Dirty Dancing (1987)
July 29, 2014 9:40 AM - Subscribe

Spending the summer in a holiday camp with her family, Frances "Baby" Houseman falls in love with the camp's dance instructor Johnny Castle.

She carried a watermelon.
posted by troika (30 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Loving the tags. I will always know to search by tag "corners" from now on.

I rewatched this recently to decide if my kids (11 and 9) could watch it. When I saw it for the first time on VHS, I was 13 and the abortion plotline went way over my head. Funny when I saw it in my twenties and went, "oooOOoooh!"

That floor dance though... /fans self
posted by tracicle at 10:08 AM on July 29, 2014

This movie was VERY IMPORTANT to my entire 7th grade class. We recreated that water leap scene repeatedly (and poorly, I'm surprised no one was seriously injured)

Though I adore this movie it has one of the worst lines ever uttered in it. When Johnny breaks into that car and Baby says, "You're wild!, you're wild!" I just cringe.
posted by Julnyes at 11:32 AM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

The "nobody puts Baby in the corner" was one of the most disappointing 'oh, so that's where that came from' moments in movie history in my opinion, especially given that Baby could have chosen to sit in the corner herself. Hey, she would have had a better view from there.

I did enjoy the degree to which Baby and Johnny's relationship seems uncommonly healthy for a movie romance of that era, potential age gap notwithstanding. They're supportive of each other, honest with each other, and when they get frustrated and angry in the pressure-cooker situation of having a few days to rehearse and perform a dance they don't take it out on each other.
posted by capricorn at 11:35 AM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I hate that "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" line. It has no grounding in the movie, and I never understood why everyone thought it was so great and would quote it all the time.
posted by MsVader at 11:42 AM on July 29, 2014

What was going on with those watermelons? Who brings 3 giant watermelons to a dance party? Did anyone eat them? I have so many questions.

Maybe they only looked like watermelons and were actually capsules for transporting her extensive collection of jean shorts of various lengths.
posted by Copronymus at 12:01 PM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

The best people bring giant watermelons to a dance party.
posted by Julnyes at 12:03 PM on July 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

...especially given that Baby could have chosen to sit in the corner herself.

NO ONE -- including Baby herself -- puts Baby in a corner.

Where exactly is Johnny Castle from, with that (those) accent(s)? Is there a borough of NYC populated by half-Texans?
posted by doctornecessiter at 12:24 PM on July 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Every once in a while I hear that someone in Hollywood is thinking of remaking this, but nothing comes of it. I assume it's because they then sit down and watch it and realize how much of the plot is driven by the botched abortion. And then they back away slowly.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:44 PM on July 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Looooooved this movie as a teenager. Frances was awkward. I was awkward. Frances wanted Patrick Swayze. I wanted Patrick Swayze.

Agree with the "Baby in the corner " criticism, though.
posted by Night_owl at 1:00 PM on July 29, 2014

In my junior high circles, it was the dancing - on - a - log scene we acted out endlessly. Many ankles were sprained falling off stuff.

We also missed both the abortion plotline and the Ayn Rand joke.
posted by Stacey at 1:15 PM on July 29, 2014

Oh, I loved this movie. I was the perfect age when it came it out. I'm repeating myself from a post on the blue about Dirty Dancing, but I think that Baby gets the most romantic line in the movie, "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." And, god, when the Solomon Burke record drops right after she says that line, well, I pretty much went through puberty in a flash the first time I saw it.
posted by gladly at 1:47 PM on July 29, 2014 [11 favorites]

I also listened to the tape of this soundtrack on repeat constantly through my early teens. I would do an interpretive dance to "She's Like The Wind" to amuse myself.
posted by Julnyes at 2:30 PM on July 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

I had never seen this movie before this weekend, and didn't really know anything about it. The first thing that comes to mind is that Swayze really intrudes on the space of a young girl in a creepy way. It is summer break and they say she is going to college next year, so I assume that means this is the summer before her senior year of high school, so she is 17. They don't mention his age, but his actual age was 35, so figure 30ish? That's some creepy stuff right there.

Plus, I shouldn't be picking this apart, but she went from a nondancer to an expert over the course of like a week and a half? Come on, that's just ridiculous.

Also, and this isn't a specific complaint about this movie, but about movies in general, the whole thing would have been resolved if people just communicated. I mean I don't know about the average family or group of friends, but I usually talk about my problems and then they go away. It is like this whole movie (and almost every other movie/tv show/etc.) was based around the lack of communication between everyone, where a short talk would have made everything work out. I don't know.

Still, even with all the complaints I thought it was pretty interesting to watch. My wife (who had never seen it either) fell asleep about halfway through, so I guess she wasn't too keen on it.

Oh, and one other thing. What's up with those huge watermelons? I don't know if I have ever seen watermelons of that size and shape before. Wow.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:49 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Isn't the tradition for watermelon at parties to punch a hole in them and fill them with vodka and then eat delicious vodka watermelon?

This and Strictly Ballroom made me want to learn how to dance.
posted by PussKillian at 5:58 PM on July 29, 2014

I hadn't seen this movie in a long time and I really enjoyed it, significantly more than I would have expected, even liking it as a kid. One thing I really, REALLY appreciated about it is that Penny is NOT portrayed as awful for having an abortion and we're supposed to like her; the problem is that the "real MD" is a horrible butcher, not that there's anything wrong with her for wanting not to have a baby right then. Later on she also says that Dr. Houseman said she'll still be able to have children; she regrets that she had to go to a dangerous expensive lunatic because the law is fucked up, but she herself is a victim and is definitely portrayed as more sinned against than sinning. I found that super refreshing. Relatedly, in that early scene when they're dancing and they all turn around to meet "the man of [their] dreams", she's the one who ends up dancing with Dr. Houseman, and he really is the man of her dreams; what she needs is a good, competent, caring doctor.

I also, not having seen this movie since I was much younger, had a WAY different perspective on Baby and her naivete. When I was a kid I didn't really realize how hurtful and condescending she was being, even unintentionally. I knew she was naive but I didn't really get what the harm in that was but as an adult seeing the way she interacted with people and violated their privacy and barged into their lives when it was NONE OF HER DAMN BUSINESS looked really different to me. When I was a kid, I thought the fact that she meant well made everything she did okay and now it makes me cringe. I think I also got some of the end of an era/optimism before Kennedy died stuff a lot better now. I had a less strong sense of the historical context and seeing the differences in the way people thought and Max's speech at the end about how everything is changing struck me differently as an adult.

It is like this whole movie (and almost every other movie/tv show/etc.) was based around the lack of communication between everyone, where a short talk would have made everything work out.

I see what you're saying but I think a lot of the point of the movie was how hard it was for people, even those who loved each other, to talk and communicate in meaningful ways. Communication is difficult and messy and it can be really painful, especially with people you love. She and her father loved each other SO much and that scene where he's sitting on the dock and refusing to look at her makes me sob because it's clear they both love each other so very, very deeply and it's only BECAUSE they love each other so deeply that they can hurt each other so much.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:01 PM on July 29, 2014 [7 favorites]

My husband surprised me with tickets to the theatre version. It was objectively, a pretty terrible performance - some nice staging and lighting ideas, the script skimmed over the abortion plot which is at the heart of the story (sexual agency! adulthood) and the actors had been chosen for their dancing skills.

I was still so thrilled and delighted and in love. I would watch this done with sockpuppets.

We had it on VHS and wore out the pause button trying to figure out if Patrick Swayze's butt could be seen when he got out of bed. Him and River Pheonix, the only actors I remember hearing the news that they had died and feeling a bit of joy fade away. He was such a wonderful guy.

Also, this film is partly responsible for my terrible dancing skills. That scene where he puts her hand on his heart and is all 'feel the rhythm, Baby', yeah well that doesn't work if you have arrythmia! I figured I was physically incapable of dancing to a beat for years.

Also! Johnny is only 19-21 in the film.

And what I consider to be the true sequel to Dirty Dancing: A Real Grown-Up Name.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:46 PM on July 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Isn't Nobody puts Baby in the corner a reference to her not being on stage? The whole sibling dynamic with her sister taking the stage role, while Baby who has worked so hard on her dancing skills is not even on stage?

The sibling scenes were so crisp to me as one of five, the last unwanted daughter. You got assigned a role and that's who you were. When her sister offered to do her make-up, and when Baby pushed her sister to be more than pretty domestic material, those scenes still make me tear up thinking about them. They were so tender and loving across all those frustrated restrictions of family and social expectations.

Everytime I watch it, I notice the secondary characters even more - the lonely wife who slips her key into Johnny's pocket, Johnny's overlooked cousin who doesn't have the looks and talent but has so much integrity, Penny - who is so much more than a plot point, even the asshole waiter-med student. They all have stories and Dirty Dancing does a great job threading the central love story through all of these lives, touching on them briefly but not reducing them to wallpaper.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:52 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to unleash the torrent of bile I have towards this film here, because that would be impolite.

I will just say that when your little sister decides that this is the film she's going to watch over and over and over and over for about three months, and you're at home all the time because you're home-schooled, so it's not like you can escape...

It makes it really difficult to not full-body flinch whenever anyone gushes about how much they love it.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:30 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have always assumed that when people quoted "Baby in the corner," it was to make fun of a terrible line, not to laud a good one.
posted by tomboko at 4:37 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

That corner actually looked pretty comfortable. It also wasn't much of a corner, just the wall with part of the edge of a faux pillar. If it was a true corner, like of the room, Johnny wouldn't have been able to approach the table from behind. I think he needed to incorporate some wiggle room into his definitions before he started throwing around half-cocked Baby-placement accusations.

But then they finally do the lift right at that big moment in the song, and in my book all is forgiven.

And then Johnny cheesily mouths the lyrics to Baby, and I'm out of it again.

This movie is a roller coaster ride!
posted by doctornecessiter at 6:04 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Show of hands if your high school senior prom ended up with "I've Had the Time of My Life" as it's theme....
posted by dnash at 11:08 AM on July 30, 2014

One more small detail about the lift that I appreciate...As Johnny and the other employees march down the aisle from the back of the room, when Johnny reaches that certain point in the dance-walk toward Baby, he gestures to her like, "Ready?" and she nods back with a grin, before she hops off the stage to do the lift. They could have easily just had her join the magically already choreographed routine going on on the floor, because why not...But I like that they still required that communication in the midst of the planned out routine; there was still a little bit of uncertainty about the one important thing that they hadn't gotten right yet. It sold a tiny bit of needed spontaneity in the middle of an unrealistic scene.
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:24 AM on July 30, 2014

When Johnny breaks into that car and Baby says, "You're wild!, you're wild!" I just cringe.

Yeah, it was cringeworthy in the movie, but you should see it in the musical. Holy fuck is it terrible there.

Dirty Dancing is one of those movies that if I'm flipping channels and it's on, I can't not watch. Just can't. Too much of my youth was spent trying to do that lift in the lake near my house (I was always the lifter, never the liftee, such were the tribulations of being a fat kid) and doing the log dance on my fence for me to pass it by.

Plus, I shouldn't be picking this apart, but she went from a nondancer to an expert over the course of like a week and a half?

Well, but she didn't, and they don't ever really pretend she does. She learns one dance, and she screws that up -- including the big lift -- a couple of times during the performance at the other hotel, and Johnny leads her past her mistakes. She's better, but still not clearly perfect by the end, but they're dancing together then, not just doing set choreography. The movie is about them learning to dance together as they learn to be together, but neither is perfect by the end.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:00 PM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Actually, dnash.... at my school they used "I've Had the Time of My Life" for the recessional at graduation. I cannot describe the loathing with which it filled me.
posted by tomboko at 5:02 AM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not ashamed to admit that I learned about Frances Perkins ("Frances, like the first woman in the cabinet!") because of this movie. I recently saw a plaque with a brief summary of her biography and was embarrassed that given her impressive career, that line was all I knew about her- though, to be fair, I wasn't too embarrassed to mention it to people nearby, none of whom had made that connection. So, maybe not so bad?

I'm now waiting for my Frances Perkins biography to arrive.
posted by casualinference at 6:57 AM on July 31, 2014

There is a moment in the Broadway choreography of the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee that is a direct shout-out to Baby's and Johnny's dance.

When I saw it, I may possibly have bounced and squealed in my chair just slightly. (Which fortunately was drowned out by the loud burst of laughter from the audience, so at least I was not alone in finding that delightful.)

My sister, who had seen the show before and knew I would be delighted and had chosen not to tell me in advance so I could have the surprise, was very pleased with herself afterward for keeping the secret from me.
posted by Stacey at 7:12 AM on July 31, 2014

the magically already choreographed routine going on on the floor

You know, it occurs to me that it's possible the reason the entire Kellerman's population was able to dance in unison is because they've all been attending Johnny and Penny's dance lessons all week.
posted by capricorn at 9:27 AM on July 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Nobody puts Frances in a cabinet.
posted by doctornecessiter at 9:33 AM on July 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

Hoo boy, this movie got burned into all of our brains in third grade. Fun times. Watching this movie is also what led me to watching Road House, heh heh heh.

I miss Swayze. Man, he was just cool. And a hot dancer. God knows you can't find those IRL.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:47 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I watched this as a teenager it was 90% alien. A camp that a whole family went to? Everyone danced on stage at camp? Old ladies slept with the camp counselors? (which is what I though Johnny was).

I got the abortion plot,the disappointing your family members plot, the insane infatuation plus sex plot, but was completely clueless as to the east coast style classism going on- there were just jerks and non jerks and they hung out together in these weird places from the ... 60s or something. ('60s= long long ago)

Watching it as an adult was a real eye opener. I'm pretty sure all the rich people were supposed to be Jewish, right? And the workers were all local, uneducated good ol' boys?

(All the Jews I grew up with were dirt-poor hippie former-kibbutzniks.)
posted by small_ruminant at 5:03 PM on July 31, 2014

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