone her skills.
Following a successful performance the two return to Kellerman’s to find out that Penny is gravely injured following the botched abortion.
Baby immediately fetches her father, a doctor, who is quick to jump into action to help the poor girl. However, he is furious to learn that Baby lied to him and has been spending her time with Johnny who he presumes to be the one to get Penny pregnant.
Baby and Johnny continue to meet in secret as her father refuses to speak to her.
Their secret romance unravels when Vivian Pressman (Miranda Garrison) a cheating wife, whose advances are refuted by Johnny, attempts to get him fired. She accuses him of stealing a wallet one night when he was with Baby. Unable to provide an alibi, Max tells the Houseman family that he intends to fire the young man.
But Baby admits that she was with him, providing the alibi he needed. That isn’t enough though. Johnny is instead fired for having contact with a guest.
Later, during the end-of-summer talent show, Johnny returns to Kellerman’s and declares that, just like other summers, he would be ending the season. He and Baby perform the dance they’d been working on all summer, ending in the climatic lift (you all know the one).
Out of the multitude of 80s movies I’ve watched, I would have to say “Dirty Dancing” is in my top three. It’s got a very easy storyline that realistically mixes dance with reality. Add in an absolutely killer soundtrack and the acting talents of Swayze and Grey and you’ve got the perfect movie.
Not to mention they touched on a subject that was considered taboo at the time — abortion. And they did so in a very realistic manner for the time period that many critics believe was ahead of its time.
While doing my research I learned a couple of interesting facts… the biggest being that the story was based off of Bergstein’s own life. The writer took part in dirty dancing competitions during her teen years at a resort her family spent summers at in New York.
I also learned that the scenes where Johnny gets frustrated with Baby may not have been entirely fake. It turns out that Grey wasn’t excited to be working with Swazye after butting heads on the set of “Red Dawn.” However, the two were forced to work together when their chemistry during testing was “breathtaking,” according to Bergstein.
From the moment it first appeared on screens, “Dirty Dancing” was a hit, becoming 1987’s No. 1 movie and grossing $170 million worldwide. Even by 2005 the movie hadn’t lost its appeal, selling a million DVDs per year and by 2007 reaching over 10 million copies sold.
So if you’re feeling nostalgic — whether for the 1960s or the atmosphere of the 1980s — then give “Dirty Dancing” a watch.
The movie is rated PG-13 for adult content and can be rented from Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu and iTunes and watched on HBO Max with a subscription.
And remember folks…. nobody puts Baby in a corner!
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Laura Jameson is a staff reporter for The Express.