Rewatching Dirty Dancing for the book project – I’m going to pair it with The Flamingo Kid (with some other 80s nostalgia-comedies like Heaven Help Us) – I was struck by two curious moments.

The first is the opening of the film, which uses the Ronettes’ song “Be My Baby”. It’s a little embarrassing to put a character’s name so far up front so early and in so ham-handed a manner, but there’s something else. Another movie got there first, and it’s a really good movie: Mean Streets.

I must have been in an Italian-American filmmaker state of mind from the use of “Be My Baby”, because a scene at the end of Dirty Dancing seemed to quote from The Godfather Part II in such a way that I want to propose an alternate ending to the film. Jake Housman sits in the gazebo, looking out over the lake, crushed about the whole sex and abortion and dancing and class mixing that his daughter’s gotten involved in.

Dirty Dancing Michael Corleone

It may be that I’ve seen The Godfather Part II so many times that I always have it in the back of my mind and the corner of my eye, but that image reminded me quite a bit of the image of Michael after he has Fredo killed:

Godfather II Michael 2

When I went back to look for this shot, I realised that I’d combined it mentally with a shot from the outside of the house from before Fredo gets shot:

Godfather II Michael 1

Combining these two images creates the Dr Housman contemplates the changing mores of American society image. It also creates a seriously dark undertone to the apology Baby makes to him. The undercurrent of familial violence that the image brings with it makes me wonder what happens after the big “I Had the Time of My Life” number. (As an aside, what I like about Dirty Dancing is that, like another middling film, Little Miss Sunshine, it has faith in dance as an expressive form – it doesn’t talk you to death when the joyous dance sequence happens.)

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