‘God wouldn’t have given you maracas, if he didn’t want you to shake ‘em!’
Yes this is an ingenious quote from the brilliant 1987 chick-flick Dirty Dancing. Unfortunately it was slightly overshadowed by the world famous saying, ‘nobody puts Baby in the corner,’ Which later went on to become a very popular t-shirt slogan.
Patrick Swayze played brooding and mysterious dance-instructor Johnny Castle. Probably the first ever crush for millions of women who grew up in 80s. He was THE perfect man. And with Johnny he portrayed a macho guy who was capable of punching someone’s lights out one minute and then dancing a seductive samba the next, with those piercing blue eyes looking at you as if the only thing he could ever hurt were the cheeks of a young lady from blushing so hard. What was not to love about good old Johnny Castle? Of course the fact that he was a broad shouldered tanned Adonis of a man helped things along, but hey,who’s complaining?
Now a cynic would say Dirty Dancing in a nutshell was: ‘not the prettiest girl in the world a.k.a Baby (Jennifer Gray) went to a summer camp with her family one year and shacked up with a glorified Pontins bluecoat.’ But in order to clarify that I am definitely not one of those cynics, I want to be stand up and declare (along with millions of fans the world over) that Dirty Dancing was, and still is so much more than that.
For starters, it is everything you could wish for in a film – romance, drama, dance and a DIY abortion gone wrong (Ok, no one ever wishes for the last one). Key players are of course Johnny, Baby (real name Frances Houseman – you understand why she preferred to be called ‘Baby’ then?) and Baby’s cliched family; a over-protective but caring dad, an uppity mother and bitchy sister, Lisa.
AND with the likes of Hungry Eyes, She’s Like The Wind and of course (I’ve had The Time of My Life) it has one of the best film soundtracks ever!
Based on the experiences of the real-life ‘Baby’ (the film’s script-writer Eleanor Bergstein), DD is set in 1963 at Kellerman’s, a holiday resort in the Catskill Mountains, northwest of New York City. The 17-year-old Baby’s reluctance to be there, despite the rest of her family being well up for it, is made clear from the get-go.
However, things take an unexpected turn (they always do in these movies) when Baby inadvertently enters the unknown world of ‘Dirty Dancing’ – essentially a secret after-hours club where the holiday camp staff get their bump and grind on in the steamiest of ways.
Even though the Jewish student is straighter that a plank of wood (and I’m not just talking about her grades), she is instantly intrigued and quickly becomes part of this secret gathering and the world of those who partake it, including of course Johnny Castle, who is the hip-swiveling captain of this seductive ship.
The rest of the film sees her facing various trials and tribulations, such as taking Johnny’s dance partner Penny’s place for a major public performance at neighbouring resort Sheldrake, after Penny is too unwell due to a recent abortion. Within this portion of the film the audience is taken on a journey of Johnny and Baby’s tumultuous rehearsals during which they fall in love (Awww!)
Baby doesn’t do too badly in the performance either, although she is a little stiff and more importantly fails to complete the tricky acrobatic lift she and Johnny have spent a lot of time practising (including in the river, below). Booo!
Later… Baby is put in a corner (not THE corner of the T-Shirt slogan fame – that happens later) and is forced to admit to her father that she spent the night with ‘big bad Johnny’ who just happened to snatch her virginity, to save her lover from a false accusation of stealing and (shudder!) losing his job! This is the moment when one of the film’s many moral messages is inserted, in this instance: ‘there are people willing to stand up for other people no matter what it costs them.’ (nicely put Johnny)
But the most famous scene of all is the final one when Baby and Johnny perform in front of the entire staff and guests (including her family) at the ‘end of season dance’.
This is where Johnny utters that now immortal line ‘nobody puts baby in the corner,’ and the couple go on to perform the best dance sequence ever, which climaxes with the ever famous lift (Baby finally nails it! *Air punch*!), against the up-lifting audio of that now mega-popular track (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.
This perfect cinematic climax is what dreams are made of, as Johnny holds Baby up in the air like the hero she is, and it is also the moment when every single girl (and some men – I see you fellas) who has seen the film burst into tears!
The moral(s) of this story include ‘love transcends all barriers’ and ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. Dirty dancing also gives ‘nasally-challenged’ women the world over hope that if they ever go to Butlins; a dancing stud may just be waiting for them with open arms.
DID YA KNOW?
- Dirty Dancing was originally a low budget film, which has now managed to gross over 300 million worldwide. KERRCHING!
- Jennifer Gray had a nose job, following her success in the film, ironically this saw her career do a ‘nose-dive’ (pun very much intended).
- Dirty Dancing was the first film to sell over a million copies on VHS.
- The most famous song from the Dirty Dancing Official Soundtrack (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life (sung by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warner), won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.
- Most of the film’s dance sequences were choreographed by Kenny Ortega, who later went on to direct High School Musical and Michael Jackson’s This Is It stage show. He also directed Madonna’s 1985 music video Material Girl!
- Actor Billy Zane (Yes, Kelly Brook’s ex) was originally drafted in to play Johnny, but after a screen test with Jennifer Gray revealed the chemistry was just not there he was replaced with Patrick Swayze.
- Patrick Swayze sadly passed away, following a long battle with Pancreatic Cancer, on September 14 2009.
By Natasha Smith
(with additional information by Adenike Adenitire)