Fact: The best dancing movie ever is Dirty Dancing. Period. No contest. It just has to be.
Another fact is that I love this movie, probably because of two things: 1) I love dancing; 2) I love Patrick Swayze. And of course, in this movie you get Patrick Swayze dancing. Unbeatable.
I first saw Dirty Dancing when I was about 16, which was probably too young for me to register some of the themes in it. But since this is a coming-of-age movie and has lots of dancing, I immediately fell in love with it. It was released in 1987, originally a low-budget film that made it big. In fact, it was the first movie to sell more than a million copies on home video. Impressive, no?
I don't know if I should bother going over the storyline, because everyone knows it, right?
OK, for those ones and ones of people who don't know the plot, here it is. The year is 1963, and Frances "Baby" Houseman, who is something of a sweet and naive daddy's girl, goes with her family to a resort in upstate New York's Catskill Mountains. A kind of "camp" is being held at the resort where families participate in talent shows, activities and so on - an idea which I think is a bit foreign these days, but it works in the movie. The Houseman family is rather well off. There is an expectation placed on Baby that she will go to college, perhaps join the Peace Corps, and try to save the world before marrying a rich, handsome doctor just like her father. However, as fate would have it, Baby instead falls head over heels in love with the resort dance instructor Johnny Castle, a man who couldn't be further removed from Baby's sheltered existence. Their relationship changes both of them, challenging their world view and how they see other people. Of course, there's also lots of dancing, which - let's face it - is the best part.
Oh, and I almost forgot, this movie has the best soundtrack! Perfect to listen to when getting ready to go out or while doing the vacuuming!
Apparently Dirty Dancing is based in large part on screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein's own childhood. She is the younger daughter of a Jewish doctor from New York, spent summers with her family in the Catskills, participated in "Dirty Dancing" competitions, and was herself called "Baby" as a girl. I guess it's OK to plagiarise your own life, right?
The movie was also quite a big risk, as it was Vestron Pictures' first feature film. They gave it a rather low budget of $5 million (most films were costing $12 million back then).
Director Emile Ardolino was adamant that they choose dancers who could also act. Jennifer Grey, who is legendary Broadway actor Joel Grey's daughter, was chosen for the part of "Baby". Patrick Swayze took the part of Johnny, despite his agent not wanting him to. Apparently Grey was not pleased, since they had worked together before on previous films and had not got along. But hey, who's to argue with chemistry? Their dance audition was described by Bergstein as "breathtaking".
It would be a massive understatement to say that everyone was a touch sceptical about the film's reception. The director and producers were even told to "burn the negative, and collect the insurance." There was even a plan to release it for just one weekend and then put it straight to video.
Luckily, sometimes even the audience can tell a good movie when they see it. Although it tended to get more of a thumbs up from adults than the teens they were aiming at, the film was a sensation, growing in popularity as the weeks went by and word of mouth drew more people. Apparently many women bought another ticket after seeing it the first time, and watched it again!
Fun Fact #1: Filming was delayed so much that a lot of the film was shot in autumn. Set decorators had to spray-paint the autumn leaves green in order to make it look like summer.
Fun Fact #2: Director Ardolino encouraged the actors to improvise, and often kept the cameras rolling even if actors went "off script". One example of this was the scene where Grey was to stand in front of Swayze with her back to him, and put her arm up behind his head while he trailed his fingers down her arm. Though it was written as a serious and tender moment, Grey was exhausted, found the move ticklish, and could not stop giggling each time Swayze tried it, no matter how many takes Ardolino asked for. Swayze was impatient to finish the scene, and found Grey's behavior annoying. However, the producers decided that the scene worked as it was, and put it into the film complete with Grey's giggling and Swayze's annoyed expression.
Baby: Me? I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of what I saw, I'm scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you.
Johnny: Nobody puts Baby in a corner.
Fun Fact #3: Patrick Swayze also required a hospital visit. Insisting on doing his own stunts, he repeatedly fell off the log during the "balancing" scene and injured his knee so badly that he had to have fluid drained from the swelling.
Until next time :)