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|Also Known As:||Died:|
|Born:||March 26, 1960||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||New York, New York, USA||Profession:||actor, dancer|
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A versatile and personable screen performer who could transition easily from broad comedy to serious drama, actress Jennifer Grey's career was unfortunately encompassed - and eclipsed - by a single film, the 1987 coming-of-age movie "Dirty Dancing." Her character, Frances "Baby" Houseman, became the idol of millions of teenage girls in the late summer of that year; a shy, pampered city girl who learned to spread her wings and find joy and romance through dancing with her handsome, older "bad boy" instructor (Patrick Swayze). Like so many relative unknowns who found fame early in their careers, Grey struggled to overcome the lingering image of Baby. A botched nose job in the early 1990s made matters worse by rendering her virtually unrecognizable from her most famous role. She worked sporadically in the years that followed, often doing fine work for notable directors, but for many viewers, she remained that teenage girl, blossoming so spectacularly, in the arms of the man she loved in "Dirty Dancing."Born March 26, 1960 in New York City, she was the daughter of Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor Joel Grey of "Cabaret" (1972) fame and actress Jo Wilder. Her grandfather was comedian and musician Mickey...
A versatile and personable screen performer who could transition easily from broad comedy to serious drama, actress Jennifer Grey's career was unfortunately encompassed - and eclipsed - by a single film, the 1987 coming-of-age movie "Dirty Dancing." Her character, Frances "Baby" Houseman, became the idol of millions of teenage girls in the late summer of that year; a shy, pampered city girl who learned to spread her wings and find joy and romance through dancing with her handsome, older "bad boy" instructor (Patrick Swayze). Like so many relative unknowns who found fame early in their careers, Grey struggled to overcome the lingering image of Baby. A botched nose job in the early 1990s made matters worse by rendering her virtually unrecognizable from her most famous role. She worked sporadically in the years that followed, often doing fine work for notable directors, but for many viewers, she remained that teenage girl, blossoming so spectacularly, in the arms of the man she loved in "Dirty Dancing."
Born March 26, 1960 in New York City, she was the daughter of Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor Joel Grey of "Cabaret" (1972) fame and actress Jo Wilder. Her grandfather was comedian and musician Mickey Katz, a former member of Spike Jones' Orchestra who specialized in English-Yiddish parody songs. Though she grew up in a show business household and spent much of her childhood backstage at her father's performances, she was not permitted to pursue the craft until her late teens. After graduating from the prestigious Dalton School in Manhattan, she landed a role in a Dr. Pepper television commercial at 19; training at the Neighborhood Playhouse under famed instructor Sanford Meisner soon followed. At 20, she made her first stage appearance in an Off-Broadway production of "Album," directed by Joan Micklin Silver.
Grey's film debut came in 1984 via the overripe teen romance "Reckless" as lead Daryl Hannah's carefree best friend. More bit parts in major films following, including that of Richard Gere's sister in "The Cotton Club" (1984) and an ill-fated member of the teen freedom fighters in John Milius' cult favorite "Red Dawn" (1985). The latter also featured an early turn by her future "Dirty Dancing" co-star, Patrick Swayze. A contemporary version of "Cinderella," titled "Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale" (1985) for the "ABC Afterschool Specials" (ABC, 1972-1995), with Grey as wicked stepsister to Kyra Sedgwick's Cindy, showed her comic potential, but her genuine breakthrough came in John Hughes' "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1985). Grey fumed mightily as Ferris's perpetually jealous sister Jeanie, and won critical praise for her performance; off-screen, she began a relationship with star Matthew Broderick, which briefly led to an engagement in 1986. The following year, both actors were involved in a horrific car accident while vacationing in Ireland when their rented car veered into the wrong lane and struck another vehicle, killing the driver, a 33-year-old woman, and its passenger, her 63-year-old mother. Broderick was hospitalized with multiple fractures, while Grey escaped with minor injuries but a decades-long battle with back and spinal pain. The event nearly landed Broderick in jail for vehicular homicide, but he evaded incarceration by paying a small fine and accepting probation. The event cast a shadow over the relationship, which ended soon afterwards.
In 1987, Grey rocketed to stardom with a small independent period drama no one had high hopes for - "Dirty Dancing." Based on the real-life experiences of screenwriter and co-producer Eleanor Bergstein, the film took place at a Catskills summer retreat in the early 1960s, where a sheltered Jewish girl (Grey) falls for her worldly dance instructor, Johnny Castle (Swayze). Though rife with shopworn Hollywood plot lines, the film's dance sequences - expertly carried out by Grey and Swayze, both trained dancers of varying degrees - and the leads' simmering romance made the film one of the biggest hits in the summer of that year. During the musical finale, Swayze's declaration to Frances' overly protective father (Jerry Orbach) that "nobody puts Baby in the corner" became one of the great cinematic catchphrases of all time. However, Grey and Swayze's off-screen relationship was anything but charmed - the pair had butted heads during the making of "Red Dawn," and soon resumed their antagonistic dealings with each other during the production of "Dancing." In subsequent years, they buried the hatchet, but the filming was often tense. The film went on to become an iconic experience for young viewers, especially girls, who identified with Grey's transformation from awkward teen to young woman under the tutelage of a handsome older man. For her efforts, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture.
Unfortunately, such was the success of the movie, Grey was unable to capitalize on the success of "Dirty Dancing" in her subsequent films. Her immediate follow-up, "Bloodhounds of Broadway" (1989), a period comedy based on the Depression Era stories of Damon Runyon, was left uncompleted after the death of its director, Howard Brookner, and a hastily constructed version saw a limited release in theaters. Those few ticket buyers got to hear Grey's singing voice in a duet with Madonna on the standard, "I Surrender, Dear." By 1990, she was working almost exclusively in television; most notably in the Emmy-winning "Murder in Mississippi" (NBC, 1990), about the real-life murders of three civil rights workers in 1964. Grey played Rita Schwermer, the wife of one of the victims, Mickey Schwermer (Tom Hulce), and a Congress of Racial Equality worker.
In the early 1990s, Grey underwent a rhinoplasty that went awry, requiring a second operation that corrected the initial problem but left her looking significantly different from the way audiences had come to know her. The surgery had an immediate and crippling effect on her career. Unbeknownst to her, perhaps, audiences appeared to love her just the way she was. In interviews, Grey said that she became a virtual unknown overnight, and at one point, considered changing her name to pass as an entirely different person, such was the extent of the alteration. Despite this massive hurdle, she worked steadily through the late 1990s, largely in TV movies and episodic television. In 1999, she gamely parodied her situation in the ABC sitcom "It's Like, You Know." a fish-out-of-water series about a New York writer (Chris Eigeman) who was reluctant to acclimate to Los Angeles. Grey essentially played herself, an actress named Jennifer Grey, whose fortunes had plummeted after plastic surgery. Though critics respected her decision, the show lasted less than a season and only cast a brighter light on her cosmetic issues, resulting in even more people asking the by now requisite question, "is that really Jennifer Grey?"
Grey largely retired from acting in the new millennium after marrying actor Clark Gregg in 2001 and gave birth to their daughter, Stella, that same year. A notable exception was "Bounce" (2000), a romance starring real-life exes, Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow, as a couple brought together by a plane crash, with Grey as the ticket agent who arranges for Paltrow's husband (Tony Goldwyn) to be on the doomed flight. In 2006, she returned to TV opposite her husband in "Road to Christmas" (Lifetime Network, 2006), a holiday comedy with Grey as a fashion photographer stranded in the Midwest during the holidays and Gregg as the kindly single dad who caught her eye. Though a wholly forgettable effort, the movie served as a reminder of Grey's sparkling way with light comedy. A year later, she showed a more dramatic side as Willie Garson's overbearing fiancée on the metaphysical HBO drama, "John from Cincinnati" (2007).
Grey slowly began to rebuild her career with minor roles in indie features like David Mamet's "Redbelt" (2008), where she appeared as Joe Mantegna's wife, and the teen drama "Keith" (2008) as Elizabeth Harnois' mom. Television remained her biggest showcase, with voiceover work on the popular Disney Channel series "Phineas and Ferb" (2007-15) a new wrinkle for her CV. After successfully undergoing two surgeries for thyroid cancer in 2010, it was announced that Grey would compete in the 11th season of the popular primetime series, "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), giving millions of "Dirty Dancing" fans - who had mourned its star, Patrick Swayze after his death from cancer a year prior - another reason to celebrate.
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CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
Ten days before the premiere of "Dirty Dancing" in 1987, Grey and then beau (and former "Ferris Bueller" brother) Matthew Broderick were involved in a much-publicized car accident in Ireland when they collided head-on with another vehicle. The two women in the other vehicle were killed, Broderick broke his leg, but Grey walked away with minor cuts.
"She was always interested, always loved to be backstage. I remember one of the dance captains put her on stage for a moment in 'Goodtime Charley' and it was thrilling for her. I remember thinking, 'Ooohhhhh yes.' It was in the bones." --Joel Grey in New York Newsday, October 7, 1993.
"I always knew I wanted to perform. There was never any question in my mind. It was the only profession I knew that I could utilize every part of me. When I'm acting, life is at its most heightened for me. All my motors are running." --Jennifer Grey
On her success in "Dirty Dancing", Grey told The New York Times (August 17, 1997): "I became recognizable, known and loved by so many people. I didn't look like a movie star. I had a Jewish nose. People loved seeing that. But I was never that character. I was not a virgin; I hate to admit it. I also could dance. I was kind of a daddy's girl, though. The curse was that people think I was that character, and I'm not."
About her 1989 and 1992 plastic surgeries on her nose, Grey told the Los Angeles Times (August 17, 1997): "I just wanted [my nose] to photograph better. [But] a little piece of the cartilage was not quite right ... Everyone went from recognizing me everywhere I went to no one recognizing me -- even people I knew."
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