Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze on stage in front of a microphonealr

Dirty Dancing

Screening on Film
Directed by Emile Ardolino.
With Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach.
US, 1987, 35mm, color, 100 min.
Print source: HFA

Based on the screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein’s own teenage experiences, Dirty Dancing takes place at a resort in the Catskills (actually filmed in North Carolina and Virginia) in the summer of 1963, where the vacationing “Baby” Houseman unexpectedly falls for resident dance instructor, Johnny Castle. From different sides of the tracks, the two—played by a strapping Patrick Swayze and cute yet sultry Jennifer Grey—grow ever closer as the summer unfolds. Emile Ardolino required all his lead actors be able to dance as well as act, using no stand-ins. Fitting the bill, Swayze and Grey succeeded in bringing to life their now-iconic 80s roles in a modestly budgeted film that wildly exceeded its box office expectations. Energized by an infectious—if anachronistic—soundtrack, Dirty Dancing managed to expose young audiences to controversial subjects while cementing its place in pop culture forever.

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