An urban legend and dream machine for 1980s teenagers, DD’s allure persists. It’s the summer of 1963 and 17-year-old Frances, known as “Baby” (Jennifer Grey) is on a Catskills vacation with her parents. She meets dance instructor Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and his partner Penny (Cynthia Rhodes) and melts when she sees them dance. Penny gets pregnant, and guess who Johnny picks as his partner? Baby of course can’t dance. But we’re in fantasyland. She swaps gym shoes for pumps in a sexual-awakening makeover. No more loopy skirts and blue cardigans. They rehearse relentlessly. Johnny and Baby finally do a killer mambo and fall in love. But she’s a Jewish doctor’s daughter and he’s, well, a dancer.
Swayze and Grey aren’t professional dancers, and it shows most with Grey. But the scenes are touching enough to suspend disbelief. A sensual mambo in which she’s all rose and coral, he dark and elegant, is stirring. So are Baby’s lessons: all the basic steps, gestures, balance, and lifting. The climax is so sentimentally charged that it stays with you. The soundtrack was as successful as the movie, including songs that stand the test of time:, including “The Time of my Life,” “She’s Like the Wind,” “Hungry Eyes,” “Do You Love Me.”