Dirty Dancing

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

It’s the summer of 1963, and Frances “Baby” Houseman (Grey) is vacationing with her affluent Jewish family at Kellerman’s, a resort in the Catskill Mountains. Baby is planning to attend Mount Holyoke College to study the economics of underdeveloped countries and then enter the Peace Corps. She was named after Frances Perkins, the first woman in the U.S. Cabinet. Her father, Dr. Jake Houseman (Orbach), is the personal physician of Max Kellerman (Jack Weston), the resort’s owner.

During her stay, Baby meets—and develops a crush on—the resort’s dance instructor Johnny Castle (Swayze), who is also the leader of the resort’s working-class entertainment staff. While walking around on the resort grounds, Baby encounters Billy (Johnny’s cousin), and when Baby helps Billy carry watermelons to the staff quarters, she observes their secret after-hours party and the “dirty dancing” (i.e., the rock’n’roll) involved. She becomes intrigued by the sexy dancing and receives a brief, impromptu lesson from Johnny. Later, Baby discovers that Johnny’s regular dance partner, Penny Johnson (Rhodes), is pregnant by Robbie Gould (Max Cantor), a womanizing waiter who dates (and cheats on) Baby’s sister Lisa. Baby learns that Robbie plans to do nothing about the pregnancy (as he says, “Some people count, some people don’t”), so Baby secures the money from her father to pay for Penny’s illegal abortion. Jake agrees to give the money to Baby despite her secrecy regarding what it will be used for, because of the trust he has always held in her. In her efforts to help, Baby also becomes Penny’s substitute dancer for an important performance at the Sheldrake, a nearby resort where Johnny and Penny perform annually. The upcoming show requires Johnny to teach Baby the routine in time.

As Johnny teaches Baby to dance, tempers flare and a romance begins to develop. Their performance at the Sheldrake goes reasonably well, though Baby is too nervous to accomplish the dance’s climactic lift.

When they return to Kellerman’s, they learn that Penny’s backstreet abortion was botched, leaving her in agonizing pain. Baby brings her father to help Penny, but when he asks, “Who is responsible for her?” he misinterprets Johnny’s reply of “I am” to mean Johnny had impregnated her. For that reason, after the treatment (successful), Jake forbids Baby to associate with Johnny or his friends. Jake is furious at Baby for lying to him and betraying his trust. Baby, however, defies him and sneaks out to visit Johnny in his room later that same night, where they dance intimately and have sex.

Johnny and Baby’s relationship is eventually revealed after Johnny is accused of stealing a wallet from one of the resort guests and is unable to provide a verifiable alibi. To save Johnny from being fired, Baby confesses that Johnny could not have been responsible, as she was with him in his cabin that night. Johnny is cleared of the theft; however, Max still fires Johnny for having an affair with a guest. Baby’s selfless act inspires Johnny to realize, “there are people willing to stand up for other people no matter what it costs them.”

At the final talent show of the season, Jake gives Robbie a check to help defray the costs of medical school. Robbie then willingly confesses to getting Penny pregnant and insults her in the process, leading Jake to angrily snatch the envelope back, clearly disgusted with his arrogant and careless attitude. Also, to everyone’s surprise, although Johnny’s been fired and left the premises, he returns to the resort to perform the final dance of the season with Baby. Criticizing the Housemans for their choice of Baby’s seat at the table, Johnny declares the now-famous line, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” as he pulls her up from their table. He leads her onstage, interrupting the show which is already in progress. After Johnny makes a brief speech about how “Frances” has made him a better man, he and Baby dazzle the audience with a stunning dance performance to the song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, which ends with Baby doing the lift successfully for the first time.

After the dance, Jake apologizes to Johnny and admits that he was wrong to assume Johnny had gotten Penny “in trouble”. Jake also praises Baby for her dancing. The film ends as the dance sequence continues and the room is transformed into a nightclub, where everyone (staff and guests) dances together


In the mid to late 80s, Patrick Swayze was one of the most bankable stars. Without a doubt, his breakout role was here in Dirty Dancing. Some 30 years later, this is a film that has withstood the test of time, partially because of Swayze’s untimely death, the great soundtrack, and Jennifer Grey’s homage during her time on Dancing with the Stars. Is this a good film, though?

What is this about?

While spending summer with her family in the mountains, 17-year-old Frances falls in love with the resort’s free-spirited dance instructor.

What did I like?

Dance, Baby, Dance. Dancing is in the title, so of course, there just has to be some really impressive dance scenes, right? Delivering on that promise, there is plenty of dancing going around, not all of it clean (by the standards of the era in which this was filmed). Even if you’ve never seen this film, I’m sure you’ve come across a clip or two of the iconic dance scene at the end, which is the culmination of all the training we saw earlier in the film. Watching Baby grow as a dancer is one of the pleasures of the picture, especially for those of us that have two left feet and can’t dance a lick.

Welcome to the 60s. Had this been set in modern day, I don’t believe it would have worked as well. Going back to the 60s, the filmmakers were able to do more with people’s attitudes towards some of the themes that were covered, such as class separation, abortion (which is never said, but hinted at), etc. Also, for some reason sweaty dancing training seems to be more…I guess the word I’m looking for is effective? In the 60s, air conditioners weren’t exactly commonplace, so everyone was getting hot and sweaty during the summer. A nice little touch that was added in for effect.

Chemistry. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey have great on-screen chemistry. While not on the level of say, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, they still manage to pull off the likability factor, despite the obvious age gap (at least with their characters). Par for the course with these types, they start off distant, only to grow together out of necessity, have a fight, and a glorious reconciliation. You would think this would be boring, but the magic these two share on screen draws the audience in and we just can’t look away.

What didn’t I like?

Show some skin. I have a minor bone to pick with the costume people. Jennifer Grey’s character is supposed to be this goody-goody girl who is sheltered by her affluent, conservative parents. The first chance they get, they choose to stick her in something and show off her midriff. Every outfit from there on, seems to show more and more skin, unless she is doing something family related or the actual dance. Here is my problem, if this was a rebellion against her parents, then it would make sense, but as she shows no sign of that, and still maintains her goody-goody image, even after sneaking off and sleeping with Swayze’s character, why did they try to “slut her up”, for lack of a better term. Don’t get me wrong, Grey has a decent enough body to look at, but the outfit choices didn’t fit her character, at least in my opinion. Obviously, it was hot and she needed air circulating her body, but I still didn’t get the decision to put her in such “revealing” attire.

Parents. Lingering over Grey’s character are her parents, or at least her dad. What is my issue with that? Well, for having such a presence in the film, they seem to be nonexistent, for the most part. However, I don’t really know what could be done to change that without changing the whole film. If they become the “evil parents”, then they wouldn’t be as liberal with that Baby is allowed to do, which changes the whole dynamic of the film. This is the problem. For me, I feel that they needed to be more instituted into things and such a red herring, of sorts.

80s color. This is another minor issue I have. In the two big dance scenes, the one in the staff quarters and then the big one at the end, you will see in the shadows an African-American couple. A little bit of diversity is good, right? Normally, I’d say yes, but not in this case. First off, they aren’t part of the film, just extras. IF you watch West Side Story, you’ll notice there is one African American guy at the dance in the gym (see if you can find him), as well, for the same reason. Second, this is a film set in the early 60s. It is not likely that they’d be welcome into an affluent club like this, even as part of the staff, just yet. Finally, this was made in ’86-’87 and the way they are dressed screams that, as opposed to ’63.

The legacy of Dirty Dancing is perhaps its greatest selling point. As a guy, I can’t really get into this as much as many females do, other than wish I had half the muscles Patrick Swayze has. That being said, I have to say that this is an enjoyable film with few major flaws, mostly minor stuff that can be ignored. The soundtrack sets the tone for the film and you will find yourself getting lost in the story, not realizing that its over until the credits roll. Do I recommend this? Yes, this is a film that you must see before you die!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars


One Response to “Dirty Dancing”

  1. […] are probably the second or third biggest draw, behind Travolta and the music. Much like the film, Dirty Dacing, these dance scenes look easier than they are, but are no less impressive to see. Coupled with the […]

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