Jewish Journal


September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze wasn’t Jewish, but he played one on TV


The Catskills was once the preferred summer vacation home of a great many wealthy Jews. It was here, at least fictionally, that Patrick Swayze first became well-known—not in the tradition of Borscht Belt comedians but as a dance instructor in “Dirty Dancing.”

Remember the classic line from the 1987 hit movie, “Dirty Dancing,” when the lower-class Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) walks up to the cosseted Jewish girl, Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey), and in front of her parents says, “My Baby belongs to me. Is this clear?”

Oh, wait. That’s how it was translated for the blockbuster German film and stage versions.

Maybe instead you recall that bit of dialogue as, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” The change horrified Eleanor Bergstein, who wrote and co-produced the original screenplay about a young Jewish girl who spends a summer in the Catskills with her family and comes of age as she falls in love with the resident dance instructor, a working-class kid with lots of talent who might as well have been from another planet.

“They changed lines when they dubbed the film into German,” Bergstein said, speaking by phone from New York. “I would never write that line. I’d be thrown out of feminist heaven.”

Surely Swayze, who died yesterday at 57, wouldn’t. Not after “Ghost.”

It wasn’t in “Dirty Dancing” but “Jump” that Swayze got his Jewish role. (In that recent film he played a defense attorney.) I preferred his character from “Point Break.”

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