Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Nobody Puts These Dirty Dancing Facts In A Corner

Only those with hearts of stone and two left feet would fail to be moved by "Dirty Dancing." Simple in scope but epic in nature, the tale of the good girl who falls in love with the bad boy (who turns out to be not so bad after all) is the universal romance that never gets old. Released in 1987, "Dirty Dancing" encapsulates that endless summer of promise and possibility which burns bright in everyone's imagination. Set in 1963 not long before John F. Kennedy was assassinated, it captures a more innocent, optimistic, fresh-faced, and wide-eyed America before the rot and ruin of cynicism and mistrust crept in.

"Dirty Dancing" is very much Patrick Swayze's movie. The character of Johnny Castle is the epitome of cool. When not busy grooving around the place like a panther from the wrong side of the tracks, and delivering put-downs such as, "You just put your pickle on everybody's plate, college boy, and leave the hard stuff to me," Castle is busy busting moves like a peak period Elvis. Swayze showed a generation of stiff-legged guys that dancing isn't just for drunk uncles at a wedding. "Dirty Dancing" is a fairy tale for our times about overcoming adversity and following your heart. Most of all it's a prime example of Hollywood escapism. So put on your dancing shoes, grab a watermelon and let's go for a tango with "Dirty Dancing" facts that nobody puts in a corner.

Dirty Dancing creator Eleanor Bergstein based the movie on her own experiences growing up

Writing about what you know is a golden rule for any budding wordsmith and Eleanor Bergstein was happy to obey when penning "Dirty Dancing." In an interview with The Age in 2005, Bergstein explained that just like the character, Frances "Baby" Houseman, Bergstein would spend vacations in the Catskill Mountains where she would "hang out at the dance studios."

That's not all — Bergstein's dad was also a doctor and her own nickname was Baby. She added that as a Brooklyn girl growing up she would "go to 'Dirty Dancing' contests and we would do this really, really raunchy street dancing." Bergstein's love of dancing led to her working as a dance teacher: "So, while everybody thinks I'm Baby, there's actually a lot of Johnny in me, too."

After combining her love for dancing and writing, Bergstein spent an entire decade trying to convince Hollywood executives the "Dirty Dancing" script had the potential to be a huge hit, revealing: "They hated the script. Everybody told me how bad it was." In a bid to win the naysayers over, Bergstein admitted she resorted to some pretty drastic measures, including shaking her stuff on tables in a bid to successfully pitch the true potential of the film to the reluctant moneymen: "You do what you have to do and I would get up on tables and dirty dance because people couldn't envision the dancing."

It's claimed Dirty Dancing helped bring down the Berlin Wall

There's been a lot of bold claims made about the transformative power and social influence of film, but is the argument that "Dirty Dancing" helped bring down the Berlin Wall one dance step too far? In an interview with The Guardian in 2006, Eleanor Bergstein argued that "Dirty Dancing" is so much more than a chick flick or a coming-of-age drama and that "it gets used politically." She said: "In Russia, it's a policy in the battered women's shelters, when a woman comes in for help, first 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!”"

Bergstein believes the secret to the enduring popularity and galvanizing influence of the film is that everyone secretly wants to dance with the wild abandon of Johnny and Baby, adding that she is forever being inundated with people's "Dirty Dancing" stories, Such as how it is shown on film screens in certain cities to calm volatile crowds, or how during the war in Sarajevo, two friends watched it on loop in the basement during a three-day marathon as the bombs rained all around them. "When they finally came up, the street had been leveled and they were the only ones to survive," explains Bergstein.

(I've Had) The Time of My Life, singer thought the film sounded like an adult film

While "Dirty Dancing" is regarded as an iconic film, its soundtrack is also a classic, with the standout song being Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes' "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." The hugely popular song accompanies the final scene of "Dirty Dancing" when Johnny and Baby dance their way into infinity. It's the sort of tune that never fails to fill the floor at Christmas parties and has no doubt earned The Righteous Brothers songwriter a pretty penny. Yet when he was first contacted by music producer Jimmy Ienner asking him to work on the song, Medley remembers not being too keen and replying, "It sounds like a bad porno movie" (via Song Facts).

When Medley was told the two lead actors were Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, he asked, "Who are they?" Despite his initial reluctance, Ienner eventually managed to persuade Medley to team up with Jennifer Warnes and create a song that went on to win the Academy Award for best original song and the Grammy Award for best pop performance. Medley explains: "We didn't think the movie was going to be a hit — we didn't think the song was going to be a hit. We just went in to work together, to sing together, and little did we know it was going to be the biggest movie of the year."

Patrick Swayze was a true believer in the power of Dirty Dancing

"Dirty Dancing" has some pretty impressive stats. After making it on a shoestring budget of $5 million, it exploded like a money bomb at the box office and netted a cool $170 million globally (via The Guardian). It scored a Golden Globe Award nomination for best motion picture — comedy or musical, and made Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze household names. If you could bottle the exact formula of what makes "Dirty Dancing" so unique you'd be hot property in Hollywood. According to the late Swayze, the team knew that "Dirty Dancing" was going to be something special even when they were filming.

In an interview with American Film Institute, Swayze explained: "It was one of those creative experiences where people know they're doing something special. We knew were doing something more than just a coming-of-age movie." Swayze added that despite the title, the film is not about sensuality but about that age-old quest for identity and meaning. He pointed to his character of Johnny Castle feeling he is "nothing but a product," and Grey's character of Baby suggesting that her opinions and creativity are being stifled in an environment that wants to suffocate her with restrictions. Swayze said: "Dirty Dancing has stayed around for so long because it has got so much heart."

Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey had a rocky off-set relationship that made for great on-screen chemistry

When Johnny and Baby dance, sparks fly and angles blush. There's enough chemistry between the two characters to fill a lab. However, behind the scenes, it was a different story. In his memoir (via The Mirror), Swayze wrote that Grey would "slip into silly moods, forcing us to do the scenes over and over. We did have a few moments of friction. She seemed particularly emotional, sometimes bursting into tears if someone criticized her." However, in an interview with American Film Institute, Swayze also called Grey an "incredible actress" and "truly gifted."

Swayze did admit that because he'd been a dancer his entire life, the sequences when Grey was crying and giggling were incredibly frustrating for him because he was trying to keep Grey focused and serious, adding: "Those moments worked because they're real. They just took pieces of Patrick and Jennifer working together, attempting to be a dance team."

Grey agreed there was tension but reflected that the friction between her and Swayze off-set made for some great on-screen magic. Speaking after his death in a statement to US Magazine, Grey praised Swayze's "rare and beautiful combination of raw masculinity and amazing grace." She added, "When I think of him, I think of being in his arms when we were kids, dancing, practicing the lift in the freezing lake, having a blast doing this tiny little movie we thought no one would see."

Dirty Dancing was a huge flop with test audiences

Although in hindsight it's difficult to imagine "Dirty Dancing" doing anything but waltzing its way along to the category boldly marked "critical and box office success," the first audiences to get an eyeful of Swayze and Grey strutting their stuff weren't overly enamored. The film, which specializes in that old magic of making the impossible possible, had a lukewarm reception during its test screenings. Vox reports that expectations for "Dirty Dancing" weren't high, with test audiences seemingly indifferent to the plot and the plight of the characters.

Faced with such apathy, the distributors believed that after a brief run in the cinemas the movie would go more or less straight to home video. Yet when "Dirty Dancing" did hit the big screen, it erupted like the most volatile volcano and touched a nerve with audiences everywhere and was one of the most successful movies of 1987. The Ringer suggests that a big part of the film's feel-good factor and the reason it resonated with audiences was the euphoric buzz of its theme song, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." Soundtracking Johnny and Baby's world-beating dance in the final scene left people leaving the cinema with a feeling they could climb any mountain and swim any ocean.

There was a Dirty Dancing spinoff TV series, reality show, and computer game

Once upon a time, a classic film was treasured in the hearts and minds of audiences as something precious, unique, and untouchable. In the modern world of binge-watching, origin stories, and spinoffs, we tend to believe less isn't more and all good things shouldn't come to an end but should be endlessly franchised, flogged, and drained of every last ounce of viewing potential. 

Familiarity may breed contempt but that hasn't stopped Johnny and Baby's story from being mined by many other prospectors in the hope of striking gold. In 2004, we had the woeful "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights." Set in Cuba in the late 1950s, the film was billed as a prequel or re-imaging of "Dirty Dancing." Not even Patrick Swayze's cameo as a dance class instructor could save this film from its bold and flamboyant misstep into movie cliche hell.

Yet the milking of the sacred cash cow didn't end there. Just a year after the film's release CBS launched "Dirty Dancing: The TV Show," which was quickly and discreetly canceled. In 2007 there was the reality show, "Dirty Dancing: The Time of Your Life" in which hopeful dancers made the pilgrimage to Virginia in a frantic bid to become the next Johnny or Baby .. it didn't end well. The same year, "Dirty Dancing: The Video Game" was released, and the 2017 made-for-TV "Dirty Dancing: The Remake" was every bit as bland as it sounds.

The resort where Dirty Dancing was filmed hosts themed weekends

The Kellerman's Mountain House resort in the Catskills plays an important role in "Dirty Dancing." It's a lost world of endless summer and romantic nostalgia that no longer, or perhaps, never existed. It's a place where dreams never die, the drinks never run dry, and the last dance stretches on into infinity. The good news is the resort where Johnny meets Baby hosts "Dirty Dancing" themed weekends for all hardcore fans of the movie. The Washington Post reports that the Mountain Lake Lodge in southwestern Virginia where much of "Dirty Dancing" was filmed has been holding "Dirty Dancing" themed events every year since 1988.

The events are hugely popular, sell out extremely quickly, and are held five or six times yearly. The resort's president and chief executive Heidi Stone recommends that potential guests watch "Dirty Dancing" before arrival if they want the, "Oh my word! It's really Kellerman's" vibe. Stone explained that the weekends were so popular because "Dirty Dancing" "brings you back to that time when you were a teenager and all those good feelings you had. Your first love, your first date, all of those fun things. I don't think it's going to go away anytime soon. The love is just continuing down the generations."

Val Kilmer could have played Johnny and Sharon Stone could have played Baby

It's always difficult to imagine classic roles played by different actors, but it's also a lot of fun. Does the script make the character or does the actor? In reality, it's a finely-tuned combination of both, but just imagine the different dynamics that Val Kilmer and Sharon Stone would have brought to the roles of Johnny and Baby. Nicki Swift reports that Kilmer was the original choice to step into the dancing shoes of Johnny Castle but he gracefully declined because he felt the role would typecast him as a Hollywood heartthrob.

Famous for turning down roles in other big films such as "Seven," "The Matrix," and "The Godfather Part III," Kilmer revealed in a Reddit Q&A: "I only cared about the acting and that did not translate to caring about the film or all that money." Meanwhile according to Yahoo!, both Sarah Jessica Parker and Sharon Stone were in the running to play Baby. However, producer Linda Gottlieb explained (via People): "Jennifer Grey was pushed into the audition room by her father and we were in love." 

"Dirty Dancing" choreographer Kenny Ortega believes if it had been anyone but Swayze and Grey in those roles the chemistry wouldn't have worked and it would have been a different film. "He (Swayze) has so much charisma and she (Grey) worked very hard. I can't imagine it with anyone but the two of them. It was magical," he said.

The iconic lift in the last scene of the movie wasn't rehearsed

There are iconic movie scenes and then there's the famous lift at the end of "Dirty Dancing." You can call it a nuanced metaphor for a leap of faith and flying without wings, or you could just call it a happy accident, which Jennifer Grey pretty much did in a 2015 interview with The Guardian. When asked if she was ever tempted to re-enact the life scene, Grey replied, "God, no! I only did it on the day I shot it. Never rehearsed it, never done it since. I don't know how all these people who re-enact it have the guts to throw themselves into the arms of anyone other than Patrick Swayze. It's insane."

Grey later revealed, during an appearance on The Drew Barrymore Show, that she refused to do the lift right until the last minute because she was too scared: "I refused and I basically just couldn't do it. I couldn't make myself until the day when all the people were watching and then I had to do it."

In her 2022-released memoir, "Out Of The Corner," Grey recalls that Swayze would attempt to reassure her by pleading, "C'mon now! I've been doing this forever. I've never dropped anyone yet." However, Grey remembers thinking, "I feared that if I didn't do my part perfectly, there might be sudden death, paralysis, or at least some broken bones. From either or both of us."

Patrick Swayze initially loathed the famous line

Anytime there's a gathering of more than three film fans, and "Dirty Dancing" foxtrots its way into the conversation, it's only a matter of time, usually seconds, before some bright spark quips, "Nobody puts baby in a corner." Yet all is forgiven because classic films all have irresistibly quotable lines that fall effortlessly out of mouths, and that famous line is up there with, "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse," and "the force is strong with this one."

As quotes go, on the surface, it's pretty basic (almost comical), but when put in the context of the film it's about Johnny throwing caution to the wind and standing up for the values he believes in and the love of his life. Here's the thing — Patrick Swayze initially had huge reservations about the worth of the line.

In an interview with American Film Institute, Swayze explained that he initially hated the line but admitted: "It was only because I didn't understand what was behind it. I was thinking it was time for Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle to come back into the room and do his big dance number." He explained that when he dived beneath the surface of the real meaning behind the words he was finally able to appreciate their worth and deliver with conviction and passion what he initially thought was a throwaway line.

Patrick Swayze turned down $6 million to step into Johnny Castle's dancing shoes again

Johnny Castle is one of those characters that jump out of the big screen and dance his way into our collective consciousness — no doubt studio execs would be keen to thrust him into the limelight for another performance. Yet despite being offered $6 million to step into Johnny Castle's dancing shoes again, Swayze was adamant that the character should never escape the confines of the original film.

Talking to Entertainment Tonight on the eve of the 35th anniversary of "Dirty Dancing," Swayze's widow Lisa Niemi explained that her late husband worked to high standards and no matter how big the financial incentive, he would not reprise his most famous role unless "it was absolutely perfect ... he wasn't going to do it just for the money."

Despite this, a "Dirty Dancing" sequel is scheduled to be released in early 2024, with Jennifer Grey set to reprise her role as Baby. Grey revealed some details to Entertainment Weekly in August 2022, saying: " ... it will involve Baby. It will involve Kellerman's. There will be music. Unless there's a lot of CGI. Baby's going to be a little older." Grey emphasized that the film will be separated from the original. "What happened, happened, and that will never happen again. There will never be another Johnny," she said. "There will never be another Patrick. This sequel has got to be its own standalone piece. It's very tricky."