Dirty Dancing is a 1987 romance movie starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze. The events take place in 1963 at Kellerman's, a Jewish resort in the Catskills. Jennifer Grey is Frances 'Baby' Houseman, wealthy, innocent, and newly graduated. Baby and her father, Jake, played by Jerry Orbach, are still extremely close, and the family is vacationing at the resort for the summer before Baby is off to Mount Holyoke. Jake is the personal physician of resort owner Max Kellerman (Jack Weston). While being squired around by Max's creepy grandson, Neil (Lonny Price), Baby runs into Johnny Castle (Swayze), a broke dance instructor and performer. Circumstances lead to Baby getting into one of the staff's secret after-hours dance parties, where they engage in "dirty dancing" and Johnny teaches her some basic steps. However, when Johnny's dance partner, Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), becomes pregnant as a result of an affair with resort waiter Robbie Gould (who, ironically, is also dating Baby's older sister, Lisa (Jane Brucker)) and needs an illegal abortion, Baby must take her place at an important dancing engagement at the Sheldrake, a neighboring resort. Johnny must teach her how to dance his and Penny's routine, and in the process, they grow closer. But Baby's relationship with her father causes conflict as she must choose her loyalties.The film is essentially a coming of age story, documenting Baby's rebellion against her father as she pursues her relationship with Johnny. A sleeper hit, Dirty Dancing became a sensation upon release, with reports of people actually viewing the film, then immediately returning to the theater to watch it a second time. Ironically, the studio that produced and released Dirty Dancing, Vestron Pictures, had originally planned to release the film in theaters for only a weekend, and then send it straight to home video, since they had originally been in the video distribution business long before entering film production. The film's soundtrack also became a surprise hit, selling more than 42 million copies and even spawning a sequel soundtrack that also went multi-platinum. The plethora of oldies in the film sparked a nostalgic revival, and oldies actually featured in the film became hits all over again. To this day, lines from the film have acquired memetic status. Paradoxically, while it made Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey famous, the film did not end up helping either one as Swayze became permanently associated with chick flicks and Grey had a botched rhinoplasty that made her virtually unrecognizable only a few years later. However, the actor who was probably hurt most by the film was Max Cantor, who played Robbie. Cantor made only one film after Dirty Dancing was released, Fear, Anxiety, and Depression, released in 1989, and he tragically died of a heroin overdose in 1991 at the age of 32. As for Vestron, despite the film's huge monetary success, they followed it up with a series of flops, and these flops, coupled with the fact that many of their former clients were now forming their own home video divisions and thus no longer needed their services, caused their parent company, Vestron, Inc., to go bankrupt in 1990, and it was bought out in January 1991 by LIVE Entertainment for $26 million. The company went on to become Artisan Entertainment, which was bought by the current rightsholder Lionsgate in 2004.In 2004, a prequel entitled Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights was released by Lionsgate. Set before and during the Cuban Revolution, the film's only connection to the first is a cameo by Patrick Swayze, who got $5 million dollars for this scene (compared to the $200,000 for his starring role in the original film). The prequel itself was made from an unproduced script unrelated to Dirty Dancing. It essentially tells the same story, only with a young girl whose family moves to Havana in the 1950s who falls for a waiter. The film bombed with audiences and critics and was quickly forgotten.In addition to the prequel, there was a very short lived TV series based on the film, which ran on CBS from 1988 to 1989. In addition to not having any of the original cast and very limited involvement from the crew, the show had one glaring change plotwise: Baby was now Max Kellerman's daughter and she was now in charge of Johnny as the resort's talent director.
This film provides examples of:
Actor Allusion: When Kelly Bishop, playing Baby's mother, Marge, says of her daughter's dancing abilities, "She gets that from me." Kelly Bishop is a former ballet dancer who was in the original production of A Chorus Line. Jerry Orbach himself was also a well known dancer and he was Billy Flynn in the original production of Chicago. In fact, both musicals engaged in a famous rivalry for box office receipts and Tony awards when they opened within months of each other in 1975.
All for Nothing: Baby provides an alibi (ahem) for Johnny when he's accused of theft. He gets canned anyway.
Broken Pedestal: Baby is saddened to discover her father's elitism when he bans her from associating with Johnny and the other staff members (though in all fairness, it's because of his mistaken belief that Johnny knocked up Penny and wants to protect Baby). Similarly, her father is sorely disappointed in Baby's involvement in Penny's illegal abortion and her deceit.
The Cast Showoff: One of the songs on the soundtrack ("She's Like the Wind") was written and performed by Swayze. Subverted with the song Lisa sings in the talent show: Jane Brucker wrote and performed it, and it's a glorious example of Stylistic Suck.
Caught with Your Pants Down: How Lisa gets wise to Robbie. Lisa goes to Robbie's cabin in order to surprise him and finally go all the way with him, only to catch him in bed with Vivian (see Jerk Ass below).
Cannot Tell a Lie: Baby. To the point where in one deleted scene, she threatens to lie about Lisa when the latter threatens to tell their parents about her sneaking around, warning her that their parents will believe her because she never lies, and in another, her father instantly believes her when she confesses to a minor incident, simply by saying, "It has to be true. Baby never lies". This is after discovering her deception regarding Penny's abortion.
Chekhov's Gun: When Penny and Baby help Mrs. Schumaker when she drops her purse, multiple wallets can be seen.
The lift, or rather, Baby's inability to do one. Also, if you look in the background during the scenes in the staff quarters, you can see the staff practicing the step-kick "Cuban rhythms" that Johnny demonstrates for Neil, and which they perform in the end.
A doctor's work is never done. Baby's father swoops to the rescue following Penny's botched abortion.
Delusions Of Local Grandeur: This movie was filmed on-location at Mountain Lake in Giles County, Virginia. A fact that WSLS, a Roanoke, VA-based NBC station, will make DAMN sure you don't forget if you watch it.
Also Lake Lure, North Carolina. Every Girl Scout at Camp Occoneechee knew it too.
Extraverted Nerd / Casanova Wannabe : Neil Kellerman. He's short and unattractive (compared to Johnny), but boasts that he's "the catch of the county" because he's heir to the Kellerman empire.
Female Gaze : As noted on the DVD commentary, Baby is in every scene, and the view is entirely hers. Two other minor examples: when Robbie is hitting on Lisa and Penny stares at him, and when Vivian watches Baby coming out of Johnny's cabin.
Gilligan Cut: "It's a stupid idea. She cannot do it." Cut to: Baby stepping on Johnny's feet.
Good Girls Avoid Abortion: One of the strongest aversions in cinema. Penny goes through one without a second thought, even though she's scared. But although the operation turns out to be a back-alley abortion that nearly costs Penny her life, Dr. Houseman saves her, doesn't report her, and even assures her that she'll still be able to have children later, without once blaming her or condemning her for her choice; his criticism is reserved entirely for the guy who got her into the predicament to begin with. The movie even has a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when Penny is shown wordlessly thanking him at the end of the movie.
Hoist by His Own Petard / Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: How Jake finds out the truth about Penny's abortion. Near the end of the film, while some of the staffers are singing the resort's anthem, Jake approaches Robbie, hands him an envelope containing either a check or a letter of recommendation, and wishes him good luck in medical school. Robbie replies by thanking Jake for helping Penny out and telling him, "I guess we've all gotten into messes", effectively confessing and insulting Penny at the same time. Jake, who is understandably miffed, and not just over Robbie's deed, but also at the fact that he was dating Lisa at the same time, takes the envelope back.
I Am Not Spock: Averted with Miranda Garrison, who continued her association with the film long after everyone else had pretty much moved on with their careers. In addition to appearing on the DVD's, Garrison was a judge on Dirty Dancing: The Time of Your Life, which was a British dance competition TV show that aired on British channel Sky Living and was presented by model Kelly Brook and featured top choreographer Sean Cheesman and Royal Ballet dancer and actress Jennifer Ellison as fellow judges. The show was taped at the Mountain Lake resort in Giles County, Virginia, where, coincidentally, the original movie was filmed.
Ivy League For Everyone : A few examples. Mr. Kellerman, when he's giving the "show the daughters a good time" speech to the wait staff, says he recruited them all from Harvard and Yale. Robbie the Jerkass waiter goes to Yale Medical School. Neil (Mr. Kellerman's grandson) goes to Cornell School of Restaurant Management. Baby will be attending Mount Holyoke (one of the "Sister Schools"). And when she gives Jake her speech at the end, she says that he thinks saving the world means marrying someone from Harvard. The trope is probably Justified, given the movie's time and setting (the Catskills).
Jerk Ass: In addition to Robbie and the Kellermans, there's also Vivian Pressman, a highly oversexed resort guest who falsely accuses Johnny of stealing her husband Moe's wallet after he spurns her sexual advances in favor of Baby.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jake. Neil too. He's a condescending, elitist snob. . .who's planning to join the Freedom Riders the following summer. Anyone planning to do something like that can't be that bad.
Life Imitates Art: Near the end of the film, while some of the staffers are singing the resort's anthem, Max laments to the resort's bandleader, Tito Suarez, that he's having a hard time keeping customers at the resort, saying "Trips to Europe. That's what these kids want." Fast forward to 1990, when Vestron Pictures is having a hard time retaining former clients they had back when they were solely in the video distribution business.
Meaningful Name: Or nickname rather. "Baby", representing her naivete and innocence. Penny even taunts her about this at one point—"Go on back to your playpen, Baby", in response to the latter's clueless insistence that Robbie will do the right thing regarding her pregnancy.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Baby confesses to having spent the night with Johnny in order to keep him from being fired/arrested for stealing Moe Pressman's wallet. Only for him to get fired anyway for getting involved with a guest and for her parents to be furious with her.
The Other Marty: Originally, Marge was played by Lynn Lipton, who is briefly seen in the beginning when the Houseman family first pulls into Kellerman's (she is in the front seat for a few seconds; her blonde hair is the only indication). Unfortunately, however, she became ill during the first week of shooting and was replaced by Kelly Bishop, who had already been cast to play Vivian. Ms. Bishop initially expressed reservations about the role of Marge, but Jerry Orbach convinced her to accept the role, telling her "Take it. It's much nicer." To play the role of Vivian, Miranda Garrison stepped in.
Overprotective Dad: Baby's father tries to shelter her from the world, but unlike many examples of this trope, isn't overly smothering and deeply trusts her. The real conflict happens when he has a misunderstanding about Johnny and Penny's need for an abortion.
Present Day Past: Baby's outfits look more '80s than '60s, and much of the soundtrack is contemporary music. Honestly, they weren't even trying. This is handwaved during the writer's commentary, when she notes that it's a nostalgia piece, so the details don't matter as much (something like that). Also the cost of obtaining the music rights was prohibitive on the film's budget.
While it's true that much of the soundtrack is contemporary music, the film features a good amount of songs from the era when the film takes place, thanks to the work of the film's period music consultant, Bruce Morrow, who also appears in the film as a magician who saws Baby in half as a trick. Morrow was actually given the job of period music consultant on the strength of his work as a disc jockey for New York City oldies radio station WCBS-FM 101.1, where he was known to fans as "Cousin Brucie."
Parental Obliviousness: Marge remains blissfully unaware of what goes on throughout the film, though a deleted scene indicates that she isn't as clueless as initially presented—she sternly chastises Baby for her behavior and reveals that she had been in a similar situation before meeting Jake.
Jake also. He never realizes what Baby is involved in until he's dragged into it on one occasion—when she runs to get his help after Penny's botched abortion—and when Baby confesses at another time. This isn't due to stupidity, he simply has never had any reason to doubt or distrust her.
Reality Subtext: Swayze and Grey didn't get along back when they appeared together in Red Dawn (1984). The tension seen on-screen during Baby's Training Montage (set to "Hungry Eyes") in particular had to do with their past working relationship, nerves, long hours, Grey's moods (ranging from crying due to not dealing with criticism well to bouts of the giggles), and Swayze's frustration with Grey. According to Swayze, one of the things that first broke down the barrier was his learning that Jennifer — daughter of famous Broadway dancer Joel Grey — had never learned how to dance; he apparently couldn't stop laughing for several minutes when she told him.
Even within the help this clash is seen. The waiters were recruited from Ivy League schools, are encouraged to romance the girls, and clearly look down on the dance teachers, who are from the wrong side of the tracks and threatened with punishment should they become involved with a guest—note that Dr. Houseman has no problem with Robbie and Lisa's relationship while sternly disapproving of Baby's with Johnny, while Penny fears that it's she who will be fired for sleeping with Robbie..
Indeed, the only members of the entertainment staff who aren't treated condescendingly are the resort's house band. If anything, Max doesn't see Tito as merely an employee, but also as a friend and confidant as well, and thus treats him as an equal.
Spoiled Sweet: Baby is the poster girl of this trope, leading her to going through extraordinary lengths to help Penny and Johnny. Eventually, her willingness to do the right thing even at great personal cost makes a strong impression on Johnny.
Stripperiffic: Some of Baby's outfits while she's learning to dance