It was a little over 30 years ago that Dirty Dancing first cha-cha-cha’d its way onto our screens. The film, written by Eleanor Bergstein and directed by Emile Ardolino, was released in October 1987 and since then, it’s firmly held onto its place as one of the greatest romantic dramas of all time, writes Holly O’Mahony…
Swimming in iconic moments (the lift scene and the Lover Boy miming scene to name a couple) and memorable quotes (“Nobody puts Baby in the corner” perhaps the most famous), it’s among the best of its kind. If you missed Dirty Dancing in the cinemas back in the ‘80s, or want to experience it up close again, Greenwich Picturehouse is screening the film on Valentine’s Day.
Dirty Dancing tells the story of 17-year-old Baby (Jennifer Grey), who goes on holiday with her family to Kellerman’s holiday resort in the Catskill Mountains. There, the privileged but shy teen meets dance teacher Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), who teachers her to dance and who she soon begins to fall for – against the approval of her well-to-do father.
While the steamy romance between Johnny and Baby takes centre stage for much of the film, the subtext of Baby finding her voice, her passion for dancing and falling in love for the first time makes Dirty Dancing a classic coming-of-age movie. Furthermore, the subplot of Baby’s friendship with Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes) – which sees Baby use her father’s wealth to help Penny obtain an illegal abortion when she accidentally falls pregnant – makes the film about friendship as well as love.
It’s the relationship between Baby and Penny (written, let’s remember, by female writer Eleanor Bergstein) that makes Dirty Dancing one of few films of its genre to pass the Bechdel Test – which dictates that a film must have at least two women in it who talk to each other about something other than men.
Dirty Dancing catapulted Swayze to stardom. The award-winning actor went on to play lead roles in Road House (1989), Ghost (1990), Point Break (1991) and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995), among other titles. It also inspired future films which followed it, including 2004 hit The Notebook, which borrowed from Dirty Dancing’s lake sequence and wealthy-girl-falls-for-bad-boy plotline.
Among the best-loved traits of Dirty Dancing is, of course, the soundtrack. Set in the summer of ‘63, the film is littered with some of the greatest hits of the decade (‘Be My Baby’ and ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ among them), as well as original songs – most famously ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’. The latter was co-composed by Franke Previte, John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz, and won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song in 1988.
So, whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with the Baby, Lover Boy or Penny in your life, if a romantic movie night is your calling, cha-cha-cha your way over to Greenwich Picturehouse to see Dirty Dancing on the big screen.
Dirty Dancing is showing at Greenwich Picturehouse, 180 Greenwich High Road, London SE10 8NN. February 14, at 8:45pm. Admission: £14.10/£13.10 concessions.