Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Love: I Had The Time of My Life, Tribute to Dirty Dancing




                                                                      Oh, yes, that one!   

Of all the summer romance movies of all time, this one has to be on the top of the list. You can't resist Patrick Swayze as Johnny, the bad boy dance instructor who teaches Baby (Francis) how to dance, and so many other mysterious things about life . . . cough.   If you missed this love story, you're missing a swoon worthy classic.  It's another top shelf summer romance movie.  Why? Well, as with Grease, and with this story, each of us has had that high school crush, that first love, first brush of true romance that happened during our summer vacation.  

It could be a time share, a resort, a camp, or campground. A summer cottage or home.   Doesn't matter if your family is wealthy or not, the romance of the summer months and being on vacation is heady stuff for a seventeen year old girl.  It's wandering the camp or resort area at night, with just friends, no parents around. A giddy feeling of freedom and bliss, an endless round of summer days and nights devoted to fun as school is out for the season. I remember stolen kisses under the stars, near the lake, or around a campfire surrounded by other teens. 

Our timeless lovers this week: Baby and Johnny, endure in our hearts.  Baby (whom I will refer to as Frances from this point on), is seventeen. The story is set in the summer of 1963, before Kennedy was shot, as the grown up Frances tells us in an opening monologue that infers a time of innocence for her as well as for the nation. 

Jennifer Grey plays Frances in the film. She is adorable, both innocent and yet has that hidden intellect behind melting brown eyes. She's the younger sister. Her older sister is college material, and as mom, dad, Frances and her sister Lisa go off to the resort for a summer vacation, there is the usual bickering in the back seat. Frances is treated like the baby by her family, including her bitchy older sister, and hence, they continue to call her Baby in her high school years. 

When she arrives at the resort, she is shy and slinks about in the background. She overhears the manager telling the staff to schmooze it up with the guest's daughters, dance with them dazzle them, give them what they want to make their stay here memorable, even if they are unattractive. After all, that's what the staff are being paid to do. Frances sees a cadre of young men dressed as waiters and tennis teachers, dance teachers and the like, all standing in a row like soldiers being give their orders by their general; go out and entertain the guests, but keep it clean!  No dirty, no nasty, just a few flirtations and chaste kisses. 

Johnny Castle is there. He's hot, who wouldn't fall for this Adonis clad in black?  Patrick Swayze is delicious in the role of bad boy Johnny from the wrong side of the tracks.  He first brushes Frances off as just another rich kid.  But then, when trouble comes and Francis bravely steps in to help, he notices she's more than just a wealthy doctor's spoiled but innocent little girl. He starts to see her as a strong, determined woman instead of a child.  This is an important moment for Frances, as no one has thought of her in those terms before. She grows up a little bit more, realizing she is so much more than Baby, the youngest daughter of Doctor Houseman.

To briefly bring you up to speed, in the story, set in 1963, there is a certain level of prudishness that still exists among the upper class. The free sex and free love thing isn't in vogue as yet, as it's the early 1960's. That comes in the latter years of the 1960's with Woodstock and the Summer of Love. In this time, girls are still supposed to bevirgins til they marry, or they are considered bad girls. And boys who get girls pregnant are the bad boys.  Johnny's dance partner, Penny, has gotten pregnant by another member of the staff. She tries to get the guy to take responsibility, he blows her off, calling her a whore. Johnny tries to help Penny through this, as a true friend would. He's trying to come up with the money for her to get an abortion, but can't. Francis gives him the money for it. Now Penny can have her abortion, but there is another dilemma. Johnny and Penny are scheduled to perform at another resort, the Shelldrake, at the end of the week, but she can't do it if she has this surgery. Frances steps in and says she'll do it for Penny. She'll learn the dance steps and perform with Johhny at the Shelldrake. This is the point where the storyline just sizzles! 

 Johnny spends the next week teaching Francis the steps, and it is pure magic, pure romance. They spend hours together, in each others arms as Frances learns the steps of the exotic and sensual dance, and you guessed it, they fall in love, or at least she does. The dance scenes in this movie are so hot, so sensual, you will literally melt with delight, and sigh and swoon. You may even wish you were Frances for a moment or two, being swept away in Johnny's arms. They do this in secret. Frances sneaks off away from her parents and meets Johnny in his dance studio each afternoon. They have a blast together and hearts collide.

We know Johnny likes her a lot but he still considers her a kid as he is about twenty by now, a working man trying to earn a living by teaching rich people dance steps. But, he does have a particular fondness for Frances and admires her for helping him and his wrong side of the tracks friends. He's in love, really, but just doesn't know it yet.  

They successfully perform at the Shelldrake Resort, but when they return from their triumph, they find Penny has taken a turn for the worst. Her abortion was a back alley sort, and she is very sick and in pain. Everyone is frightened among the staff, uncertain of what to do. If they reveal to the boss the reason for Penny's illness, she'll b fired. So, once more, Frances, the 17 year old girl everyone discounted as just a kid, step in to save the day. She goes to her father (its the middle of the night), and askes him to come with her to help a friend who is ill.

Once on the scene with the ailing Penny, Francis's father, Dr. Houseman, askes the staff gathered, "Who is responsible for this young lady?" A question that back in 1963 meant, who is her lover, her fiancee, her husband--who will take care of her. It's a sexist question, to be sure, but we're a few years before the women's movement, so yeah, women were still considered SOMEBODY'S (A male somebody) responsibility. 

Good old Johnny, with his heart of gold, steps up and says. "Me!" He's being gallant, and you just can't not love him for it. Frances does. And so do we. But, his answer sets in motion a set of misconceptions:  now Dr. Houseman thinks that Johnny is the father of the child, (he isn't) and this puts Johnny on daddy's bad list. This comes back to haunt Francis and Johnny later, when daddy refuses to give his blessing for their love. 

  Now Daddy Houseman is very upset, because he doesn't want his daughter hanging out with this group of racy young people. He saves Penny, but forbides Frances from hanging out with any of the group from now on, including Johnny. Especially Johnny as Dad thinks the guy is the one who knocked up Penny and then paid for an abortion for her instead of marrying her.

Well, as parents, or as teens ourselves, we all know how that usually turns out . . . . 

Frances continues to see Johnny on the sly. It's a story as old as time. They make love, become lovers, and daddy finds out. 

 Frances is now on her parent's bad girl list. No, she's not knocked up, but they are disappointed in her for her behavior in seeing Johnny behind their backs, and her dad won't even speak to her. I think he took it pretty hard to learn his innocent little girl has been sleeping with the dance instructor, no longer a virgin--a big deal in 1963.  Oh, well. In the end, the lovers triumph. They dance at the end of the season party for the audience, and steal the show.  

 There are other subplots throughout the movie, but the romance is front and center. One subplot/dilemma is that the resort owner realizes his days are numbered, kids don't want to come to camp anymore with their parents. Kids are bored with the camp routines. He's at his wits end trying to find a new and fresh idea to appeal to parents with teens to bring them to the resort.  In the background, Johnny has had some great ideas about dancing classes, but his boss keeps telling him to shut up and just do what he's told. Johnny would love to teach modern dance steps, like the kids want. He can't, he has to stay traditional to keep his job.  Well, at the end of the movie, when Frances and Johnny, along with the other dancers, give a send off that is modern and popular with the young and old alike, the resort owner now realizes he has a gem in Johnny, and Johnny's dance moves may save the guy's business. Nice twist. 

  Only problem with the movie is this for me. We don't really know if Johnny and Frances had their happily ever after. The movie ends, and did they get togeher forever or was it just a summer fling?  That is the only thing I would change in this movie.  It has great songs, and a soundtrack that rocks. You'll recall that old song that sticks in everyone's head, "I had the time of my life"  it comes from this movie.  Also, Hungry Eyes, Love is Strange, Big Girls Don't Cry, and many others. You can order the soundtrack on amazon or iTunes.

If you love dance movies, you'll love this one. The dance scenes are plentiful and awesome. If you love romance, this is it, girls--a timeless classic that will make your heart soar again and again.

Sadly, Patrick Swayze died of cancer in 2009.  He was a brilliant star, a great actor and dancer. His movies included Ghost, another one which I discuss in length in another timeless loverss post Haunted Romance   back in October of 2013. 



 He starred in several movies and miniseries, including my favorite, North and South, as Orry Main, a southern plantation owner's son during the civil war era made back in the 1980's that might be worth your time if you like miniseries with historical themes. He has a tragic love story in it as well and plays a strong lead as a civil war soldier and a plantation owner.

 Enjoy your summer, timeless lovers fans, and don't forget to make your own romantic memories. Take time to fall in love or renew an old love.

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