Based on an article ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ by Linda Gottlieb
The producing of the movie Dirty Dancing proved to be quite a struggle from beginning to end. The script was rejected by just about every major and minor studio but was finally accepted by Vestron. There was just one condition, they must be able to bring in the movie for $4.4 million on the actual making of the film, and so with the budget being so tight, the entire cast had to lodge at the set they filmed at.
Spring of 1986 terrorism erupted in Europe. As the producers searched for their perfect ‘Kellerman’s Mountain House’ thousands of American tourists cancelled their reservations abroad and booked rooms at every possible Kellerman’s. Dirty Dancing was turned down everywhere. They eventually found their Kellerman’s in June, at Virginia. It seemed ideal with the stone main house surrounded by bungalows. They were allowed to shoot in September and the hotel could accommodate the cast.
July, They started to cast extras. “Ethnic” types were urged to apply but hundreds of blond, blue-eyed southerners showed up.
August, The crew settles in but unfortunately, so does the rain! Straw was brought in by the bundles and used to spread on the ground so they could make their way to the construction trailers.
The temperature was 40s by the day and 30s by the night; mist was so thick that they couldn’t see the main house from the front lawn.
The clouds did part for about 4 days, long enough to shoot exterior shots. The incredibly romantic lake lift was shot in -30 degree weather so in between takes, the actors were wrapped in towels and rubbed down to keep warm.
September 3, The cast arrive. Most of them complain about their rooms.
September 4, Jack Weston who played Max Kellerman the hotel resort manager, arrived. He wanted to stay somewhere else when he saw the resort didn’t have a bar, room service, swimming pool or a T.V. His request was considered but the producer knew that if Jack left, everyone else would want to leave also. But luckily, Jack was recognised by people on the resort, remembering him from “The Four Seasons”. This genuinely touched Jack, and so he decided to stay saying they were “nice people.” He was also welcomed into the bridge convention that was going on there at the time.
September 5, The first day of shooting. Hundreds of extras got into period wardrobe to do the big opening arrival scene at the hotel.
The actress hired to play Baby’s mother, fell ill but carried on with the filming of the Houseman’s arrival, lying down a lot between takes.
September 6, The second day of shooting. By noon, the actress who played Baby’s mother couldn’t carry on. In the movie Dirty Dancing, you can actually see the original actress in the car is blonde but then changes to a different actress as they step out of the car.
As she couldn’t carry on, they had to find a new actress to play the mother as soon as they could. Kelly Bishop who ended up playing the part, was originally cast as Vivian, the “bungalow bunny,” with whom Johnny Castle has an affair. So as Kelly was now the mother, who was going to play Vivian? The assistant choreographer, Miranda Garrison, offered to play her so she alternated between playing Patrick Swayze’s onscreen temptress and when she wasn’t shooting, his off-screen dance coach.
September 9, Paula Trueman who played Mrs. Schumacher the wallet thief, collapsed. Ambulances were called and they thought they’d have to find another replacement actress, but Paula revived and insisted on finishing the scene.
September 10, Today and over the next few days, luck didn’t seem to be on the cast of Dirty Dancing’s side. Heavy flooding blocked the roads, an art department station wagon destroyed a prop department van, a set decorator fell off a ladder and injured his face, the wardrobe assistant broke her toe, the second assistant director fractured her wrist and 3 crew members came down with food poisoning.
September 15, Rain! They shot interiors and waited for the weather to clear. Leaves started to turn red and the onset of autumn shattered the illusion of August in the Catskills. They had to spray the colour changing leaves back to green with spray paint. Most of the foliage you see in the movie is touched-up autumn leaves.
September 20, The whole cast moved to the second location, Lake Lure, North Carolina. This is where they shot all the staff quarter’s scenes.
The art department cleverly linked the two locations by creating the same path ways, fences and outdoor lighting fixtures, so the North Carolina staff quarters looks like the continuation of the Virginia Kellerman’s hotel.
September - October, North Carolina. Overwhelming heat, the dance was shot in a smoky, close room, tented in to simulate night. One of the teenage dance extras fainted and Patrick Swayze complained of dizziness.
September 23, The back ground music of “Hey Baby” floated across the woods as they filmed the log scene where Johnny teaches Baby to dance. Patrick refused a stunt double, fell, hit the rubber mats below him, got up and brushed himself off insisting that he was fine. He did several more takes, fell several more times and always got back up to continue.
September 24, Patrick’s knee was swollen and painful. Patrick was taken to hospital to have his knee drained of fluid. The orthopaedist told him to avoid any strain on the knee.
September 25, Patrick was dancing again.
September 26, The make-up woman announced she must return home to New York for personal reasons.
At 2pm, Jennifer Grey, who played the part of Baby, was stung twice on her arms while shooting a scene in Johnny’s cabin. Johnny had to keep his hand on her arm in this scene to hide the sting marks. Further inspection reveals that the entire cabin was infested with wasps so an exterminator was called.
October 4, The new make-up woman broke the wrist and two fingers of her right hand, turned out she was also right handed!
October 6, One of the local labourers was arrested for driving without a license. A routine check also revealed he had just gotten out of jail.
October 27 1986, They wrapped Dirty Dancing and had a party to celebrate.
August 2 1987, Ten months later! The premiere of Dirty Dancing. Jennifer Grey’s blend of simplicity and sexiness made her an overnight star and Patrick Swayze became a mega star!
As the months continued, that little $5 million picture simply refused to die and a world wide phenomenon occurred. After seeing the film, people seemed to want to- dance!
Now in 2011, as we know it has become the most watched film of all time. Who would have thought from everything that went wrong on set, it would become this successful!!