Dirty Dancing

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The ultimate chick flick.

"Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

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 Vestron 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 ran out of money, and these flops, coupled with the fact that many of Vestron's former clients were now forming their own home video divisions and thus no longer needed their services, caused Vestron's 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 rights-holder Lionsgate Entertainment in 2004.

In 2004, a prequel entitled Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights was released by Artisan Entertainment, which by then had owned the rights to the original. 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. It was mostly true to the movie, with one glaring change: Baby was now Max Kellerman's daughter and she was now in charge of Johnny as the resort's talent director.

Tropes used in Dirty Dancing include:
  • All for Nothing: Baby provides an alibi (ahem) for Johnny when he's accused of theft. He gets canned anyway.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: The abortion clinic. i.e. "A dirty knife and a folding table."
  • Brainless Beauty: Penny.
    • Penny actually seems pretty smart, just not book-educated. If anyone defines this trope, it's Lisa, in spades.
  • The Cast Showoff: One of the songs on the soundtrack ("She's Like the Wind") is actually sang by Swayze.
  • 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).
  • Chekhov's Skill: The lift, or rather, Baby's inability to do one.
    • A doctor's work is never done. Baby's father swoops to the rescue following Penny's botched abortion.
  • Coming of Age Story: Baby starts blossoming through dance and her relationship with Johnny.
  • The Cutie: Baby.
  • Dance of Romance: Pretty much the entire point of the movie.
  • Dance Party Ending
  • 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.
  • Fan Service: Mostly of shirtless Patrick Swayze.
  • Foot Focus: On both Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, particularly during the scene where they're dancing on the log.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: One-sided on Lisa's part.
  • 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 when the film has a chance to have An Aesop about not having one when the operation turns out to be a back-alley abortion, Baby's father saves Penny's life, not report her, and even saves her from sterility, without 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 wordlessly thanks Penny's father at the end of the movie.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: How Jake finds out the real 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, gives 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, understandably miffed, takes the envelope back.
  • Hollywood Tone Deaf: Lisa.
  • Incredibly Lame Fun: Kellerman's! Come for the charades, stay for the foxtrot lessons.
  • Jerkass: 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.
  • One Head Taller: Johnny's hands are longer than Baby's waist.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Parenthetical Swearing: "He wouldn't know a new idea if it hit him in his pachanga!"
  • Pet the Dog: Lisa offering to do Baby's hair.
  • 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.
  • Rich Bitch / Woman Scorned: Johnny's previous "dance student".
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Pretty much the only area of romantic conflict. This was repeated in the prequel.
  • Sesame Street Cred: Happened with both Lonny Price and Miranda Garrison of all people. Before he was cast as Neil, Price previously made his film debut as Ronnie Crawford in The Muppets Take Manhattan. Garrison also worked in the Muppet stable when she choreographed The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. In addition, Wayne Knight made a guest appearance on Square One TV, which, like Sesame Street, was also a CTW production.
  • Shirtless Scene: Take a drink every time you see one.
  • The Sixties: Though you would never know it from Jennifer Grey's Eighties Hair.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: The wealthy patrons vs. the help.
  • Smash Cut: Baby's father learning of her sexual relationship with Johnny. Cut to Dr. Houseman sitting comatose at the lakefront. Ha!
  • 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.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Everything. It helps that "Baby" is a common song lyric.
  • Taking the Heat: Johnny has little choice but to take the rap for Penny's pregnancy.
  • Wet Sari Scene: The lift.
  • You Look Familiar: Both Swayze and Grey previously worked together in Red Dawn, while Kenny Ortega previously choreographed Ferris Buellers Day Off, which Grey also co-starred in.