There have been plenty of big-budget blockbuster movies that will remain in our collective memories forever. The writing, the acting, and the story all come together for a brilliant display of cinema. There’s really nothing else like it.
Sometimes, though, a movie with a low budget and unknown actors can have the same impact on an audience. It’s always a nice surprise when a movie with low expectations shocks everyone with an Academy Award-winning effort.
Dirty Dancing, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, is one of those movies. It had a mostly unrecognizable cast and a very low bankroll, but it managed to become one of the most famous films of all time. Enjoy 24 little-known facts about this great flick, and then go watch it again!
1. In the scene where Johnny Castle (played by Patrick Swayze) and Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) are alone practicing their dance moves for the weekly dance at a nearby resort, Johnny runs his fingers down Baby’s arm and she bursts out laughing. This is a genuine reaction from Grey… as is the frustration on Swayze’s face.
2. It was extremely cold on set during the filming of the lake scene, which would end up becoming one of the most popular scenes in the movie. Still, the actors had to tough it out in order to get through the scene—and their lips turned blue because of it.
3. There is one scene where Johnny and Baby crawl to each other. The actors were actually just joking around during the filming of this, but the director thought it added a nice touch and decided to keep it in.
4. Jennifer Grey initially refused to work on this film because Patrick Swayze was going to be a part of it. Apparently, she didn’t enjoy working with him previously on Red Dawn. Swayze was able to convince her, though.
5. Jennifer Grey had to prove to the casting directors that she could play a younger woman. Her role of Baby was actually a whole 10 years younger than the actress’s real age. She had five minutes to prove it in her audition, and she did.
6. After the success of the first film, studios wanted to cash in on a sequel. Swayze was offered $6 million to return to the screen as Johnny, but he really wasn’t a fan of doing sequels and he ended up declining the offer.
7. There is one scene where Johnny and Baby are dancing in the woods. Since the film was shot in October, the leaves on the surrounding trees were actually changing color by this point. The crew had to spray paint the leaves green to give the impression that the plot was taking place in the summer season of upstate New York.
8. In the original film, the dance that Johnny and Baby perform during the love scene wasn’t supposed to be in the final cut—it was only meant to be what Swayze and Grey performed for the film’s screen test. However, the director liked it so much that he kept it.
9. The script for Dirty Dancing was penned by a woman named Eleanor Bergstein in 1987. During an interview, Eleanor claimed that the lead characters of the movie, Johnny and Baby, were actually influenced by her own life and her summers spent in the Catskills.
10. Many fans might not have noticed this, but throughout the film, Baby usually wears very light colors and Johnny is mostly dressed in dark colors. This is to help the audience subconsciously note the contrast in their personality types.
11. One of the main songs from the movie’s soundtrack was titled “She’s Like the Wind.” It was actually co-written by Patrick Swayze and also performed by him as well, giving him both acting and singing credits in the film!
12. Jennifer Grey’s father, Joel Grey (below, right), starred in a very short-lived musical called Goodtime Charley. The lead character played the son of Charlemagne, and one of the backup dancers on set was none other than Patrick Swayze!
13. The assistant choreographer for Dirty Dancing, Miranda Garrison, was actually given a role due to a scheduling conflict. The director was, at one point, left without an actress to play bungalow bunny Vivian Pressman. They hired Garrison soon after.
14. Conan O’Brien had a big part to play in the film’s 1997 re-release. He had actually written a petition that asked for fans to write personal letters requesting the re-release. The petition ended up working!
15. In the beginning of the film, viewers learn that Baby would attend Mount Holyoke College. The woman for whom Baby’s character was named, Frances Perkins, was an actual graduate of the Mount Holyoke College class of 1902!
16. The book that Swayze offers Baby is called The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The book preaches objectivism, a philosophy that holds the belief that it is better to care for yourself than others. He wants to lend it to Baby as an excuse for not helping Penny.
17. You might be surprised to hear this, but Patrick Swayze wasn’t the first choice to play Johnny. The role was initially offered to actor Val Kilmer, but he turned it down due to other commitments.
Gisela Giardino / Flickr
18. Sometimes in films, certain scenes need to be cut for budget reasons or time constraints, but they can be added in afterwards during special releases. A second love scene between Johnny and Baby that was missing from the original version, for instance, was added back into the film on the 20th anniversary DVD release.
19. The iconic love scene, set to the song “Cry To Me,” has been voted by movie fanatics all over the world as “one of the sexiest movie moments in all of cinematic history.” Considering how many movies are in existence, that is quite a title to hold!
20. The character of Robbie Gould was played by a man named Max Cantor, who was the son of the famous Broadway producer Arthur Cantor. Unfortunately, Max died of a heroin overdose at age 32.
21. When a casting call goes out, all sorts of big names will show up if they think the finished product will be a hit. Case in point: Sarah Jessica Parker auditioned for the lead role of Dirty Dancing.
22. There is a scene where Johnny and Baby are dancing, and Baby is wearing a very uniquely sewn dress. Swayze needed to keep his fingers on her back for the a large portion of the dancing; hilariously, he kept getting them stuck in the seams of the dress.
23. During the dangerous log-dancing scene, Swayze refused to let a stunt man fill in for him while he was high above the ground. He actually fell off of the log several times and had to get fluid in his knee drained because of it.
24. The song “Hula Hana” in the film was co-written by the woman who played Baby’s older sister, actress Jane Brucker. Oddly enough, she was never given credit for the song until March 18, 2002. Better late than never, right?
When actors come together and create a masterful piece of cinema like this, it makes us proud to be a moviegoer—and more than excited to strap on our dancin’ shoes!