Patrick Swayze’s timeless line “nobody puts Baby in a corner” never fails to brighten my day. All I need is the first two bars of ‘I’ve Had the Time of My Life’ and I’m up in my pyjamas dancing in front of the TV and pretending that I am Jennifer Grey. Corny – yes. Fun – hell yeah! Dirty Dancing is a low budget American rom-com written by (and loosely based on the experiences of) Eleanor Burgstein. Released in 1987, Dirty Dancing had mostly positive reviews and has since become one of the most infamous films of a generation.
The film centres on Baby, aka Frances Houseman, who is on vacation with her family in the Catskills, at a resort that I can only describe as a ’60’s version of Butlins. Here she finds herself craving the attention of hunky dance instructor Johnny Castle (Swayze) and ends up lending a hand when his dance partner is unable to perform. From here a steamy love affair ensues, with dancing taking on the supporting role.
Dirty Dancing will always take me back to some of my most happy memories – tucking into tubs of ice-cream with my sisters and singing along to the songs. As soon as Baby says, ‘that was the summer of 1963’, I am already remembering how I once attempted the famous lift with a friend and how I (inevitably) ended up on my backside. If films are meant to have some kind of personal resonance, meant to take you back to a time and place, then Dirty Dancing must be classed as a favourite of mine.
Despite being predictable and having some truly awful lines – “He wouldn’t know a new idea if it hit him in the Pachanga!” – I can safely say that this is one of my Top Ten Films of all time (sharp intake of breath from disapproving film fans). On a more serious note the film does tackle some fairly heavy themes, such as abortion and the role of women in 1960’s America. It tells the story of a young woman who is forging a path in society and is struggling to break free of the constraints that rule her life.
Aside from enjoying the raunchy dancing and the hilarious lines that the film offers up, I have to say that my main fascination with Dirty Dancing is the soundtrack. Whatever people may say about the film itself, nobody can deny that it offers a truly amazing soundtrack. The music has won several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Music and a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo. Solomon Burke’s ageless classic Cry to Me is a particularly memorable song, but the list could go on.
So when I’ve had a bad day and just need cheering up, or I feel like a good sing-along, I know I can rely on Dirty Dancing to cheer me up. After all, we can all empathise with that awkward girl at the party – you know, the one who ‘carried a watermelon’.