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Monday, March 20, 2017

Eleanor Bergstein's Third Movie, "Let It Be Me"

Eleanor Bergstein wrote the screenplays for the movies It's My Turn, released in 1980, and Dirty Dancing, released in 1987. In this blog I have written three articles comparing those two movies.

Since I wrote those three articles, I have learned that Bergstein wrote the screenplay also for a third movie, Let It Be Me, released in 1995. Furthermore, Bergstein directed this movie when it was made in 1994.

Poster for the 1995 movie "Let It Be Me"
Little information is available about this movie, which never was shown in theaters or sold on DVDs. The movie is not listed in the Box Office Mojo webpages for movies released in 1995 or in 1996. The movie's budget was about $20 million, which would be a budget of about $30 million in the year 2017. The investors must have suffered a total loss.

A search on Amazon for the movie Let It Be Me finds no DVD. A search of the movie-reviewing website Rotten Tomatoes finds no review.

The movie was produced by a company called Rysher Entertainment, which  was taken over in 1993 by another company, named Cox Broadcasting. In the subsequent financial upheavals, Bergstein's 1995 movie was not marketed. In 1998, Entertainment Weekly reported the movie's disappearance as follows:
... Back in 1994, Eleanor Bergstein — best known for having written Dirty Dancing — made her directorial debut with Let It Be Me, a $20 million ballroom-dancing romance starring [Patrick] Stewart, Campbell Scott, and Jennifer Beals. But when the movie’s producer, Rysher Entertainment, closed its film division, the flick vanished with it.

"It’s very hard to get my hands on the film," Bergstein says. "I couldn’t even find anybody who could tell me how I could get the negatives back."

Rysher CEO Timothy Helfet says that the company nixed a U.S. theatrical release in favor of distribution to TV outlets worldwide. "With all the best intentions," he says, "the film did not turn out as we had hoped."

Now and then Bergstein gets word that a truncated version has popped up in Europe or Asia. "I get checks in the mail," she says. "That’s another way I find out where it’s showing."
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Fortunately for my blog, however, the entire movie can be watched for free on YouTube.


YouTube also has the movie divided into parts, the first of which is here.

I watched the entire movie and expected it to be awful, but it is fairly good. It's certainly not bad. I think that most people who read this blog would enjoy watching the movie.

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Let It Be Me stars Jennifer Beals, who had become famous 12 years earlier as the star of the 1983 dancing movie Flashdance. I loved Beals' acting performance in Let It Be Me. Beals plays a school teacher named Emily Taylor. A couple of scenes show her teaching in her classroom, and her students look to me like third-graders.

Christopher Scott and Jennifer Beale dancing in a scene in
Eleanor Bergstein's 1995 movie Let It Be Me.
The male co-star is Campbell Scott (the son of the famous actor George C. Scott and famous actress Colleen Dewhurst), who plays a psychiatrist named Gabriel Rudman.

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When the story begins, Emily and Gabriel have been acquainted for seven months. They love each other and live together and are planning their wedding.

The character Emily is 29 years old (the actress Jennifer Beale was about 31 years old when the movie was made in 1994). Emily is keeping a secret from Gabriel. Twelve years previously, when she was 17 years old, she got pregnant from a high-school classmate named Bud (last name not mentioned). Emily and Bud were dancing partners in some program that is not explained in the dialogue. When Emily learned she was pregnant, she was not able to contact Bud, who was touring with a dance troupe. Therefore Emily had an abortion, and she had no contact with Bud for the following 12 years.

About a third of the way into the movie's story, Emily and Bud happen to meet again. Bud owns a dance studio where Emily's fiancé Gabriel, an incompetent dancer, has been taking dance lessons to prepare for the post-wedding party of Gabriel and Emily. Emily visits the studio to join Gabriel in his dance lessons, and there she meets Bud. Although 12 years have passed, Emily and Bud recognize each other immediately. They explain to Gabriel that they had known each other and danced together in high school

When they meet each other again in Bud's dance studio, he still does not know about Emily's pregnancy and abortion. Emily does not tell Bud until much later in the story.

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The interrupted relationship between Emily and Bud in Let It Be Me might be based conceptually on the interrupted relationship between Baby Houseman and Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing. Suppose that Baby became pregnant from her fling with Johnny, got an abortion and then eventually became a school teacher and fell in love with a young psychiatrist. Meanwhile, Johnny established himself as a dance instructor and became the owner of a dance studio. Then, twelve years after their summer together at the Catskills resort, they happened to meet in Johnny's dance studio, where Baby's psychiatrist fiancé is learning to dance for the wedding party. That situation would have provided a plausible sequel to Dirty Dancing.

Baby's father was a Jewish doctor, but she herself wanted to become a social worker instead of a doctor. It's plausible that Baby eventually would have become a school teacher and fallen in love with a Jewish psychiatrist (the psychiatrist character's name Gabriel Rudman seems to me to be Jewish).

(Bergstein's first movie, It's My Turn, includes a character who is a psychiatrist as a significant element of the movie's Jewish subtext.)

Let It Be Me is not a real sequel to Dirty Dancing. Emily Taylor is not Baby Houseman, and Buddy is not Johnny Castle. However, Let It Be Me could have been made into a real sequel by changing just a few bits of the dialogue. Casting Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey into the two lead roles of Let It Be Me in the mid-1990s would have been extremely expensive, however.

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In Let It Be Me, the character Bud is played by Jamie Goodwin, an actor whose appearance in some moments reminded me of Patrick Swayze. Goodwin never appeared in any other movie role, but I thought he acted and danced well in Let It Be Me.

Jamie Goodwin and Yancy Butler dancing
in a scene in the 1995 movie Let It Be Me.
Bud's lover and business partner in the dance studio is a female character named Corinne, played by the actress Yancy Butler, who has appeared as an actress in a series of dramas. She acted and danced superbly in Let It Be Me. Also, her physical appearance throughout the movie was extraordinarily photogenic.

Goodwin's and Butler's acting careers would have been boosted significantly if Let It Be Me had been released normally. From that movie, they would have developed many fans among the audiences who watched it in theaters, on DVDs and on cable television.

The Internet includes very few photographs of Goodwin and Butler in Let It Be Me, but a for-sale photograph can be viewed here.

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Although I myself thought that Let It Be Me was a fairly good movie, I suppose that Rysher Entertainment's decision to not market it -- after spending $20 million to produce it -- was justified by negative reactions from test audiences.

I suppose that negative reactions were caused by the story's element of a canceled wedding. Although Emily and Gabriel love each other, their jealousies related to the dance instructors Bud and Corinne cause Emily and Gabriel to break up and cancel their wedding after the wedding dress has been chosen and all the invitations have been mailed. I think that ordinary women who want to watch a romantic movie would not like a movie in which a loving couple breaks up and cancels their wedding.

Although Emily and Bud eventually reconcile, marry and even have a baby, those happy developments happen after the main story, which ends sadly. Only in a brief epilogue do the movie viewers learn about the marriage and baby.

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Let It Be Me includes a subplot involving a couple of older characters, played by Patrick Stewart and Leslie Caron. Stewart plays his role superbly, delightfully. Caron -- a French actress who became famous as a young woman for dancing opposite Gene Kelly in An American in Paris -- plays the role of an old woman who dances poorly.

Patrick Stewart and Leslie Caron dancing
in a scene in the 1995 movie Let It Be Me.
Unfortunately, Bergstein used this subplot to inject her liberal political concerns into the movie. In this subplot there are many snide comments about rich people and there is a long line of starving poor people receiving free soup from a charitable organization. I suppose that some people in test audiences would have been annoyed by Bergstein's gratuitous liberal propaganda.

At the movie's end, this older couple marries, and the post-wedding party assembles all the characters again in the dance studio. Although Bud and Corrine have broken up and Gabriel and Emily have broken up, the two couples dance again and begin their reconciliations. Thus the movie ends nicely.


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The movie's story suffered from various implausibilities that annoyed me. For example, I thought it was implausible that ...

* Emily did not participate in Gabriel's dance lessons from the beginning,

* Emily could not contact Bud, a high-school classmate, when she became pregnant.

There were more implausibilities, but I do not want to belabor this consideration in this blog article. The implausibilities did not ruin the movie for me, but they did bother me as I watched it. Perhaps they were explained somewhat in dialogue that was edited out of the final movie.

Such implausibilities might have been a consequence of Bergstein's double roles as screenwriter and director. A separate person directing the movie might have recognized that some of the story's elements needed clarification. As the screenwriter, Bergstein knew her own screenplay and its presumptions too well.

In general, though, I am not critical of Bergstein as a director. In general, I liked the movie and was delighted by many of its moments.

I am writing this article three days after I watched the movie. As I have continued to think about the movie during that passage of time, the implausibilities have bother me less and the delightful moments dominate my memory.

It's too bad that the commercial failure of Let It Be Me ended Bergstein's career as a screenwriter and director. If the movie had been released normally and had at least broken even financially, Bergstein might have been able to write and direct some more movies. Eventually she might have accomplished another masterpiece like Dirty Dancing.

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The movie Let It Be Me would be a good dissertation subject for a graduate student in film studies. The movie's production and failure is a story that should be researched, told and analyzed. There should be a lot of thought-provoking lessons to be learned.

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Below are some comments about Let It Be Me that were posted on IMDB or YouTube.

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Why is there such a sharp division of opinion on this charming movie? I suspect because it is a "difficult" romantic comedy.

In almost all romantic comedies, it's clear from the credits which couples will end up with each other. The male and female leads are destined to be paired, as are the secondary male and female stars, and the pleasure lies in seeing the couples correctly sorted out after a lot of confusion.

In Let It Be Me, the only absolutely perfect pairing is that of third leads Patrick Stewart and Leslie Caron.

It's a very close question whether the engaged couple, Campbell Scott and Jennifer Beals, and the dance studio partners, James Goodwin and Yancey Butler, are really destined for each other or whether they should change partners and dance.

"Some people just belong together," Beals says, but which people is a harder question to answer here than in most comedies, though it is satisfactorily answered by the ending.

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Dance movies usually keep my interest and Let It Be Me did just that. However, the two main couples had very little chemistry and as I watched it I would have been like with a better cast.

Jamie Goodwin was wooden and mechanical. Aside from looking great from the hairline down, he was barely adequate.

Jennifer Beals is a very good actress and tried hard to create something with dance instructor Jamie Goodwin, her former high school love. She and her fiancé played by Campbell Scott were a more credible couple.

Yancy Butler was very smooth, but she looked bruised and unhappy during her non-dancing scenes.

The third couple played by Leslie Caron and Patrick Stewart were lovely, charming and pleasantly predictable. They grounded the movie with their mature romance and skillful dancing. Their wedding at the end of the film was the most satisfying scene. The other dance sequences were good, but not great.

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Yancy Butler is incredibly lovely in this film and will surprise you with her dancing abilities. She looks utterly seductive sporting her mid-90's era thigh-high stockings. This film is a "must see" for her fans.

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If you like dancing, you'll like this film in general but you might find it a little boring in places.

Patrick Stewart is charming and he has a really good chemistry with Leslie Caron.

It's really nice to see Jennifer Beals again, she's a fine actress and one of the great beauties of Hollywood, though she doesn't flaunt it like so many others. ....

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Love this little film, that reminds me somewhat of the original Japanese gem Shall We Dance? (not the overblown Gere/Jlo remake...)

Luckily I found it and taped it [Let It Be Me] when it was showing on a STARZ Promo Weekend, because as far as I know, it's not available on DVD.

I'll watch just about anything with Yancy Butler  in it, and she positively shines in this. She does a dance routine to a disco song that is verrrryyyyyy HOT!!

Loved all the other characters in it, especially the ones played by Patrick Stewart and Leslie Caron (where's she been all these years?). This is one of those films that I take out from time to time and always come away smiling after watching it.

Recommended highly!!!

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If you loved Dirty Dancing you'll enjoy this movie; both were written by Eleanor Bergstein.

Heart-warming story about three couples at a dance studio. Perfectly cast. Jamie Goodwin and Yancy Butler make a stunning dance team. Patrick Stewart with an American accent (!) and the ever graceful Leslie Caron. Jennifer Beals, in a surprisingly conservative role, and the dashing Campbell Scott, as the confused groom-to-be. ....

The score is lively, the dance sequences beautiful. It's an uplifting movie! Made me want to go out and take lessons, myself.

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.... The problem is that the characters in the love quadrangle are boring and superficial. They seem less than passionate about their dreams -- love or otherwise -- and when they break up and return, their motives are strikingly flimsy and unconvincing. What did they see in each other in the first place that they can so easily drift?

Regardless of the backstory about their lost love, pregnancy, smiling in bed at each other, nothing in their motivation defines distinctive, memorable, or engaging characters. Dialog is trite, lacks freshness and wit.

Actors are fine: Jennifer Beals is appealing, Yancy Butler sexy and smoking. The third, older couple, Patrick Stewart and Leslie Caron, whose lives end happily, have no discernible story to portray.

The writing in the film fails them utterly. Script = C-.

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There's not much to this movie, but it's sweet and has a fairly good ending. It was worth watching just to see Patrick Stewart and Leslie Caron dancing. Yancy Butler, from Witchblade on TNT, is a pretty good dancer herself.

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Yancy Butler is incredibly lovely in this film and will surprise you with her dancing abilities. She looks utterly seductive sporting her mid-90's era thigh-high stockings. This film is a "must see" for her fans.

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Let it be Me is nothing more than a cute romantic film about couples who falls in love during dance lessons. I remember James Goodwin from his Another World days. It's nice to see Leslie Caron again as Patrick Stewart's love interest.

The dancing could have been better though without being corny at times.

Otherwise, it is well worth a watch to see couples fall in love. It's not Dirty Dancing but it's from the writer who created that phenomenon. Let It Be Me is about couples who get together during dance classes.

The cast is first rate with Leslie Caron, Patrick Stewart, Jennifer Beals and Jamie Goodwin.

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Enjoyable movie.

I thought they made Jennifer Beals look too old though, and she didn't show much passion through out the movie.

Yancy Butler on the other hand was just awesome. I wish she made more films showing off her sensual side as she did in this one.

Patrick Stewart made the film in my opinion. He puts great energy into any character that he plays.

The film was somewhat predictable you could see the ending coming.

The dancing you could tell looked rehearsed, but since these are professional dancers or teachers you expected more speed and confidence from their moves.

The ending also seemed rushed.

I would have liked to have seen more passion, sexual tension, between the couples. Some jealousies between the couples would have given the movie more depth also.

I am a Yancy Butler fan and that is why I was looking for this movie to come out and it finally did on cable. I hope they make it into a DVD.

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I felt that this movie had a lot of heart and must have been a labor of love for Eleanor Bergstein.

The primary actors (Campbell Scott, Jennifer Beals, Yancy Butler, James Goodwin III, Patrick Stewart, and Leslie Caron) were very well selected and played their parts with excellence.

It was a very uplifting movie that I wish was available on tape or DVD. A rare gem.

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I just finished this movie and my only comment is "OH! WOW!".

Jennifer Beals is OK as the fiancee, but Yancy Butler as the female dance instructor is pure sexual dynamite! Having watched her in WITCHBLADE, I was not prepared for the pure unadulterated sensuality and raw sexual excitement she launches onto the screen.

I gotta see THIS movie again....if only for Yancy Butler as Corrinne!

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Loved Patrick Stewart in this. With Leslie Caron! So romantic!

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YANCEY BUTLER WAS GOOD

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I like it, I like it!!!  The plot is rather light and predictable, but the DANCING  is just sizzling!!!  I will watch it again and again just to enjoy the dancing and the Drifters [on the soundtrack]!!

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Wow, Campbell's chemistry with Yancy is OFF THE CHARTS

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Thanks for sharing this movie [on YouTube]. I enjoyed it and love the sound track

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That was surprisingly good.  Thanks for sharing [on YouTube] :)

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I wish I could buy it on DVD.

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I'm so glad to watch this movie on here [YouTube] ... I've seen it many times but watching it here and sharing comments makes it great - jb [Jennifer Beals] and cs [Christopher Scott] make a nice pair..i love jb in this..

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Love love love it! JB is so awesome! :D 

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She [Jennifer Beals] is really awesome.

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OMG thank you sooo much for posting this. I've been wanting to see it for ages! I love JB, she's amazing! They look so cute together in this :)

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This dance sequence is awesome! Jennifer is so great in this movie!

Thanks soooo much for posting this [on YouTube]! :)

Oh and omg the flow of that dress she has on, so gorgeous!

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Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, for uploading this [onto YouTube]. I looked everywhere to buy this and failed. This dance sequence is the absolute best! So cute and fun, and touching.

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This movie is mint, JB is mint! She is admirable, and this movie is one of my favorite Jennifer movies.

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Beautiful movie. The dancing was wonderful, and Campbell Scott was at his handsome best as always.

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Truly beautiful movie. Campbell Scott is magnificent, a gorgeous man. Jennifer Beals is also fantastic. Very good. Well worth watching. The final dance was really great.

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Love this movie. Campbell Scott is absolutely adorable and Jennifer Beals is lovely. And Campbell certainly can dance ... fantastic. I just wish I could buy the DVD.

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JB still has that smile, that lights up the room.  I heart JB.  Gorgeous in every sense of the word

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I love JB! and WHYYYY haven't she gotten the recognition in Hollywood that she deserves?? She is so talented and sooo beautiful! She's A LOT better and many A-listers in Hollywood now. She's amazing, and I just hope she will do some huge movies again.

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Thank you so much for posting that movie [on YouTube].  She [Jennifer Beals] is a good actress and so good in so many different parts she plays.

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