What the Hell Happened to Jennifer Grey?
Following their successful screen-test, Grey and Swayze managed to bury the hatchet temporarily. But before long, they were back to squabbling on the set. The fighting grew so intense that there was concern that it would ruin the movie’s love scenes. In order to remind their stars of how great they could be together, Ardolino and Bergstein had them rewatch their initial screen-test. That got Grey and Swayze back on the same team long enough to finish the movie.
If the actors weren’t in the best mood, that might have had something to do with the weather. When filming started in September, the weather alternated between sweltering heat and pouring rain. It was so hot that dancers were passing out and elderly actress Paula Trueman had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for dehydration.
There were delays which pushed shooting into autumn. In order to maintain the illusion of summer, the production crew had to spray paint the changing leaves green. The temperature which had previously been over 100 degrees for much of the time, came plummeting down to near 40 degrees as Grey and Swayze filmed the famous scene in the lake. While the crew was bundled up in coats and gloves, the actors stripped down to their summer clothes and waded out into the frigid water for take after take.
Ardolino encouraged Grey and Swayze to improvise as much as possible. The scene in which Swayze lifts Grey’s arm and she cracks up was one such improvisation. Grey said she found the gesture ticklish and Swayze’s annoyance with her laughter was genuine. Another improvisation was the scene in which Grey and Swayze crawl towards one another. That was originally just a warm-up before shooting a scripted scene.
The executives at Vestron were convinced they had a flop on their hands. After watching the film’s original cut, producer Aaron Russo commented that they should “Burn the negative and collect the insurance.” At one point, the marketers of Clearasil were interested in a sponsorship deal to promote the movie. But when they learned about the abortion scene, they requested to have it removed. When the producers refused to drop that subplot, Clearasil backed out.
Dirty Dancing originally received an R-rating. Scenes were trimmed from the original cut to obtain a more desirable PG-13. Vestron, convinced that no one would like the movie, planned to give it a limited release in theaters and then dump it to video where they hoped they could make some money back. Producer Linda Gottlieb said that at the time, “I would have only been grateful, if when it was released, people didn’t yell at me.”
Reviews were mixed to positive. One notable critic of Dirty Dancing was Roger Ebert who gave the movie a thumbs-down. Ebert found the movie to be clichéd and objected to the subplot involving an abortion. Ebert’s objection wasn’t based on the controversial subject matter but rather the use of what Ebert called an “idiot plot” in which characters have to avoid saying anything that would solve their problems.
So, what do you think? Did Dirty Dancing open in first place? No. Of course it didn’t. You learned from the Ferris Bueller thing. It probably opened in second place though, right? Nope. The Cheech Marin movie Born in East L.A. took second place at the box office that weekend. Third place? Nu-uh. Third place went to Can’t Buy Me Love which was in its second week in theaters. Dirty Dancing opened in fourth place.
That’s not an auspicious opening. But back then, opening weekends weren’t everything. It turned out, Dirty Dancing had legs. In its second weekend, it climbed into third place behind No Way Out. And the weekend after that, Dirty Dancing took the second place spot behind Stakeout. It topped out at second place, but managed to stay on the top ten for eleven weeks in a row. Even after it dropped out of the top ten, it climbed back on for an additional four weeks. By the end of its initial run, Dirty Dancing had grossed over $50 million dollars on a budget of just $6 million.
But much like Ferris Bueller, the success of Dirty Dancing can’t be measured by its box office performance. Dirty Dancing turned into a cultural phenomenon. The soundtrack was arguably an even bigger hit than the movie. It was so big that the following year it spawned a follow-up album titled More Dirty Dancing. There was also a tour dedicated to the movie. Dirty Dancing: Live in Concert featured Bill Medley and Eric Carmen crooning hits from the soundtrack in 90 cities. In 1988, CBS also launched a Dirty Dancing TV series. Although without Swayze and Grey, the TV show was cancelled after just a few episodes.
For a movie no one was supposed to like, Dirty Dancing also got a surprising amount of attention during awards season. At the Golden Globes, Dirty Dancing was nominated for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy. Swayze and Grey were also nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively. Swayze lost to Robin Williams for Good Morning, Vietnam and Grey lost to Cher for Moonstruck.
At both the Globes and the Oscars, Dirty Dancing was nominated for and won Best Original Song for the hit (I’ve Had) the Time of My Life. The song beat out the likes of Bob Seger, Starship, Night Ranger and Madonna. I’m thinking the parenthesis gave it an edge. Not enough songs have parenthesis. If you want to relive the time of your life, here’s the song in all of its gooey glory.
Damn allergies acting up again!
In the 80’s audiences loved Dirty Dancing unironically. And then something happened. Much like a summer fling, the infatuation faded and became something else. There was no escaping the movie’s cheese factor. In the nineties, a lot of people started to love Dirty Dancing for a different reason. A reason that can be summed up with one line from Patrick Swayze:
“Nobody puts baby in a corner.” Never before has anyone objected to a seating arrangement with such a mixture of chivalry, rebelliousness and indignation! Swayze said he hated the line and did everything in his power to get it cut. But in 2005, the cheesetastic line was picked by AFI for their 100 greatest movie quotes.
Late night talk show host Conan O’Brien made that line famous during his ongoing campaign to get Dirty Dancing rereleased in theaters for its tenth anniversary in 19987. Over 80,000 viewers called in to Live Entertainment in an effort to bring the 10-year-old dance movie back to the big screen. And amazingly enough, they were successful.
O’Brien later joked that he really didn’t like the movie all the much. But it doesn’t end there. In 2004, Dirty Dancing was adapted to a stage musical with the unwieldy title Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage. The show received mixed reviews, but it was commercially successful in Europe and later toured the United States as well.
That same year, a quasi-prequel was released. Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights had a similar storyline of an American teen discovering true love through dance, but it was set in Cuba in 1959. Patrick Swayze was paid $5 million dollars to appear in a cameo as a dance instructor. But since he was 17 years older and the movie was set before the first one, Swayze was not reprising his role from the first one. The sequel/prequel/reboot/whatever was not well-received and has largely been forgotten.
Since then, there have been rumors of remakes or possibly a TV mini-series. For now, the future of Dirty Dancing remains uncertain. The only thing we can know for sure is that nobody puts baby in a corner.
You would think that in 1987 as her career was taking off like no one could have ever imagined that Grey would be having the time of her life. But you would be wrong. Unfortunately, Grey was recovering from a personal tragedy just as she was becoming a star.