Patrick Swayze – No One Puts Baby In A Corner
“In the heat with a blue jean girl”
~ “Stone In Love” Journey 1981.
“I never will forget those nights
I wonder if it was a dream
Remember how you made me crazy?
Remember how I made you scream?”
– “Boys of Summer” Don Henley 1984.
“No one puts Baby in a corner”
– “Dirty Dancing” 1987.
Sadly, Patrick Swayze passed away this week after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
In 1987, Patrick Swayze (at the time a second-tier young actor who had performed supporting roles in Red Dawn, The Outsiders, and some TV appearances) starred in a “B movie” budget film put out by the barely known film studio Vestron Pictures, title Dirty Dancing.
To understand some of the cultural effect of Dirty Dancing, it may help to first understand some of the history of “musicals” in movie and theater in the prior 40 years.
In the 50s and 60s, major box-office movie musicals generally came from successful Broadway romantic musicals: My Fair Lady, Kiss Me, Kate, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, The Sound of Music, The King and I, South Pacific, West Side Story and many others.
My Fair Lady dealt with “forbidden love” between different classes, the rich and “cultured” versus the poor and “unmannered.”
The Sound of Music dealt with “forbidden love” between a widower and his much younger “convent bound” nanny.
The King and I, South Pacific, and West Side Story dealt with forbidden love between cultural classes and races.
Broadway and Hollywood found successful themes in exploring taboo romantic attachments. In the films of the 50s and 60s, the characters sang their feelings, transitioning from monologue and dialogue into shared songs.
In the 1970s, the theatrical and film arts continued to create musicals on social issues, romance, and coming of age - for example, Grease and A Chorus Line.
Increasingly in the 1970s and 1980s, the film industry began to emphasize more films where the characters did not sing. The films were nevertheless vehicles designed to highlight the film’s accompanying soundtrack of songs. Examples of this are: Saturday Night Fever, Urban Cowboy, and Footloose.
In 1987, at the zenith of “big hair” white guys singing Heavy Metal rock n’ roll, a low budget film set in 1963, featuring early backwoods rock n’ roll, came out with the tag line:
The time of your life”
And Dirty Dancing became a smash hit.
For those of us who were teenagers at the time, and had grown up listening to pop songs from the 1950s and early 60s, which were already called “oldies” at that time, Dirty Dancing taught us that those “innocent” old bump, grind, and twist songs were, in their day, cause célèbre for giving young people a vehicle and reason to get together and explore their physicial, sensual, erotic, and sexual sides.
Dirty Dancing continued the tradition of the musical exploring forbidden love – this time between a young wealthy Jewish girl and her poor Gentile dance instructor at a upper middle class Summer resort.
The movie also dealt capably with the horrors of an era where young people were as desirous as ever to have sex, where sex education was non-existent, where birth control was not widely used or condoned, and where abortions were illegal in many states. In one scene a doctor comes in to save a woman’s life after an illegal abortion almost kills her.
In the final scene of the film, Patrick Swayze’s character decides that he loves the Jewish girl and calls for her hand, over the objections of her father, by famously saying:
“No one puts Baby in a corner.”
It is a quote that is on many lists of the “Top 100 film quotes of all time.” The scene can be viewed here:
I have not cried for a few months. I think as I am getting older I am becoming hardened and more jaded. I think as we get older we become more hidden and affected, tougher skin, wearing our hearts less on our sleeves. When I heard last night that Patrick Swayze had died, I was very sad, but I did not cry.
But I thought about him during my sleeping dreams last night. And as my wierd mind does, I began writing this post involuntarily in my sleep. I’m trying to focus on other work these days and to do less posting, but I felt I should pay some tribute to Patrick’s work.
This morning on my walk, I cried as I touched on thoughts of Dirty Dancing and that time in my life in 1987. Dirty Dancing suggested sexuality was good, natural, and healthy. And that was a message I needed to learn in 1987, even if it was a year or two too late.
A message in Dirty Dancing was that “dirty dancing” was not “dirty.” Another message was: no one but you should define your “forbidden loves.”
“No one puts Baby in a corner.”
Patrick Swayze taught a generation of young people that dancing could be masculine, intelligent, and strong – not just something for “sissies.” He was a very good actor and his popular vocal on “She’s Like The Wind” was heartfelt and excellent.
I am grateful to Patrick Swayze for the ideas and joys he showed us. He helped beautifully design, perform, and fashion for us a time of our lives.
(Click on the images if you wish to view them individually.)
© All rights reserved by the respective artists.
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