The music never stops nor does the dancing in this classic 80s flick that turns 30-years old this year; it was originally released on August 21, 1987. Dirty Dancing played again in theaters on January 29th and February 1st to celebrate its anniversary. The film was made for a rather low budget of $6 million dollars from a small production company, Great American Films Limited Partnership, and featured a largely unknown cast but ended up being a major box office success making over $200 million in sales. Upon entering the theater I was surprised to see a rather large audience consisting of college-aged women and older couples attending the show.
Prior to the film playing on the large screen, Fathom Events played cast and production crew interviews that featured writer Eleanor Bergstein, lead actors Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, as well as director Emile Ardolino. It was interesting to hear the beginnings of how this classic dance/love story was formed. From the auditions that won Grey and Swayze their star-making parts, to talks of how a sequel could happen one day; Kelly Bishop, who played Baby’s mother in the film, reminisced about the ending and the iconic “lift.” It evidently took so long to get that lift shot right that Bishop and Jerry Orbach were given Scotch as the night of filming entered the early morning hours. We all laughed upon hearing that.
What’s interesting for me is that the film takes places in the summer of 1963 at the Kellerman’s, which is a resort located in the Catskill Mountains; yet a good amount of the songs that play in the film were released the year that the film was released. Also, did you ever notice that Baby narrates the beginning of the film? I wonder if she was looking back at a moment in her life or recalling a fun summer memory, though the film never specifies. The story is simple – a young family is vacationing at a resort for the summer prior to their children heading off to college. The Kellerman’s has parties, games to play, and dancing lessons from the entertainers themselves.
Baby, played by Jennifer Grey is shy and clumsy on the dance floor, yet captivated when she sees Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) for the first time. She is attracted to him as he moves on the dance floor with his childhood friend Penny (Cynthia Rhodes). The pair are stunning dancers and when Baby sees the entertainers dancing privately away from the guests, she is more that surprised. The story itself is rather predictable as Baby helps Johnny once a dire situation happens with Penny, they fall in love, navigating the film to its happy ending. It’s a fun summer flick that critics were rather mixed about. Some enjoyed the choreographed dance scenes and the chemistry between Grey and Swayze, while other critics wrote off the predictable story and idiotic plot. While I can agree that the plot was rather simple, I really enjoyed this film because of its performances from its two main stars and the power of its soundtrack.
There are better dance/musical films (even in the same era) like Fame and Flashdance, but Dirty Dancing is more of a young adult film that is targeted for a younger audience and it’s something that we will remember for years to come. The film was filmed at Lake Lure, North Carolina and Mountain Lake, Virginia during the late summer of 1986. Several of the actors were hospitalized due to extreme heat from the outdoors which peaked at over 105 degrees and the inside got up to 120 degrees. Swayze insisted on performing his own stunts and continually fell off the log during the balancing scene injuring his knee to the point of fluid drained from his knee to reduce the swelling. Also, the famous lifting practice in the lake was filmed in October where the temperature dropped to nearly 40 degrees making the water horrifically cold.
The scene where Johnny trails his fingers down Baby’s arm consistently made Jennifer Grey burst into laughter. From the long filming hours and quick production of only 44 days, the actors where exhausted especially Grey which caused her to laugh during that scene. The Director liked her laughter and ended up keeping it in the film which makes the scene feel all too real.
The film was released on August 21, 1987 and in just 10 days had already grossed $10 million in sales. The film was also popular internationally and was one of the highest grossing films in 1987 and ending up bringing in $170 million by the end of the year. Over the years, Dirty Dancing continued to popular once released on home video, making it the first film to sell 1 million Home Video copies. In 2007, a survey was conducted saying that Dirty Dancing was women’s most watched film ahead of Star Wars, Grease, and The Sound of Music. It has since been named,” Star Wars for girls.” Additionally, the line, “I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way that I feel when I’m with you,” is known as one of the most romantic movie quotes of all time as listed by Britain’s Daily Mail.
The film was also Wayne Knight’s feature debut. He was Stan, the man who made bad pun jokes, and announced when and what activities were to be happening. From it’s fantastic soundtrack, to great dance sequences along with funny moments between Johnny and Baby, there is something that one can enjoy with Dirty Dancing. There will be a collector’s edition of the film being released around Valentine’s Day that will include deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, and plenty more. So, return to that summer of ‘63 and remember that dancing that was a little to crude to show in front of the guests staying at the Kellerman’s Resort. Sing along to your favorite songs and perhaps find a partner to share a little dance with. One last detail to mention, ever year in Lake Lure, North Carolina they have a Dirty Dancing Festival. Two days of food, music, and of course, dancing. It’s located at the very spot where the water lift was filmed. So, be sure to pack your bags and head to the lake and enjoy an end of summer fun just like Baby did 30 years ago.