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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Eleanor Bergstein's Letter About Her Script

The Facebook site titled Official Dirty Dancing includes images of a two-page letter titled Dirty Dancing Script: Eleanor Bergstein's Letter to Fans! The images' caption says:
Eleanor Bergstein, the writer of Dirty Dancing, wrote this letter for all of the fans. You can find her whole shooting script that follows this letter on the Blu-ray version of the Limited Keepsake Edition -- which released in the US May 4, 2010.
I have not seen the mentioned Limited Keepsake Edition, but apparently it includes images of this two-page letter and of script pages. The script pages are not on the Facebook site, as far as I could see. The Facebook images of the two pages were small. If you click on the images below, you will see then in the Facebook size.



I was able to read and retype Bergstein's letter for this blog article. The letter says:
No single "original script" of Dirty Dancing exists today. Anyone who shows you one will next be selling you the Brooklyn Bridge.

Not all the scenes I wrote are here, or could be found. What I retrieved from my trunks is a collection of fragmented pages, different typefaces, coffee stains, holes from staples removed with my fingernails.

They were originally on different colored paper, green pink, blue, yellow, representing different drafts, but we ran out of colors and finally used whatever paper was around.

The represented changes were because we didn't have enough money, lost our location, lost the light, replaced an actor. A low budget film.

Someone once described making a film as running ahead of an avalanche.

What amazes me most looking over these annotated pages was how much everything remained the same.

So many things changed, but almost never the words. The dialogue in almost all cases is identical with what is on the screen. [Director] Emile [Ardolino] and I were very specific about no words being changed. Occasionally after hearing a speech in an actor's mouth, I cut a few words -- less is more.

But most important things remained exactly the same, from "Ma, will you look at that," through "and most of all I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you," to "Sit down, Jake."

Reading my descriptions, I saw how wonderfully my colleagues worked to put Baby's first view of the dirty dancing room on screen -- to say nothing of the log, the field, the lake. The wonderful soul and spirit they shared with me to turn those pages into a film is what is making you glance at this -- some 25 years later.

Some hand written notes by me in the margins may need some explanation.

I'd always wanted to have a side wall with photos of Max Kellerman with the greats of history (as was the wall at Grossinger's [resort hotel]), so I'd planned Jack Weston with Igor Stravinski, Franklin Roosevelt, Miss Rheingold. My note was to remind us to get permission from the people in the photographs. We couldn't.

There was a long discussion on set about "a little head in the woods" instead of "go down on" which the crew was very opinionated about in terms of which was the correct period expression.

"It's hopeless" changed from "I wish you hadn't found me," which referred to a hunt for Penny in the night woods, where Baby finds her behind a tree. We couldn't afford it so decided to hide her in the hotel kitchen, which our brilliant David Chapman designed and built in a day.

There's a different typescript for the scene where Penny tells Baby she doesn't sleep around. This scene was a request from Cynthia, which I typed on my bed with my portable Olivetti the night before, while the splendid David surprised us with a locker room at dawn.

(I have not been able to include a full text of the extended dance finale. These pages are so black with annotations of music phrases, specific choreography, lines against lyric, that they are unreadable.)

Actors were always calling for subtext, (for example, after Penny's cabin the next morning.) So I put in stage directions, which explained what they were really thinking behind the lines.

Love is Strange. The script says "Baby is teaching Johnny to dance." Kenny [Ortega] and I worked out the routine in my motel room the night before. The executives came running onto the set after it was shot -- the song was not listed on the carefully calibrated chart of songs we could afford. There was no budget for it -- and worst of all -- we'd had the actors "lip synch," meaning we couldn't replace it with a cheaper song and might have to scrap the whole scene. Luckily everyone agreed after they saw it the scene was to good to scrap. You do what you have to do.

Looking back, if I'd known the basics would remain, the words would remain, the heart would remain, I would have been calmer, dropped less coffee on the pages, perhaps even remembered to comb my hair so I would look groomed and serene in the photos.

But I know now. The chances are if you are reading this you are one of the open hearted people who have kept caring about our work and brought happiness to my lovely and much loved colleagues who worked so hard with me. And I thank you as I write this on behalf of all of us.

Eleanor Bergstein, January 2010
I'm calling BS on Bergstein's claim that no single script exists. How could this movie be produced and filmed without a script? It's that she herself could no longer find a copy of the script.

The Schumachers and Pressmans Were Eastern European Jews

The movie Dirty Dancing has an ethnic subtext. The movie takes place at the Kellerman resort, where the Jewish and Gentile characters can be distinguished by their functions. Most of the guests are Jews, whereas many of the workers and entertainers are Gentiles.

The Jewish characters can be further distinguished from each other by their ancestries. In 1963, when the Dirty Dancing story took place, practically all American Jews had descended from one of three major waves of Jewish immigration. Previous articles in this blog argue that each immigration wave was represented by the movie's characters.

1) Robbie Gould was a Sephardic Jew whose family name was Scottish and whose ancestors had been involved somehow with Scotland.

2) The Houseman and Kellerman families were German Jews. Their ancestors in Europe perhaps had been domestic servants of wealthy German families. The very names Houseman and Kellerman suggest that the ancestors had been butlers, wine stewards or coal shovelers who worked in wealthy German families' homes or cellars.

3) In this article here, I will elaborate that the Schumacher and Pressman families were Eastern European Jews. The family names indicate that their ancestors made shoes and ironed clothes in Yiddish workshops.

As I differentiate American Jews, I am speaking in generalities and in regard to 1963.

I do not assert that the screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein (a German surname) consciously differentiated her story's characters in accordance with the three immigration waves. However, she grew up in America's Jewish society, and her subconscious mentality is naturally saturated with such differentiations, which influence the stories she tells.

=========

The immigration wave of Eastern European Jews is described comprehensively in Irving Howe's 700-page scholarly book World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made.


This book is the source of information for my article here. Although the book provides both positive and negative aspects of this immigration wave, I will focus only on the wave's social pathology.

======

The third Jewish immigration wave was set in motion by the assassination of Russia's Tsar Alexander II in 1881. The subsequent political upheaval caused restrictions and attacks against the Jewish population in the Russian Empire, which at that time included the Baltic countries and much of Poland. This anti-Semitic development coincided with greater opportunities to migrate from Eastern Europe to the United States

From the assassination in 1881 until the outbreak of World War One in 1914, about one-third of the Jews living in Eastern Europe emigrated -- about two million people. Because of this wave's massive size, huge Jewish neighborhoods developed in US cities. The bulk of these immigrants spoke Yiddish, but many spoke Russian, Polish and other Eastern European languages.

Compared to the two previous Jewish immigration waves, the third suffered from much more social pathology. Howe writes (pages 96 - 101):
That symptoms of social dislocation and even pathology should have appeared under the extreme circumstances in which the early Jewish immigrants lived, seems unavoidable. There was crime, there was wife desertion, and there were juvenile delinquency, gangsterism, and prostitution during the 1880s and 1890s, as well as during the early decades of the twentieth century. -- probably more than the records show or memoirists tell. How could there not be?

Precise information on these matters is hard to come by, and the reasons are obvious. Communities struggling for survival seldom rush to announce their failures. .... Over the centuries the Jews had developed a cultural style encouraging prudishness and self-censorship: there were things everyone knew, had no choice but to know, yet only rarely was it deemed proper to speak or write about them. ...

Any realistic inhabitant of the [Manhattan] East Side could nevertheless have told one, say, in 1890 or 1895, where prostitution flourished ....

... the spread of social pathology will be hastened by a breakdown of social structure. Dancing academies, some of them mere way stations to brothels and recruiting grounds for "cadets", as pimps were then called, began to be advertised in the Yiddish press during the late 1880s.  ....

Recalling his childhood on the East Side, Michael Gold would write: "On sunshiny days, the whores sat on chairs along the sidewalks. They sprawled indolently, their legs taking up half the pavement. People stumbled over a gauntlet of whores' meaty legs. The girls gossiped and chirped like a jungle of parrots. Some knitted shawls and stockings. Others chewed Russian sunflower seeds." ....

Throughout these years the immigrant community was extremely sensitive ... to charges that it served as a breeding ground for crime. ... The subject of crime could not be easily disposed of. Some of the "crime" was innocent. Peddlers could not avoid breaking local regulations if they were to survive; the kosher slaughter of chickens in tenements, while violating the sanitary code, was unavoidable. Immigrants still firmly Orthodox went to their rabbis for divorce and then assumed they could legally remarry. ...

The most frequent crimes in the Jewish neighborhood were crimes of fraud, not violence. ... The University Settlement Society concluded that Jews "are prominent in their commission of forgery, violation of corporation ordinances, as disorderly persons (failure to support wife or family), both grades of larceny, and of the lighter grade of assault" ....

... frequent during these years were accounts of gross deceptions and pitiable swindles. ... As the possibilities of American enterprise became clearer, Jews found their way to more sophisticated crime, and some showed a talent for gambling. Arnold Rothstein, to be celebrated in the 1920s as "J. P. Morgan of the underworld" ... went into the money-lending business ... taking bets on races and fights, running crap games for large stakes; by 1907 he had a twelve-million-dollar bankroll. ....

Others showed a diversity of talents. Isaak Zuker headed a Jewish arson ring ... Harry Joblinski ran a school for young pickpockets ... Marm Mandelbaum acquired fame as a leading New York fence; she was estimated to have disposed of over five milllion dollars' worth of stolen property ....

Crime befouled the life of the East Side during the 1880s and 1890s; later, as immigrants learned the devices of native enterprise, the neighborhood would export some notable graduates to New York's underworld. East Side Side leaders and institutions were steadily worried, more than they allowed themselves to say in public or admit to the gentiles, about the spread of prostitution among Jewish girls and thievery among Jewish boys. .... Crime was a source of shame, a sign that much was distraught and some diseased on the East Side ...
New York City's police commissioner wrote in 1908 (page 133):
It is not astonishing that with a million Hebrews, mostly Russian, in the city (one-quarter of the population) perhaps half of the criminals should be of that race when we consider that ignorance of the language, more particularly among men not physically fit for hard labor, is conducive to crime. They are burglars, firebugs, pickpockets and highway robbers -- when they have the courage; but though all crime is in their province, pocket-picking is the one to which they take most naturally.
Some of the Jews who became successful entertainers came from semi-criminal backgrounds (page 560):
A few Jewish entertainers drifted to the edge of delinquency in their adolescence -- Fanny Brice shoplifting, George Burns doing errands for a saloon run by a gangster called "Big Puss") who once asked for help with a job of murder, which George prudently declined), and Eddie Cantor teaming up with street gangs.

But these were people not really cut out for crime. What they wanted was adventure, excitement, changes of scene, rapidity of experience. In their rebellion against the respectability of immigrant Jewish life, they brushed for a moment or two against its delinquent depths, but their sights were elsewhere.
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When these Eastern European Jewish immigrants began to vacation in the Catstills, their slummy behavior -- compared to the German Jews -- created a bad impression (pages 215 - 218):
Some did go to "the mountains" -- which meant the Catskills. They went there because it was nearby and inexpensive, and because the German Jews had already cut a trail through gentile resistance in Ulster and Sullivan counties. ....

In 1900 the High View Farm of Mountaindale restricted its clientele to "a good class of Hebrews only", presumably German Jews. That same year The Jewish Agricultural Society began to finance Jewish settlers in Sullivan County, with the hope that they would become truck or dairy farmers. (A hope not always realized, since some of the settlers ... would borrow money from the Society ... on the pretext that it was for farming, but actually it was used to put up a resort.) ....

In 1899 ... residents of the Sandbergh valley were "seeking legal advice" because the increase of Jewish hotels had turned the Sandbergh River into a "mere sewage channel". This concern ... was given added muscle by the hostility of the older valley people to the proliferation of Jewish boarding houses, which brought with them a way of life conspicuously different. ...

In 1906, the Ellenville Journal reported that in the previous six years twelve hundred farms had been sold to Jews, mostly in a ten-mile strip ... "Nearly every one of the purchased farm houses is used as a summer boarding house. ... "There were cases of cruel harassment, there were fist fights, there was much concealed hostility." Still, Jews kept pouring in, a significant minority of them tuberculars seeking cures at the sanitariums. ...

The unadorned boarding house and the nameless kokhaleyn (where guests did their own cooking) were not the most refined of places, certainly not the most elegant; they were just farmhouses where ordinary people came for rest and diversion.
An article in the Jewish newspaper The Forward described the Jewish boarding houses in the Catskills in 1904:
These places were really no more than renovated, or unrenovated, farmhouses partitioned into small rooms for summer boarders. ... "These farms and hotels look more like hospitals than pleasure resorts. Every room has as many beds as it can hold .. four or five in a room is not considered too much. ....

A child is always crying; another is getting slapped. ... The crying, cursing, and slapping remind you of the Yiddish theater. If one of the girls volunteers to sing ... she sings while the children are crying, the mothers are cursing, hunbands and wives are fighting, and women are insulting one another.

When the husband of one of the women does come for a few days, she is very proud -- and besides, it makes the other women jealous. They in turn can't stand it and send for their husbands.  The visiting husbands set up pinochle games and play all day, forgetting their wives.

The girls are bored and try to find boys; when a young man wanders onto a farm, they do their utmost to hold him there. ... If a boy doesn't come along, the girls go to look for one, ostensibly paying a visit to another farm. There are twelve girls to every boy in the Catskills.

"Some of the hotels have dances. They are free, and people come fro miles around. There are Chinese lanterns strung up half a mile from the hotel. The crowd in the dance hall is really happy."
Howe includes two photographs showing the growth of the Grossinger family's Catskills hotel business from 1914 to 1925.

The original Grossinger seven-room farmhouse hotel in 1914 

The second Grossinger hotel in 1925
Another photograph (not in Howe's book) shows the Grossinger hotel of the 1950s.

The Grossinger hotel of the 1950s
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The criminal element of the third Jewish immigration wave is portrayed in Dirty Dancing by the Schumacher characters, an old couple who make their livings by stealing at Jewish resort hotels.

The Schumachers holding a bag full of stuff they have stolen

Mrs. Schumacher conning Penny and Baby
I suppose that the theft in Dirty Dancing depicted a real problem at the Jewish resort hotels.

------

Vivian Pressman is a character who is quite sleazy. Max Kellerman describes her in the following dialogue:
Max Kellerman
That's Vivian Pressman, one of the “bungalow bunnies”. That's what we call the women who stay here all week. The husbands only come up on weekends.

Moe Pressman's a big card player. He'll join our game. Moe coming up on Friday?

Vivian Pressman
Friday.

Max Kellerman
He's away a lot. I know. It's a hardship.
Sleazy Vivian Pressman hanging around gamblers
Max's It's a hardship remark is sarcastic because he knows that she enjoys sex with other men at the hotel while her gambler-husband Moe is away.

I question whether Vivian and Moe are really married. The 2017 ABC movie -- which I suppose is informed by interviews of Eleanor Bergstein -- portrays Vivian as a divorced woman.

Vivian's essential relationship with Moe might be that they collaborate in cheating rich men at the hotel. Vivian seduces rich men during the week and then persuades them to gamble with Max in card games during the weekend. The rich men do not know that Moe, a professional card shark, is in cahoots with Vivian.

Another possibility is that Vivian is working as a prostitute at the hotel. She seems to be giving sex away for free to the younger male characters, but we do not know that for sure. Maybe she charged Robbie Gould some money for the sexual intercourse he had with her. Maybe she charges on a sliding scale -- less for the younger hotel workers and much more for the rich hotel guests. If one of her clients refuses to pay, then Moe collects the money by threat and force during the weekend.

In the 2017 ABC movie, Vivian Pressman is shown playing cards with other women guests. Perhaps she herself is a card shark. Or perhaps she is just using the women guests in order to identify rich husbands who like to gamble at cards and could be invited to gamble with Moe on the weekends.

======

The Schumachers and Pressmans could be the main characters in a spin-off movie called Dirty Scamming.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fan Fiction -- The Castle-Pressman Trilogy

Some well-meaning but foolish critics opine that the Dirty Dancing story should not be redone. For example, television critic Neil Genzlinger dismissed the 2017 ABC original movie in a review titled ABC's Perspiration-Free Dirty Dancing.
The Dirty Dancing ... was about the way those things came together at a particular moment in time for a particular audience ....

That kind of lightning in a bottle can’t be recreated ...

....  no young person in 2017 wants to hear another word about the 1960s. And the moviegoers who loved Dirty Dancing in the Reagan administration will recognize this new version for the sterile imitation that it is. ...
That is a whiny opinion shared by many professional critics and ordinary people.  Leave Dirty Dancing alone!


Leave Dirty Dancing ALONE !

Leave it A-L-O-O-O-O-O-N-E !!!

RIGHT NOW !!!!

WAAAAH !!!!!

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My all-embracing and forward-looking opinion is that the Dirty Dancing story should and will be retold many times and forever. The story has become part of our culture. Let a thousand Dirty Dancings bloom!

The website IMDb lists 48 Tarzan movies, from 1918 through 2005. Imagine that our society had decided that the 1918 movie was a movie just for a particular moment in time for a particular audience -- lightning in a bottle that cannot be recreated.


The 1918 movie was just the start of a series that will never end. In 1932, the series climbed to a new, higher plateau with Tarzan the Ape Man (the video below shows a scene) starring Johnny Weissmuller, who ultimately would star in 12 Tarzan movies.


After the Weissmuller movies ended, the Tarzan movies and television series and cartoon continued to be made until the present. The following video shows the trailer for the 2016 movie The Legend of Tarzan.



Tarzan movies will continue to be made forever.

The same goes for Dirty Dancing movies

======

Here in this article I will propose a movie concept -- The Castle-Pressman Trilogy -- which any movie producer reading this can steal and use for himself. Just send me an e-mail at MikeSylwester@gmail.com to give me a heads-up.

The trilogy would comprise the following three movies:

1) Dirty Instructing

Johnny Castle, a high-school dropout in Texas, is wandering from job to job, trying to find a purpose for his life. He plays pool a lot and thinks he might try to become a professional pool player.

One day, a friend comes into the pool room and talks about working as a dancing instructor at an Arthur Murray Dance Studio. Johnny likes to dance and would like to improve his skill and even earn money as a dancer, but he is just a self-taught amateur. The friend says that the studio will teach him how to do ballroom dancing and will teach him how to teach other people.

Johnny goes to the studio and is hired and becomes an instructor. A series of scenes shows him improving as a dancer and as an instructor. There are lots of funny moments showing clumsy, struggling dance students.

Johnny has a girlfriend who dumps him because of his low earnings and because of her jealousy that he dances with other women.

Now single, Johnny becomes the target of the affections of a older, wealthy woman, Vivian Pressman, who is taking lessons from Johnny at the studio.

Johnny now dreams of going into business for himself with his own dance studio. His dream is impossible, because he does not have enough money for such an enterprise. Vivian learns of his dream and offers to finance his business as a co-owner. Johnny accepts the offer.

Johnny tells his boss that he is quitting, and the boss reminds Johnny about the non-compete contract that Johnny has signed. He cannot work as a dance instructor in the same region for two years.

Johnny and Vivian cannot simply move far away, because Johnny is taking care of his dying mother, and Vivian is taking care of her dying husband. Those situations also have given Johnny an excuse to avoid Vivian's sexual advances up to this time.

At about the same time, Johnny's mother and Vivian's husband die of their illnesses. In their mutual grief, Johnny and Vivian find consolation, and both move toward a sexual relationship.

Then, however, just as they are about to consummate their relationship, Johnny received a phone call from the owner of the Kellerman resort hotel in the Catskill Mountains, offering an immediate job as a dance instructor for the hotel's 1963 summer season. However, a condition of the job is that Johnny must fly immediately, that very night, to start working on the very next day.

So, this movie has a cliff-hanger ending in regard to the sexual relationship between Johnny and Vivian.

2) Dirty Recruitment Dancing

Johnny arrives at the Kellerman hotel and on that very day begins working as a dance instructor. He meets and works with another instructor, Penny Johnson, who is having a romance with a medical student, Robbie Gould, who is working as a summer waiter at the hotel.

Soon, he begins to see possibilities for using this summer work to recruit rich potential clients for the non-summer months in a dance studio in New York City. Johnny calls Vivian in Texas and tells her about his business idea. Vivian expresses interest and says that she too will fly from her Texas home to the Kellerman hotel in New York so that she herself can study the business possibilities on the site.

Johnny picks Vivian up at an airport near the hotel. He explains to her that this hotel summer job likewise has a non-compete contract. Therefore they must stay secretive about their intention to use the hotel as a base for recruiting instructors and clients for their own dance studio. Vivian will rent a room at the hotel, but she and Johnny will pretend that the do not know each other while she is there. They both will sound out the hotel's dance instructors and guests to become their own future studio's instructors and clients.

The rest of the movie will develop along the story line of the 1987 movie, but will not be mainly from the perspective of Baby Houseman -- but rather from the perspectives of Johnny and Vivian.

3) Dirty Owning

Johnny and Vivian follow their plan and open a (not Arthur Murray) dance studio in New York City. They struggle to make a profit.

Johnny and Vivian become sexually involved, but every summer he must work at the Kellerman hotel in order to find more instructors and clients. Meanwhile, she spends every summer in New York City, managing the dance studio. Gradually arguments about business decisions and about infidelity suspicions cause the couple to break up. They continue to co-own the studio, but the financial struggles and the arguing have ruined their sexual relationship. Neither of them becomes sexually involved with anyone else.

In 1975, twelve years after that 1963 summer, Baby Houseman shows up at the dance studio to take dance lessons to practice with her fiance for their upcoming wedding.

The rest of the story will develop along the story line of Eleanor Bergstein's 1995 movie Let It Be Me. The only major difference is that the role of the rich, old female character will be adjusted to the character of Vivian Pressman. She as the co-owner (not as a student) will fall in love and will happily marry a dance instructor of her own age.

The movie will end with Johnny alone. Baby will marry her fiance as planned and will move on. Vivian will buy Johnny's share of the business, and so Johnny will move on.

Johnny will have to find work and love elsewhere.

Johnny auditions for a dancing role on a Broadway musical play. At one audition, he runs into Penny Johnson, who recently has divorced. Johnny has not seen her for 12 years. The producers who are conducting the audition and who think that Johnny and Penny do not know each other, test their dance skills by dancing together impromptu. Johnny and Penny dance the same ballroom mambo dance they did at the beginning of Dirty Dancing. The producers are amazed at their dancing ability and hire them to dance in the musical.

So, this movie has a cliff-hanger ending in regard to the sexual relationship between Johnny and Penny.

========

Johnny Weissmuller did 12 Tarzan movies. My proposed Dirty Dancing series of movies should aim for a goal of 12 movies too.

Roger Ebert's Mistake

In the profession of movie reviewing, the giant has been Roger Ebert. However, he wrote the wrongest review of all time when he panned Dirty Dancing in a review published on August 21, 1987, the day the movie opened in the theaters.

Robert Ebert, whose review of "Dirty Dancing"
was the wrongest move review ever written.
The Wikipedia article about his includes the following passages about his career before 1987.
Ebert began his career as a film critic [at age 25] in 1967, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times. That same year, he met film critic Pauline Kael for the first time at the New York Film Festival. After he sent her some of his columns, she told him they were "the best film criticism being done in American newspapers today". ....

Ebert co-wrote the screenplay for the 1970 Russ Meyer film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and sometimes joked about being responsible for the film, which was poorly received on its release yet has become a cult classic. Ebert and Meyer also made Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, Up!, and other films, and were involved in the ill-fated Sex Pistols movie Who Killed Bambi? ...

Starting in 1968, Ebert worked for the University of Chicago as a guest lecturer, teaching a night class on film at the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies.

In 1975, the same year Ebert received the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, he and Gene Siskel began co-hosting a weekly film review television show, Sneak Previews, which was locally produced by the Chicago public broadcasting station WTTW. The series was later picked up for nationwide syndication on PBS. The duo became famous for their "thumbs up/thumbs down" review summaries. Siskel and Ebert trademarked the phrase "Two Thumbs Up".

Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel
In 1982, they moved from PBS to launch a similar syndicated commercial television show named At The Movies With Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. In 1986, they again moved the show to new ownership, creating Siskel and Ebert and The Movies through Buena Vista Television, part of the Walt Disney Company.
Ebert's review of Dirty Dancing included the following passages:
... The movie makes some kind of a half-hearted attempt to rip off West Side Story by making the girl Jewish and the boy Italian - or Irish, I forget.

It doesn't much matter, since the movie itself never, ever uses the word "Jewish" or says out loud what obviously is the main point of the plot: the family's opposition to a Gentile boyfriend of low social status. I guess people who care about such things are supposed to be able to read between the lines, and the great unwashed masses of American moviegoers are condemned to think the old man doesn't like Swayze's dirty dancing.

This might have been a decent movie if it had allowed itself to be about anything. The performances are good. Swayze is a great dancer, and Grey, who is appealing, also is a great dancer. But the filmmakers rely so heavily on cliches, on stock characters in old situations, that it's as if they never really had any confidence in their performers.

This movie could have been about the subjects it pussyfoots around so coyly. It could have found a big scene a little more original than the heroine stepping in for the injured star. It could have made the obnoxious owner's son less of a one-dimensional s.o.b. But the movie plays like one long, sad, compromise; it places packaging ahead of ambition. Where did I get that idea? I dunno. Maybe from the title.
I myself would summarize Ebert as arguing that Dirty Dancing is a cliched variation of two types of previous stories:

1) Stories in which a young couple's love is hindered by ethnic taboos or parental conflicts. West Side Story, Romeo and Juliette and Fiddler on the Roof are examples of such stories.

2) Stories in which an ambitious understudy gets an opportunity to play the main role in a theater performance when the star cannot perform because of an illness, injury or other misfortune. This was the story in, for example, several Busby Berkley movies during the 1930s and in the popular Broadway play 42nd Street.

The following video shows the televised review on Siskel and Ebert and the Movies.


=====

One reason why Ebert disliked Dirty Dancing was that he opposed abortion, although he did not express that argument publicly in his criticism of the movie. In 2013 he wrote an article titled How I Am a Roman Catholic, in which he described his position about abortion as follows.
I support freedom of choice. My choice is to not support abortion, except in cases of a clear-cut choice between the lives of the mother and child. A child conceived through incest or rape is innocent and deserves the right to be born.
If his pan of Dirty Dancing was motivated significantly by his disapproval of abortion -- and it certainly was -- then he should have said so. I respect people who oppose abortion and therefore denounce Dirty Dancing.

=====

As I summarized above, Ebert criticized Dirty Dancing as a cliched variation of stories about 1) a young couple's hindered love and 2) an ambitious understudy. Dirty Dancing does indeed include some elements of those two kinds of stories, but the movie told a story that was essentially unique. In my opinion, the Dirty Dancing story was this:
Some itinerant dancers and an ordinary family interact, and all are affected positively.
Ebert's mistake was that he as a professional music critic reflexively compared Dirty Dancing to West Side Story, Romeo and Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof,and 42nd Street and so forth. He dismissed Dirty Dancing as a half-hearted rip-off, heavily based on cliches and stock characters.

Ordinary people, who had watched far fewer movies and had watched them casually and unsystematically, did not compare Dirty Dancing to other movies as Ebert did. Ordinary people saw the story as new and innovative.

The dancer characters were uneducated, wandering, struggling artists. The family characters were educated, settled, established professionals. The two groups of characters interact and learn to appreciate each other.

That story, which the movie audiences perceived, was not the story of Romeo and Juliette or 42nd Street. Ebert's framing of the story was wrong, and therefore his review has been crushed to smithereens by the movie's enormous, lasting, world-wide popularity.

======

However, Ebert wrote and spoke so informatively and educationally about movies for so many years that we all should forgive him that one mistake. The following photograph shows a statue of Roger Ebert that was placed in Champaign, Illinois.

A statue of Robert Ebert in Champaign, Illinois
A Time magazine article published in April 2014 included the following passages:
Before the film critic Roger Ebert died last April [2013] at age 70, he did more than just review movies. One of his many triumphs was the founding of "Ebertfest," an annual film festival for overlooked movies that takes place in Champaign, Ill.

This year, the festival has continued to go on without him — but his presence is felt in more than just spirit. On April 24 the second day of the festival's run, a life-size bronze sculpture of the critic giving a thumbs-up sign was unveiled in front of the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, the site of the festival. Speaking to the Associated Press, Ebert's widow Chaz described the piece, by artist Rick Harney, as interactive art, since there's room for fans to sit down next to him.

The sculpture's title is "C-U at the movies," after his signature sign-off — and, for Ebert devotees, there's now one particular theater where they'll be able to see him once more.
======

My previous blog article about Ebert's review includes some other, worthwhile arguments that I do not repeat here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Three Tragedies in the Middle of 1963

When the Houseman family was unloading their car at the Kellerman resort hotel on August 10, 1963, the dialogue included the following:
Lisa Houseman
Oh, my God. Look at that! Mom, I should've brought the coral shoes. You said I was taking too much.

Marjorie Houseman
Well, sweetheart, you brought ten pairs.

Lisa Houseman
But the coral shoes matched that dress.

Baby Houseman
This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine or police dogs used in Birmingham, monks burning themselves in protest.

Lisa Houseman
Butt out, Baby.
Baby's three tragedies were as follows.

1. Three Men Trapped in a Mine

The Wikipedia article titled Sheppton Mine Disaster and Rescue includes the following passages:
The Sheppton Mine Disaster and Rescue in Sheppton, Pennsylvania, was one of the first rescues of trapped miners accomplished by raising them through holes bored through solid rock, an event that gripped the world's attention during August 1963.

The roof of the Sheppton anthracite coal mine collapsed on August 13 and three miners were trapped 300 feet below ground. A small borehole was drilled from the surface in an attempt to contact the miners. 
Rescue workers at the Sheppton Mine in August 1963
After several days a borehole successfully reached a mine, and revealed that two of the miners,Henry Thorne and David Fellin, had survived in a small, narrow chamber. Rescuers dropped provisions to the miners and subsequent larger boreholes were made, including the final large hole bored with the assistance of billionaire Howard Hughes, and the two surviving miners were successfully raised to the surface on August 27. Attempts to contact the third miner, Louis Bova, were unsuccessful.
2. Police Dogs Used in Birmingham
The Wikipedia article about the Birmingham riot of 1963 includes the following passages:
The Birmingham riot of 1963 was a civil disorder in Birmingham, Alabama, that was provoked by bombings on the night of May 11, 1963. .... The places bombed were the parsonage of Rev. A. D. King, brother of Martin Luther King, Jr., and a motel owned by A. G. Gaston, where King and others organizing the campaign had stayed. ....

Many black witnesses held police accountable for the bombing of the King house, and immediately began to express their anger. Some began to sing "We Shall Overcome," while others began to throw rocks and other small objects. More people mobilized after the second blast. ... Many of them were already frustrated with the strategy of nonviolence ... Three black men knifed white police officer J. N. Spivey in the ribs.

Several reporters who had been drinking at the bar got into a shared rental car and headed toward the commotion. A crowd of about 2,500 people had formed and was blocking police cars and fire trucks from the Gaston Motel area. A fire that started at an Italian grocery store spread to the whole block. As traffic started to move, Birmingham Police drove their six-wheeled armored vehicle down the street, spraying tear gas. An unexplained U.S. Army tank also appeared.
A police dog attacking a Black man in Birmingham on May 12, 1963
At 2:30 AM, a large battalion of state troopers, commanded by Al Lingo and armed with submachine guns, arrived on the scene. About 100 were mounted on horses. These troops menaced any blacks remaining in the street, as well as the white journalists, who were forced into the lobby of the motel. Hospitals treated more than 50 wounded people.
3) Monks Burning Themselves in Protest

The Wikipedia article about the Vietnamese monk Thích Quảng Đức includes the following passages:
Thích Quảng Đức was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection on 11 June 1963. Quang Duc was protesting the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government led by Ngô Đình Diệm.
Vietnamese monk burning on June 11, 1963
Photographs of his self-immolation were circulated widely across the world and brought attention to the policies of the Diệm government. John F. Kennedy said in reference to a photograph of Đức on fire, "No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one." Malcolm Browne won a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph of the monk's death.

Quảng Đức's act increased international pressure on Diệm and led him to announce reforms with the intention of mollifying the Buddhists. However, the promised reforms were not implemented, leading to a deterioration in the dispute. With protests continuing, the ARVN Special Forces loyal to Diệm's brother, Ngô Đình Nhu, launched nationwide raids on Buddhist pagodas, seizing Quảng Đức's heart and causing deaths and widespread damage.

Five Buddhist monks followed Quảng Đức's example, also immolating themselves ... until late October 1963 as the Buddhist protests in Vietnam escalated.

Neil Kellerman's "Freedom Ride" to Mississippi

The Houseman family vacationed at the Kellerman resort hotel from August 10 through September 2, 1963. During their vacation, on August 28 the March on Washington took place, where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Baby Houseman and Neil Kellerman are introduced on August 10 and dance together that evening in the hotel's ballroom. Baby tells Neil that at Mount Holyoke College she will study the economics of underdeveloped countries and then go into the Peace Corps. Neil responds:
After the final show, I'm going to Mississippi with a couple of busboys -- freedom ride
The "final show" took place on September 2. So, Neil indicated that during September he would go on his "freedom ride" with a couple of busboys who were Negroes (the proper word in that period).

However, the final "Freedom Ride" had taken place on December 2, 1961 -- one year and nine months before Neil's remark. Possible explanations include the following.

* Neil was lying to impress Baby and was assuming that her knowledge of the Freedom Ride movement was fuzzy.

* Neil did intend to travel to Mississippi to help register Negro voters there and defined his planned trip loosely as a "freedom ride".

* Neil intended to drive to Mississippi, with a couple of his Negro busboys sharing the ride, but his own purpose for the trip had nothing to do with the Civil Rights Movement.

Your guess is as good as mine.

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Two Jewish men -- Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner -- were murdered while traveling in a car with a Negro James Chaney in Mississippi in June 1964. The murder happened about nine months after Neil's "freedom ride" remark.

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If Baby was about 18 years old during her Kellerman vacation, then she was about 16 when the Freedom Rides happened. The events were dramatic and notorious. The Wikipedia article about the Freedom Riders includes the following passages:
Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and subsequent years in order to challenge the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions Morgan v. Virginia (1946) and Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional. The Southern states had ignored the rulings and the federal government did nothing to enforce them. ....
http://www.mdah.ms.gov/freedom/
Freedom Riders departing in a bus
The first Freedom Ride began on May 4, 1961. Led by CORE Director James Farmer, 13 riders (seven black, six white, including Genevieve Hughes, William E. Harbour, and Ed Blankenheim left Washington, DC, on Greyhound and Trailways buses. Their plan was to ride through Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, ending in New Orleans, Louisiana, where a civil rights rally was planned. Most of the Riders were from CORE, and two were from SNCC. Many were in their 40s and 50s. Some were as young as 18.

The Freedom Riders' tactics for their journey were to have at least one interracial pair sitting in adjoining seats, and at least one black rider sitting up front, where seats under segregation had been reserved for white customers by local custom throughout the South. The rest of the team would sit scattered throughout the rest of the bus. One rider would abide by the South's segregation rules in order to avoid arrest and to contact CORE and arrange bail for those who were arrested.
The website Jewish Women's Archive includes an article by Judith Rosenbaum titled Why do we act? Lessons from the Freedom Rides, which includes the following passages:
More than half of the white Freedom Riders were Jewish, and Judith Frieze, a recent graduate of Smith College, was among those white northerners and many Jews who joined the Freedom Rides in the summer of 1961. Arrested in Jackson, she spent six weeks in a maximum security prison. In a series of articles she published in the Boston Globe after her release, she recalled what motivated her to join the Freedom Rides: "All of a sudden I was tired of talking. I had reached the point when I wanted to do something about this. I felt like the only way that I could make my principles meaningful was by involving myself... It seemed necessary to close that gap between what I was saying and what I was doing."

Idealism was not her only motivation. She also admits she drawn to participate in the Freedom Rides by a "longing for adventure." Frieze was not eager to return home to live with her parents, as unmarried women were expected to do at the time, and the Civil Rights Movement gave her another option: to go south and do something that felt meaningful and exciting.
The Wikipedia article continues:
The Birmingham, Alabama, Police Commissioner, Bull Connor, together with Police Sergeant Tom Cook (an avid Ku Klux Klan supporter), organized violence against the Freedom Riders with local Klan chapters. The pair made plans to bring the Ride to an end in Alabama. They assured Gary Thomas Rowe, an FBI informer and member of Eastview Klavern #13 (the most violent Klan group in Alabama), that the mob would have fifteen minutes to attack the Freedom Riders without any arrests being made. The plan was to allow an initial assault in Anniston with a final assault taking place in Birmingham.

On May 14, Mother's Day, in Anniston, a mob of Klansmen, some still in church attire, attacked the first of the two buses (the Greyhound). The driver tried to leave the station, but was blocked until KKK members slashed its tires. The mob forced the crippled bus to stop several miles outside of town and then firebombed it. As the bus burned, the mob held the doors shut, intending to burn the riders to death. Sources disagree, but either an exploding fuel tank or an undercover state investigator brandishing a revolver caused the mob to retreat, and the riders escaped the bus. The mob beat the riders after they got out. Only warning shots fired into the air by highway patrolmen prevented the riders from being lynched.
http://sobysw.blogspot.com/2015/10/memphis-tennessee_26.html
The "Freedom Rider" bus burning in Anniston, Alabama, on May 14, 1961
That night, the hospitalized Freedom Riders, most of whom had been refused care, were removed from the hospital at 2 AM, because the staff feared the mob outside the hospital. The local civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth organized several cars of black citizens to rescue the injured Freedom Riders in defiance of the white supremacists. The black people were under the leadership of Colonel Stone Johnson and were openly armed as they arrived at the hospital, protecting the Freedom Riders from the mob.

When the Trailways bus reached Anniston and pulled in at the terminal an hour after the Greyhound bus was burned, it was boarded by eight Klansmen. They beat the Freedom Riders and left them semi-conscious in the back of the bus. ...

When reports of the bus burning and beatings reached US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, he urged restraint on the part of Freedom Riders and sent an assistant, John Seigenthaler, to Alabama to try to calm the situation.

Despite the violence suffered and the threat of more to come, the Freedom Riders intended to continue their journey. Kennedy had arranged an escort for the Riders in order to get them to Montgomery, Alabama, safely. However, radio reports told of a mob awaiting the riders at the bus terminal, as well as on the route to Montgomery. The Greyhound clerks told the Riders that their drivers were refusing to drive any Freedom Riders anywhere. Recognizing that their efforts had already called national attention to the civil rights cause and wanting to get to the rally in New Orleans, the Riders decided to abandon the rest of the bus ride and fly directly to New Orleans from Birmingham. When they first boarded the plane, all passengers had to exit because of a bomb threat. ....

CORE, SNCC, and the SCLC rejected any "cooling off period". They formed a Freedom Riders Coordinating Committee to keep the Rides rolling through June, July, August, and September, 1961. During those months, more than 60 different Freedom Rides criss-crossed the South, most of them converging on Jackson, where every Rider was arrested, more than 300 in total. An unknown number were arrested in other Southern towns. It is estimated that almost 450 people participated in one or more Freedom Rides. About 75% were male, and the same percentage were under the age of 30, with about equal participation from black and white citizens.

During the summer of 1961, Freedom Riders also campaigned against other forms of racial discrimination. They sat together in segregated restaurants, lunch counters and hotels. This was especially effective when they targeted large companies, such as hotel chains. Fearing boycotts in the North, the hotels began to desegregate their businesses.

In mid-June, a group of Freedom Riders had scheduled to end their ride in Tallahassee, Florida, with plans to fly home from the Tallahassee airport. They were provided a police escort to the airport from the city's bus facilities. At the airport, they decided to eat at a restaurant that was marked "For Whites Only". The owners decided to close rather than serve the mixed group of Freedom Riders. Although the restaurant was privately owned, it was leased from the county government. Canceling their plane reservations, the Riders decided to wait until the restaurant re-opened so they could be served. They waited until 11:00 pm that night and returned the following day. During this time, hostile crowds gathered, threatening violence. On June 16, 1961, the Freedom Riders were arrested in Tallahassee for unlawful assembly. ...

The Freedom Riders in Monroe were brutally attacked by white supremacists with the approval of local police. On August 27, James Forman - SNCC's Executive Secretary - was struck unconscious with the butt of a rifle and taken to jail with numerous other demonstrators. Police and civilian white supremacists roamed the town shooting at black people, who returned the gunfire. Robert F. Williams fortified the black neighborhood against attack and in the process briefly detained a white couple who had gotten lost there.

The police accused Williams of kidnapping and called in the state militia and FBI to arrest him, in spite of the couple being quickly released. Certain he would be lynched, Williams fled and eventually found refuge in Cuba. Movement lawyers, eager to disengage from the situation, successfully urged the Freedom Riders not to practice the normal "jail-no bail" strategy in Monroe. Local officials, also apparently eager to de-escalate, found demonstrators guilty but immediately suspended their sentences. ...

The Interstate Commerce Commission finally issued ... orders just before the end of the month [September 1961]. The new policies went into effect on November 1, 1961. After the new ICC rule took effect, passengers were permitted to sit wherever they pleased on interstate buses and trains; "white" and "colored" signs were removed from the terminals; racially segregated drinking fountains, toilets, and waiting rooms serving interstate customers were consolidated; and the lunch counters began serving all customers, regardless of race.

The widespread violence provoked by the Freedom Rides sent shock waves through American society. People worried that the Rides were evoking widespread social disorder and racial divergence, an opinion supported and strengthened in many communities by the press. The press in white communities condemned the direct action approach that CORE was taking, while some of the national press negatively portrayed the Riders as provoking unrest. ....
Although segregation on buses was prohibited after November 1, Freedom Rides continued through December 2, 1961, in order to test the new rules.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mount Holyoke College

When Baby Houseman and Neil Kellerman are introduced, the following dialogue takes place.
Max Kellerman
Doc, I want you to meet someone. My grandson Neil -- goes to the Cornell School of Hotel Management.

Jake Houseman
Baby's starting Mount Holyoke in the fall.

Neil Kellerman
Oh, great. .... Are you going to major in English?

Baby Houseman
No -- economics of underdeveloped countries. I'm going into the Peace Corps.
Neil assumed that Baby would major in English because Mount Holyoke College was famous especially for the female writers who had studied there. Those who graduated before 1963 included the following:
Emily Dickinson, (attended 1847-1848) - poet

Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman, (attended 1870-1871) - novelist and short story writer

Anne W. Armstrong, (attended 1890–1892) - novelist

Caroline Henderson, 1901 - Dust Bowl author

Alice Geer Kelsey, 1918 - writer, children's literature

Charlotte Wilder, 1919 - poet

Kathryn Irene Glascock, 1922 - poet

Constance McLaughlin Green, 1925 (Master's degree) - historian who won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for History for Washington, Village and Capital, 1800-1878

Roberta Teale Swartz, 1925 - poet

Virginia Hamilton Adair, 1933 - poet

Janet Huntington Brewster, 1933 - writer and radio broadcaster

Martha Whitmore Hickman, 1947 - non-fiction author

Jean Rikhoff, 1948 - author

Nancy McKenzie, 1948 - Arthurian legend author

Martha Henissart, 1950 - mystery author writing under the pen-name of Emma Lathen with Mary Jane Latsis

Nancy Bauer (Nancy Luke), 1956 - non-fiction author

Elizabeth Topham Kennan, 1960 - author writing under the pen-name of Clare Munnings with Jill Ker Conway
A view of the campus of Mount Holyoke College
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Another view of the campus of Mount Holyoke College
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Some students of Mount Holyoke College in 1963 
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Graduation Day in 1963
Martin Luther King visiting the college in October 1963
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The cast of a play, "Once Upon a Park", performed in 1963.
(Click on the image to enlarge it.) 
Students eating milk and crackers in 1963
A Pinterest page provides many more pictures of the college and students.

The Wikipedia article about Mount Holyoke College includes the following passages:
Mount Holyoke College is a liberal arts college for women in South Hadley, Massachusetts. It was the first member of the Seven Sisters colleges, and it served as a model for some of the others. Mount Holyoke is part of the Pioneer Valley's Five College Consortium, along with Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The school was founded in 1837 by Mary Lyon as Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Mary Lyon had previously founded Wheaton Female Seminary (now Wheaton College) in Norton, Massachusetts, in 1834. Mount Holyoke received its collegiate charter in 1888 as Mount Holyoke Seminary and College and became Mount Holyoke College in 1893. ...

Mount Holyoke's buildings were designed between 1896 and 1960. It has a Donald Ross-designed 18-hole golf course, The Orchards, which served as host to the U.S. Women's Open in 2004. U.S. News and World Report lists Mount Holyoke as the 35th best liberal arts college in the United States in its 2016 rankings. In 2011–2012, Mount Holyoke was one of the nation's top producers of Fulbright Scholars, ranking fourth among bachelor's institutions ...

Mount Holyoke's founder, Mary Lyon, is considered by many scholars to have been an innovator in the area of women's education. Her establishment of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary was part of a larger movement to create institutions of higher education for young women during the first half of the 19th century. ...  Mount Holyoke Female Seminary was originally chartered as a teaching seminary in 1836 and opened its doors to students on 8 November 1837. Both Vassar College and Wellesley College were patterned after Mount Holyoke.

From its founding in 1837, Mount Holyoke Female Seminary "had no religious affiliation". However, "students were required to attend church services, chapel talks, prayer meetings, and Bible study groups. Twice a day teachers and students spent time in private devotions. Every dorm room had two large lighted closets to give roommates privacy during their devotions".

Mount Holyoke Female Seminary was the sister school to Andover Seminary. Some Andover graduates looked to marry students from the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before becoming missionaries because the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) required its missionaries to be married before starting their missions. By 1859 there were more than 60 missionary alumnae; by 1887 the school's alumnae comprised one-fifth of all female American missionaries for the ABCFM; and by the end of the century, 248 of its alumnae had entered the mission field. ....
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The following video is not dated, but it looks like it was made at the end of the 1950s or beginning of the 1960s.


The following video shows Mount Holyoke College's dance facilities.


The following video, made in 2014, shows some students dancing in the cafeteria.


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The movie Animal House was released in the same year 1978 as Dirty Dancing. Animal House takes place in 1962, and Dirty Dancing takes place in 1963.

In one part of Animal House, four members of the slovenly Delta Tau Chi fraternity attempt to seduce four prim and proper but gullible students at "Emily Dickinson College" (i.e. Mount Holyoke College).


The American Folk Music Revival in 1963

When Baby Houseman carried a watermelon into the Kellerman hotel's bunkhouse, she was impressed not only by the dirty dancing, but also by the rhythm-and-blues music -- The Contours'  Do You Love Me? and Otis Redding's Love Man. Sure, she had heard such music, but it was not music that she had listened to.

Any earnest 17-year-old Jewish girl who had enrolled in all-women Mount Holyoke College and intended to join the Peace Corps listened to folk music, especially Joan Baez. The following video shows Baez singing "It Ain't Me, Babe" in a concert in1963.


The following video shows Baez singing "Barbara Allen" in a coffee house in about 1961. (The song "Barbara Allen" was in her 1961 album Joan Baez, Volume 2.)


All the students at Mount Holyoke listened to Joan Baez all the time. They never listened to The Contours or to Otis Redding. They had heard The Contours and Otis Redding, of course, but only as background noise, when someone else in their vicinity was listening to a radio.

According to Ultra Lists, the top 30 songs of 1963, included two songs by Peter, Paul and Mary -- "Puff the Magic Dragon" (#16) and "Blowing in the Wind" (#17). The following video shows them singing "Blowing in the Wind" in about 1963. (The song was in their 1963 album In the Wind.)


The Holyoke students of the 1960s loved Mary Travers because she as the trio's only female was its center of attention, and they loved Peter Yarrow because he was Jewish.

Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary were part of the American folk music revival, which peaked in the early 1960s. This is the music that Baby Houseman and her fellow students at Mount Holyoke listened to. The Wikipedia article about the revival includes the following passages:
The Kingston Trio, a group originating on the West Coast, were directly inspired by the Weavers in their style and presentation and covered some of the Weaver's material ... The Kingston Trio avoided overtly political or protest songs and cultivated a clean-cut, collegiate persona. They were discovered while playing at a college club .... Their first hit was a catchy rendition of an old-time folk murder ballad, "Tom Dooley" ...

This went gold in 1958 and sold more than three million copies. The success of the album and the single earned the Kingston Trio a Grammy award for Best Country-and-Western Performance at the awards' inaugural ceremony in 1959. At the time, no folk-music category existed in the Grammy's scheme.
The next year, largely as a result of The Kingston Trio album and "Tom Dooley", the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences instituted a folk category and the Trio won the first Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording for its second studio album At Large. At one point, The Kingston Trio had four records at the same time among the Top 10 selling albums for five consecutive weeks in November and December 1959 ... a record unmatched for more than 50 years ....

The huge commercial success of the Kingston Trio, whose recordings between 1958 and 1961 earned more than $25 million for Capitol records (about $195 million in 2014 dollars) spawned a host of groups that were similar in some respects like the Brothers Four, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Limeliters, The Chad Mitchell Trio, The New Christy Minstrels and more. 
The following video shows The Brothers Four singing "Four Strong Winds" in about 1963 (the song was on their 1963 album The John B Sails.)


The following video shows The Limeliters singing "John Henry" and "I Am A Weary and Lonesome Travel" in a concert the early 1960s. (The two songs are in their 1960 album The Limelighters.) Click on the video and then click on the words Watch this video on Youtube.


The following video shows The Chad Mitchell Trio singing (with Roger McGruinn) on television in 1962.



The following video shows The New Christy Minstrels singing "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" in concert in the early 1960s.


By the way, I have published in another blog an article titled The Meaning of the Song Michael Row the Boat Ashore.

The Wikipedia article about the American folk music revival continues:
The Kingston Trio's popularity would be followed by that of Joan Baez, whose debut album Joan Baez, reached the top ten in late 1960 and remained on the Billboard charts for over two years. Baez's early albums contained mostly traditional material such as the Scottish ballad, "Mary Hamilton", as well as many covers of melancholy ballads that had appeared in Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, such as "The Wagoner's Lad" and "The Butcher Boy". She did not try to imitate the singing style of her source material, however, but used a rich soprano with vibrato.

Her popularity (and that of the folk revival itself) would place Baez on the cover of Time Magazine in November 1962. Baez, unlike the Kingston Trio, was openly political, and as the civil rights movement gathered steam, aligned herself with Pete Seeger, Guthrie and others. She was one of the singers, along with Seeger, Josh White, Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan, who appeared at Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington and sang "We Shall Overcome", a song that had been introduced by People's Songs.

Harry Belafonte was also present on that occasion, along with Odetta, whom Martin Luther King introduced as "the queen of folk music", when she sang "Oh, Freedom" (Odetta Sings Folk Songs was one of 1963's best-selling folk albums). Also on hand were the SNCC Freedom Singers, the personnel of which went on to form Sweet Honey in the Rock.
The following video shows Odetta, "the queen of folk music", singing on television in January 1963.


The following video shows The Freedom Singers singing "We Shall Not Be Moved" at the March on Washington in August 28, 1963.


The Wikipedia article about the American folk music revival continues:
The critical role played by Freedom Songs in the voter registration drives, freedom rides, and lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s and early '60s in the South, gave folk music tremendous new visibility and prestige. ....

It was not long before the folk-music category came to include less traditional material and more personal and poetic creations by individual performers, who called themselves "singer-songwriters". As a result of the financial success of high-profile commercial folk artists, record companies began to produce and distribute records by a new generation of folk revival and singer-songwriters—Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Eric von Schmidt, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Dave Van Ronk, Judy Collins, Tom Rush, Fred Neil, Gordon Lightfoot, Billy Ed Wheeler, John Denver, Arlo Guthrie, Harry Chapin, John Hartford, and others. ...
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The Wikipedia article about the American music folk music arrival neglects to include The Smothers Brothers. The following video shows them performing on The Judy Garland Show. I don't know when this particular show was broadcast, but the show was broadcast from September 1963 through March 1964.


In 1963, I was the eleven-year-old son of a teacher at a Lutheran college teacher in Seward, Nebraska, and our family listened to religious music and folk music. Our family acquired its first record player in about 1963, and I immediately bought all the Smothers Brothers albums on sale in our small town.

My parents bought albums of The Limelighters albums and of The New Christy Minstrels.

The following video shows The Smothers Brothers performing the song "Boil That Cabbage Down" on television in 1963.


The Smothers Brothers lovingly and brilliantly mocked the conventions and pieties of the American folk music revival, which was in its final months and would end abruptly soon after 1963.

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The Wikipedia article about the American folk music revival describes how the revival was overwhelmed by The Beatles and the British Invasion.
The British Invasion of the mid-1960s helped bring an end to the mainstream popularity of American folk music as a wave of British bands overwhelmed most of the American music scene, including folk. Ironically, the roots of the British Invasion were in American folk, specifically a variant known as skiffle as popularized by Lonnie Donegan. However, most of the British Invasion bands had been extensively influenced by rock and roll by the time their music had reached the United States and bore little resemblance to its folk origins. ....

After Bob Dylan began to record with a rocking rhythm section and electric instruments in 1965, many other still-young folk artists followed suit. Meanwhile, bands like The Lovin' Spoonful and the Byrds, whose individual members often had a background in the folk-revival coffee-house scene, were getting recording contracts with folk-tinged music played with a rock-band line-up. Before long, the public appetite for the more acoustic music of the folk revival began to wane.

"Crossover" hits ("folk songs" that became rock-music-scene staples) happened now and again. One well-known example is the song "Hey Joe", copyrighted by folk artist Billy Roberts, and recorded by rock singer/guitarist Jimi Hendrix just as he was about to burst into stardom in 1967. The anthem "Woodstock," which was written and first sung by Joni Mitchell while her records were still nearly entirely acoustic and while she was labeled a "folk singer", became a hit single for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young when the group recorded a full-on rock version.

By the late 1960s, the scene had returned to being more of a lower-key, aficionado phenomenon, although sizable annual acoustic-music festivals were established in many parts of North America during this period. The acoustic music coffee-house scene survived at a reduced scale.
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Imagine that you were a 17-year-old Jewish good-girl who always listened to this folk music and then on about August 11, 1963, you walked into a bunkhouse where "dirty dancing" music and dancing was going on.

One cultural era ended and another began when The Beatles arrived in the USA on February 7, 1964. Soon after that date, the American folk music revival was swept away.