Dirty Dancing is an '80s classic that turned stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey into household names. Behind the classic love story, many interesting debacles took place on set. Read on to learn many interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits that you probably didn’t know.
Baby Is Based On Writer Eleanor Bergstein
Dirty Dancing was written by Eleanor Bergstein, who based Baby’s life on her own life. Baby was even her real nickname as a young girl!
Like Baby, she was Jewish, she was from Brooklyn, her father was a doctor, and her family regularly took vacations to the Catskills.
Bergstein Was A Teenage Mambo Queen
Back in the 1950s, writer Eleanor Bergstein took part in various dancing competitions that would have been considered salacious at the time. One of Eleanor’s specific dancing styles was Mambo.
The producers almost called the movie I Was a Teenage Mambo Queen because they thought Dirty Dancing might be too suggestive.
The Iconic Crawling Scene
One of the most iconic scenes in the entire film is when Johnny and Baby are crawling around on the floor lip-syncing to the song “Love Is Strange.”
It turns out that this particular scene wasn’t supposed to appear in the film at all. The entire routine was really supposed to just be a warm-up, but Emile Ardolino decided to keep it in the movie.
“I’ve Had The Time Of My Life”
The song “I’ve Had The Time of My Life" became an immediate star upon release of the film. The song even won an Academy Award later on.
The song is also known to be among one of the most played songs at funerals, according to a 2006 survey.
Jennifer Grey Didn't Need To Rehearse For The Famous Lift
The moment when Baby leaps into the arms of Patrick Swayze, pulling off the perfect lift, is a true show-stealer.
However, Jennifer Grey didn’t actually rehearse for the impressive move. In 2015, Jennifer recounted the famous scene saying, “I only did it on the day I shot it. Never rehearsed it, never done it since.”
Fighting On Set?
Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey didn’t really get along on set. The two later reunited for the 1980s film Red Dawn.
Even on that set, they were said to have had tension. Patrick wrote about Jennifer in his autobiography. He said that when they first auditioned, Jennifer “couldn’t stand” him.
Bergstein Calls It A Jewish Movie
Eleanor Bergstein herself characterized Dirty Dancing as a Jewish movie "if you know what you're looking at."
In addition to the Houseman family and other characters being Jewish, the Kellerman resort that they stayed at is based on Grossinger's Hotel, which was located on the "Borscht Belt," known to house a string of resorts that welcomed vacationing Jewish families back in the day.
Patrick Swayze Was Not A Fan Of This Iconic Line
“Nobody puts baby in a corner” is arguably the most famous line of the entire film. However, not everyone was on board with the way the line was written.
Apparently, Patrick Swayze was not a fan of it. He later wrote about it in his 2009 biography, saying, “I could hardly bring myself to say: ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner.’ It sounded so corny.”
Not Quite A Catskill Summer
Dirty Dancing takes place during a family's summer vacation in Catskills. The Catskill mountains are located in the southern region of New York state and are renowned for their beautiful landscapes and wildlife.
Summer was already coming to an end when they were shooting the film, so the crew had to spray paint yellow leaves green and even add additional foliage.
A Cursed Set
Dirty Dancing cast and crew began to believe they were cursed very early on.
Within 24 hours, the set was broken into, the Catskills flooded and destroyed one of the production team's vans, and several crew members got injured or came down with food poisoning while working.
The Weather Worked Against Them
At one point during the making of the film, the outside temperature rose to 105 degrees Fahrenheit! With all the film equipment needed, scenes that were filmed indoors on those hot days raised the temperature to 120 degrees.
Alternatively, when filming on the lake, the cast and crew wore coats, gloves, and boots, while Swayze and Grey had to wear summer clothes.
A Sponsor Pulled Out
Due to the plot surrounding Penny's pregnancy, a sponsor of the film pulled out.
The company was afraid that there might be a backlash to its product because of its involvement.
Dirty Dancing was not an instant hit from the producer’s point of view. After editors and the director Emile Ardolino first handed producers the first cut of the movie, they thought it was a total disaster.
Apparently, the producers thought the entire film needed to be scrapped. Allegedly, one producer told director Emile, “burn the negative and collect the insurance.”
Jennifer’s Giggle Fit
In one of the most iconic scenes in the movie, Johnny runs his hand down Baby’s armpit and onto her side, and she cannot stop laughing.
Apparently, Jennifer wasn’t acting at all, and her laughter was totally natural. Jennifer had a giggle fit and could not control herself. Johnny’s annoyed look was actually Patrick Swayze’s natural reaction as well.
While filming the scene when Johnny and Baby are at the lake, and he is teaching her to do the famous “lift,” Patrick was apparently in massive amounts of pain from a really bad knee injury.
Allegedly, the pain was so severe he almost couldn’t get out of the water.
They were almost done filming when a huge swarm of wasps came to set, and Jennifer was stung multiple times on the arm.
She needed a makeup artist to help her cover up the stings. However, in yet another case of “the curse,” the makeup artist quit the same day as the stings occurred. Then, one week after being hired, the new makeup artist broke her wrist and two fingers.
Patrick Was The Right Choice
It was rumored that writer Eleanor Bergstein wanted a different actor to play the character of Johnny Castle, but this is untrue. Eleanor did an interview about it with Yahoo Movies in 2017.
She said, “Patrick was the only actor who was ever offered this [role], and he’s the only one we ever wanted.”
Editor’s Puritanical Sensibilities
Apparently, the editor of the film was not pleased with the dancing, nor did he realize the message intended to empower women.
While he was editing the scenes featuring Baby, he said to writer-producer Eleanor Bergstein, “How can you have respect for a girl who dances that way?” He was met with silence.
Strict Rules About The Dance Floor
Some of the dance routines on the set of the film were quite raunchy. However, the filmmakers had to make it clear that their routines should only stay on the dancefloor.
Apparently, writer-producer Eleanor Bergstein had to put a rule in place that said the dancers could not have any physical contact with each other unless they were filming on the dance floor.
The Lodge Exists
Dirty Dancing was filmed on location in two places. One was in Lake Lure, NC, at a boy's camp that's now a residential community. The other location was the Mountain Lake Lodge in Virginia.
If you visit the lodge today, you are even able to stay in the same cabin which once housed Baby Houseman.
The Truth About Jennifer's Age
Baby Houseman is only supposed to be 17 years old in the movie, but during filming, Jennifer Grey was 26 going on 27.
Apparently, during her audition, Grey only had five minutes to convince producers that she could play someone who was ten years younger than she actually was.
Kelly Bishop Got The Role By Accident
Kelly Bishop played Baby's mother, Mrs. Houseman, but it wasn't the role that she had tried out for. Bishop was originally cast to play cougar Vivan Pressman.
Bishop was so successful at playing the mother role in Dirty Dancing that it is what helped her be cast as Emily Gilmore on Gilmore Girls.
On-Set Parties Were Encouraged
There was a lot of drinking and dancing on the set of Dirty Dancing.
You would think that the director and producers were very dismayed about this, but quite the contrary. Producer Eleanor Bergstein encouraged the actors to go with it and begin improvising as they could feel out their characters more.
She Was Too Beautiful
The actress who played Johnny's dance partner Penny was apparently too beautiful for the camera.
Cynthia Rhodes had to undergo some extensive makeup in order for it to look like she was in agony.
Swayze Hates Sequels
Producers allegedly offered Swayze six million dollars to film a sequel, but he turned it down, apparently due to his hatred of sequels.
But time was enough to wear this actor down because he eventually appeared in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.
Patrick Wants To Do Everything
Patrick Swayze apparently wanted to perform all his own stunts. This was a fine idea since Swayze already did all his own dancing.
At one point, while filming the scene on the log, Patrick Swayze kept falling off of the log. He apparently injured himself and had to have the fluid drained from his knee to reduce all the swelling.
They Only Had 44 Days To Film
The cast and crew only had a total of 44 days to film the whole movie.
Before that, they only had two weeks to rehearse all of the dance numbers! It's crazy to think that a movie with so many dance numbers was only made in about a month and a half.
A Strange Connection
Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze were connected before they were in movies together. Jennifer Grey's father is Joel Grey, an Oscar and Tony award-winning stage actor.
At one point in Mr. Grey's career, he starred in a short-lived Broadway musical called Goodtime Charley. According to the Playbill for that 1975 show, Patrick Swayze was one of the ensemble dancers!
Please, No Close Ups
The iconic lake scene was filmed in October, despite the film taking place in the summer.
The filmmakers didn't use any close-up shots of the actors in the lake because it was so cold that their lips were blue!
Baby's Like The Wind
The song "She's Like the Wind" was originally written in 1984 by Stacy Widelitz and Patrick Swayze himself.
Swayze and Widelitz originally wrote the song for another Patrick Swayze film, Grandview, U.S.A., and was supposed to be about Jamie Lee Curtis's character. It wasn't used in that film, so Swayze showed it to the Dirty Dancing producers, who loved it.
Grey Is Gosling Fan
Many people over the years have tried to recreate the iconic lift scene from Dirty Dancing. That's exactly what went down in the 2012 movie Crazy, Stupid, Love.
When Jennifer Grey saw the film, she was shocked, telling Yahoo! "I'm such a fan of Ryan Gosling and all of a sudden he's saying my name [in the movie]. I'm just in the theatre with my husband and I look at him like, 'Oh my God, Ryan Gosling just said my name. What's going on?'"