The 1987 classic romance film, Dirty Dancing was released three decades ago, and despite its age, it is still a beloved movie around the world. It’s pretty hard not to think of all those famous scenes when Time of Your Life comes on the radio and we are forever wishing our summers could be spent dancing at the Kellerman’s resort. You may have watched this movie a thousand times, but I can guarantee there are a lot of things you didn’t know about your favorite movie!
Sometimes we get so attached to the characters that we forget that as soon as the camera stops rolling, that love they have for each other stops. Well, most of the time. Apparently, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey didn’t quite get along and were fighting each other before every scene.
In his autobiography, he mentioned, “We did have a few moments of friction when we were tired or after a long day of shooting. She seemed particularly emotional, sometimes bursting into tears if someone criticized her. Other times, she slipped into silly moods, forcing us to do scenes over and over again when she’d start laughing.” I can just imagine how frustrated Swayze was!
Dirty Dancing wasn’t the first movie that the two stars did together. Grey and Swayze were in the 1984 movie Red Dawn and I guess that is where their tension started. The producers were definitely aware of their relationship and were hesitant to cast Swayze as Grey’s love interest.
Luckily, the two were able to work things out or, at least, fake it well enough to make it look like they have fantastic chemistry. That’s good acting!
This always messes with me when I realize that the actor/actress is so much older than their on screen character. In the movie, Johnny is supposed to be 24-years-old while Baby is 18 but they weren’t actually that young in real life.
When Grey was cast to play the fresh outta high school character, she was actually two years older than Johnny! Swayze, on the other hand. was 34-years-old when the movie was being filmed. I guess the producers figured no one would really notice or care!
Sometimes, the script has to be adapted to the actor rather than the other way around and Dirty Dancing is a good example of that! In the original script, Johnny Castle was an Italian dancer with a dark exotic look, and 20-year-old Billy Zane was a good candidate looks wise!
The problem was, Zane’s dancing wasn’t all that good so they moved on and found the talented Swayze, who was actually a seasoned dancer. He definitely doesn’t look Italian, though, so they changed his character to make him an Irish lad!
The writer of Dirty Dancing, Eleanor Bergstein, wanted her friend Dr. Ruth Westheimer to play the role of Mrs. Schumacher, an elderly guest at the resort. Besides being a friend of Bergstein, Westheimer was a well-known sex therapist, media personality, and author.
She turned down the role, though, because she didn’t want to play a thief. Paula Trueman ended up playing Mrs. Schumacher, who steals Moe Pressman’s wallet.
Most movies aren’t actually filmed in the location of the movie’s setting. As you know, Dirty Dancing takes place at Kellerman’s, a resort in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York but the characters were never actually in the North.
All the outside scenes were actually shot in at a camp in Lake Lure, North Carolina, whereas the indoor scenes were shot in at a resort in Mountain Lake, Virginia. You can actually visit the resort the movie was filmed in but it is actually called the Mountain Lake Resort.
On October 27, 1986, Dirty Dancing was complete but Vestron executives didn’t think the film was going to be successful. They didn’t get positive results on the screen testings and had a hard time finding a corporate sponsor for the film as many people didn’t like the abortion scene.
When the premiere of the movie was set for August 16, 1987, Vestron was only going to keep it in theaters for the weekend before sending it to home video. It is a good thing they didn’t do that because the film ended up $64 million in North America and $170 million worldwide!
The main male lead had a personal belief as to why this film didn’t end up being a flop like it was predicted. When being interviewed by the American Film Institute (AFI), he talked about filming the movie and how he thought it was more than just a “coming of age” film!
“It’s got so much heart, to me. It’s not about the sensuality; it’s really about people trying to find themselves—this young dance instructor feeling like he’s nothing but a product, and this young girl trying to find out who she is in a society of restrictions when she has such an amazing take on things. On a certain level, it’s really about the fabulous, funky little Jewish girl getting the guy because what she’s got in her heart.”
When Kenny Ortega and his assistant Miranda Garrison were trying to find the perfect song for the finale, “The Time of My Life,” ended up being the best choice! The music supervisor, Jimmy Ienner immediately wanted Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes to record it but The Righteous Brothers singer was a bit skeptical.
When he was first told about the movie, his reaction was, “It sounds like a bad porno movie,” and thus, turned down the job. Eventually, Ienner was able to convince him to do it and I bet Medley was glad he did because the song ended up winning an Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy and becoming a global hit!
Usually, the title is the last thing to be decided but I guess they really wanted a story to go with the title Dirty Dancing! When producer Linda Gottlieb sat down with Eleanor Bergstein, the writer said, “I don’t really have a story, but it should involve Latin dancing…”
Then she started talking about her childhood, saying, “I grew up in Brooklyn, my father was a doctor, I was one of those kids who used to go across the tracks to go dirty dancing.” Immedietely, Gottlieb replied, “That’s a million-dollar title! Now we’ll figure out the story.” She definitely was right about it being a million-dollar title!
For starters, Baby is actually based on Bergstein’s experiences as she used to participate in “Dirty Dancing” competitions when her family spent the summers in the Catskills and Baby was actually one of her nicknames! While some of the characters were inspired by people she used to know, she couldn’t really contact them for help as she mentions, “My old partners are either in jail or out on parole … it was a very rough neighborhood.”
While researching the story, Bergstein met the dance instructor, Michael Terrace in the Catskills in 1985 and he ended up being who Johnny Castle’s character was based on!
Filming started on September 5, 1986, but the weather wasn’t being really cooperative and it caused a lot of delays in production. While they ended to have everything done by autumn, the shooting schedule ended up being pushed in fall and the set decorators had to spray-paint the colorful leaves green.
The weather was no longer hot summer weather and temperatures dropped to 40°F, which made filming outside scenes not so fun when wearing shorts and tank. The famous lake that everyone loves wasn’t a favorite for the main characters because, as Swayze describes, “It was horrifyingly, hypothermically cold in that lake, and we filmed that scene over and over.”
One of the most popular lines from Dirty Dancing was when Johnny says, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner,” during the end-of-season talent show. In fact, it was so iconic that it was seen a lot in pop culture, including being used in song lyrics and TV shows.
Patrick Swayze, however, didn’t like his line very much and even asked to admit it from the script. In the end, though, he saw that it worked perfectly in that scene.
Remember how in the movie, Baby was really nervous about performing the lift? Well, that is actually what happened in real life! After Grey and Swayze did the infamous lift for their audition, Grey never wanted to rehearse it again because it was scary!
So when it came time to film that last dance scene where Baby runs towards Johnny and he lifts her up ever so graciously, they only filmed it once for Grey’s sake. Luckily for the director, they nailed it the first time!
The director, Emile Ardolino told his cast not to be afraid to improvise and the cameras were always rolling just in case an actor did something the film could use. This ended up working perfectly because some of our favorite Dirty Dancing scenes were actually off-script!
For example, Grey is very ticklish and Swayze was always annoyed when she couldn’t stop laughing at times so that scene where Baby wraps her arm around Johnny’s head while he brushes his fingers down her arm and she burst out laughing, was totally real!
Any time there a movie does really well at the box office, Hollywood starts thinking about making a sequel with hopes that it would become popular too. While sometimes it works, there are times when the original movie should be left alone and Dirty Dancing is one of them!
The rumors of a remake started back in 2011, Lionsgate said it was in their plans and they hired the film’s choreographer, Kenny Ortega to direct it. It was going to be a three-episode TV miniseries filmed in Asheville, North Carolina but it has been put on hold for a while now…
No one really knew the name Wayne Knight when he was cast in Dirty Dancing to play the minor role of the social director, Stan. After this role, though, he went on to become a very famous TV show face!
In the 1990’s, he was cast as the mailman Newman, in Seinfeld and appeared in 48 episodes!
Why am I not surprised that there was a TV show based on the movie shortly after it was completed. In 1998, Dirty Dancing the TV series aired 11 30-minute episodes and was basically the same story as the movie with a couple of variations.
Two characters on the show, though, were relatively unknown but eventually went on to become well-known faces! Melora Hardin played Baby and then went on to play Jan Levinson on The Office and Trudy Monk on Monk. Paul Feig, the creator of Freaks and Geeks and director of Bridesmaids, played Norman Bryant on the show!
Of course, the UK had to do their own spin-off of the popular movie! Their show, however, was a reality TV series called Dirty Dancing: The Time of Your Life that aired for two seasons, starting in 2007.
It was filmed in the same location as the original movie and it was about groups of dancers who would compete to get a year-long contract with Bloc, a Los Angeles-based dance agency.
Speaking of the film’s set location, did you know that the resort they used, Mountain lake Lodge, is a place you can actually stay in? Not only that but the resort hosts three Dirty Dancing-themed weekends a year, which includes activities like, dance lessons, a walking tour of the resort, a scavenger hunt, trivia games and more!
Heidi Stone, the hotel’s general manager says, “It is amazing how many thousands of ‘Dirty Dancing’ fans we meet every summer. We have guests from all over the world that come to Mountain Lake Lodge just for the ‘Dirty Dancing’ weekends.”
Once you write a movie as successful as Dirty Dancing, you really don’t need to write another one, at least for a while! Eleanor Bergstein, though, wrote another script for a dancing movie 8 years later!
Not only did she write the movie, Let Me Be Me, but she also directed it! Til this day, she hasn’t written or directed any other films but she did adapt Dirty Dancing into a successful stage show in 2004.
We know that Dirty Dancing was not only a big hit in the United States but also worldwide. According to Bergstein in a 2006 interview with The Guardian, the movie had a big fan base in Eastern Europe.
“And in Russia, it’s policy in the battered women’s shelters, when a woman comes in for help. First, they wash and dress her wounds, then they give her soup. Then they sit her down and show her Dirty Dancing. When the Berlin Wall came down, there were all these pictures of kids wearing Dirty Dancing T-shirts; they were saying, ‘We want to have what they have in the West! We want Dirty Dancing!’”
Cynthia Rhodes played the pregnant Penny Johnson who ends up getting an abortion. She was already a well-known actress at the time, having starred in the 80’s films, Flashdance and Staying Alive but Dirty Dancing furthered her career!
After the film ended, she joined the L.A. pop group, Animotion to replace the singer Astrid Plane, and was their lead singer until the group disbanded.
Considering it is such a classic romantic film, it is commonly referenced in TV shows and movies, even today! The 2012 rom-com Crazy, Stupid, Love, made a reference to Dirty Dancing when Ryan Gosling reenacted the lift scene to woo Emma Stone.
Jennifer Grey told yahoo that she was shocked when she heard her name! “I’m just in the theater with my husband and I look at him like, ‘Oh my God, Ryan Gosling just said my name. What’s going on?’ I was so scared. I was like, ‘Oh, no. What are they about to do?’ All of a sudden there I was, part of their movie.”
It’s not uncommon for celebrities to get nose jobs but when Grey did, it was considered a disaster because no one recognized her after that. When she starred in the ABC sitcom It’s Like, You Know… (1999-2000) as herself, it became a running gag that people didn’t realize she was the Dirty Dancing actress.
When the main character, Arthur Garment (Chris Eigeman) meets Jennifer Grey in one episode and after she introduces herself, he says, “Oh, like the actress. Dirty Dancing. You spell it the same way as her?” She responded by clarifying, “I am Jennifer Grey,” and then doing a dance move to further prove it. He says, “You look different,” to which Grey replies, “Nose job!”
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