The very famous scene where Johnny and Baby are practicing their dancing and they are crawling towards each other on the floor wasn't intended to be part of the film; they were just messing around and were warming up to do the real scene, but the director liked it so much he kept it in the film.
In the scene where Johnny and Baby are practicing dancing, and she keeps laughing when he runs his arm down hers, it was not part of the scene; she was actually laughing and his frustration was genuine. They left it because it was effective. Her falling over in this scene was unplanned too.
While the exteriors and cabin scenes were filmed at Mountain Lake in Virginia, the lake scene was filmed at Lake Lure in North Carolina in October. There are no close-ups because the actors were so cold that their lips were blue.
During the scene where Baby and Johnny are dancing in the woods and later in the water - since that part of the movie was shot in October at Mountain Lake Virginia, which is when all the leaves on the trees start changing colors - the trees all around the lake and for that scene were spray-painted green due to the fact that the time frame of the movie was set in the summer. If you look closely during that scene in the woods, you can see leaves falling off the trees - this doesn't happen in the summer.
In 1975, Jennifer Grey's father, Joel Grey, starred in a very short-lived Broadway musical, Goodtime Charley, about the son of Charlemegne. One of the ensemble dancers, according to the Playbill program for that show, was Patrick Swayze.
According to a December 2008 interview with Dirty Dancing (1987) screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, the characters of Baby and Johnny were both influenced by Bergstein's own biography. Like Baby Houseman, Bergstein came from a liberal Jewish family who visited Catskills resorts during the 1960s; her father was a doctor; she was nicknamed "Baby" until she was 22 years old; and her real first name was the same as a famous woman with strong ties to the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration (i.e., Eleanor Roosevelt). Like Johnny Castle, Bergstein was a skilled "dirty dancer" who learned at house parties and later became an Arthur Murray instructor.
Baby tells Johnny that her real name is "Frances, after the first woman in the cabinet." Frances C. Perkins was the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1947. She was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his first term, and served throughout all four of his terms and two years into Harry Truman's presidency.
Lynn Lipton, the actress originally cast as Marjorie Houseman (Baby's mother) was replaced early in the filming with Kelly Bishop, who had originally been cast as Vivian Pressman (the "Bungalow Bunny"). Left without an actress to play Vivian, the producers cast Miranda Garrison, the film's assistant choreographer, in that role.
Although it is never explicitly spelled out, the medical procedure for which Penny needs Baby's money is an illegal, back-alley abortion (the doctor is described as having only "a dirty knife and a folding table"). In 1963, when this movie is set, abortion was still illegal in the US.
The film was re-released in 1997 solely due to a petition led by late-night talk show host Conan O'Brien in which he asked viewers to send letters calling for the film's re-release. When exhibitors finally agreed, O'Brien joked that he actually didn't like the movie all that much.
The book that Robbie tries to lend to Baby as an explanation for his refusal to help Penny is 'The Fountainhead' by Ayn Rand. Rand was the creator of a philosophy called Objectivism, which holds (among other beliefs) that it is more important for a person to be concerned with his or her own well-being rather than to try to help others. Some of her adherents (including, apparently, Robbie) interpret her books as justification for selfish and self-serving behavior and the disavowal of responsibility to others.
Max Cantor played the role of Robbie Gould in the film. Max was the son of Broadway producer Arthur Cantor. They lived in the Dakota Apartments on West 72nd in NYC with John Lennon and other residents. Max attended Harvard University and died of a heroin overdose at the age of 32.
The "Cry to Me" love scene was longer and featured "She's Like The Wind" performed by Patrick Swayze. The scene was cut and replaced by Johnny and Baby making love. The longer version of the "Cry to Me" love scene was featured in the deleted scenes on the 2007 20th anniversary special edition DVD release.
The original version of the Cry to Me love scene featured Jennifer Grey nude. But her appearing nude in the film, did not do well in test screenings and it was taken out of the film and it does not feature in the deleted scenes in the 2007 20th anniversary DVD and no footage can be found.
Although religion is never mentioned outright in the movie, and many non-Jewish viewers never perceive this aspect of the plot, the Houseman family and many other main characters are supposed to be Jewish. The resort on which "Kellerman's" was based, Grossinger's Hotel (along with most of the other Catskills resorts in the so-called "Borscht Belt") was opened in the early twentieth century to cater mostly to Jewish vacationers; this was because at the time, it was very common for other hotels and resorts to reject Jewish customers. When Dirty Dancing was released, many reviewers mentioned the family's Judaism as a matter of course; for example, Vincent Canby's New York Times review called Baby's background "conventionally liberal [and] Jewish," and Roger Ebert's print review said that "the family's opposition to a Gentile boyfriend of low social status" was "obviously...the main point of the plot." In a 2011 interview, the movie's screenwriter, Eleanor Bergstein, characterized it as a Jewish movie "if you know what you're looking at."
The Pembroke, Virginia resort where many of the Kellerman's scenes were filmed hosts three Dirty Dancing-themed weekends a year. Dinners, a sock hop, a screening of the movie, a watermelon toss, group dance lessons, and a Dirty Dancing scavenger hunt are just some of the many activities on the agenda.
The film is in large part based on screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein's own childhood: she is the younger daughter of a Jewish doctor from New York, spent summers with her family in the Catskills, participated in "Dirty Dancing" competitions, and was herself called "Baby" as a girl.
Emile Ardolino encouraged the actors to improvise and often kept the cameras rolling, even if actors went "off script". One example of this was the scene where Jennifer Grey was to stand in front of Patrick Swayze with her back to him and put her arm up behind his head while he trailed his fingers down her arm (similar to the pose seen in the movie poster). Though it was written as a serious and tender moment, Grey was exhausted, found the move ticklish, and could not stop giggling each time Swayze tried it, no matter how many takes Ardolino asked for. Swayze was impatient to finish the scene and found Grey's behavior annoying. However, the producers decided the scene worked as it was and put it into the film, complete with Grey's giggling and Swayze's annoyed expression. It became one of the most famous scenes in the movie, turning out, as choreographer Kenny Ortega put it, "as one of the most delicate and honest moments in the film."
The part of Baby's mother was originally given to Lynne Lipton, who is briefly visible in the beginning, when the Houseman family first pulls into Kellerman's (she is in the front seat for a few seconds; her blonde hair is the only indication), but she became ill during the first week of shooting and was replaced by Kelly Bishop, who had already been cast to play Vivian Pressman, the highly sexed resort guest. Bishop moved into the role of Mrs. Houseman, and the film's assistant choreographer Miranda Garrison took on the role of Vivian.
Rehearsals quickly turned into disco parties involving nearly every cast member, even non-dancers such as Jack Weston. The dancing and drinking went on almost non-stop and, immersed in the environment, the lead actors began identifying with their characters. Eleanor Bergstein built upon this, encouraging the actors to improvise in their scenes. She also built the sexual tension by saying that no matter how intimate or "grinding" the dance steps, that none of the dancers were to have any other kind of physical contact with each other for the next six months.
Filming was plagued by the weather, which ranged from pouring rain to sweltering heat. The outside temperature rose to 105 °F (41 °C), and with all the additional camera and lighting equipment needed for filming, the temperature inside could be as high as 120 °F (49 °C). According to choreographer Kenny Ortega, on one day 10 people passed out within 25 minutes of shooting. The elderly Paula Trueman collapsed and was taken to the local emergency room to be treated for dehydration. The uncooperative weather then took a different turn, plunging from oppressive heat to down near 40 °F (4 °C), causing frigid conditions for the famous swimming scene in October. The crew wore warm coats, gloves, and boots. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey stripped down to light summer clothing, to repeatedly dive into the cold water. Despite her character's enjoyment, Grey later described the water as "horrifically" cold, and she might not have gone into the lake, except that she was "young and hungry".
When Vestron Pictures was looking for a corporate sponsor to help promote the film, Proctor & Gamble, manufacturers of Clearsil skin care and acne ointment, almost signed on feeling that it could be a vehicle to reach a teen target audience. The company backed out, however, due to their dislike of the Penny abortion subplot.
The shooting wrapped on October 27, 1986, both on-time and on-budget. No one on the team, however, liked the rough cut that was put together, and Vestron executives were convinced the film was going to be a flop. Thirty-nine percent of people who viewed the film did not realize abortion was the subplot. In May 1987, the film was screened for producer Aaron Russo. According to Vestron executive Mitchell Cannold, Russo's reaction at the end was to say simply, "Burn the negative, and collect the insurance."
In a 2006 interview with The Guardian, Eleanor Bergstein talked about the movie's popularity with people in the former Eastern Bloc. "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!'"
The film's soundtrack started an oldies music revival, and demand for the album caught RCA Records by surprise. According to Franke Previte, before a single had even been released, there were a million albums on back-order. The Dirty Dancing album spent 18 weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 album sales charts and went platinum eleven times, selling more than 32 million copies worldwide. It spawned a follow-up multi-platinum album in February 1988, entitled More Dirty Dancing.
Relations between the two main stars varied throughout production. They had already had trouble getting along in their previous project, Red Dawn (1984), and worked things out enough to have an extremely positive screen test, but that initial cooperation soon faded, and they were soon "facing off" before every scene. There was concern among the production staff that the animosity between the two stars would endanger the filming of the love scenes. To address this, Eleanor Bergstein and Emile Ardolino forced the stars to re-watch their initial screen-tests-the ones with the "breathtaking" chemistry. This had the desired effect, and Patrick Swayze and Joel Grey were able to return to the film with renewed energy and enthusiasm.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the last scene, on-screen Mom Kelly Bishop says of Baby's dancing, "I think she gets it from me." Not so fast, Mom! Bishop was a well-known Broadway singer and dancer, but on-screen dad Jerry Orbach began his career in Broadway musicals and the father of Jennifer Grey is Tony- and Oscar-winner Joel Grey. Their most famous Broadway musicals - 'A Chorus Line' for Bishop and 'Chicago' for Orbach - had a famous rivalry for box office receipts and awards when they opened within months of each other in 1975.
Toward the end of the movie, Lisa, Mr. Kellerman, and several others sing an anthem to the Kellerman's resort ("Join hands and hearts and voices/ Voices, hearts and hands...") in the talent show. This song's lyrics were written for the movie, but the tune is a traditional one (known variously as "Amici" or "Annie Lisle") from the early 1800s that has been used as the basis for the alma maters for many well-known American universities, including Cornell University, The University of Alabama, The University of Kansas and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.