How old was jennifer grey when she did dirty dancing

How Old Baby & Johnny Are In Dirty Dancing

By Quinn Hough


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Dirty Dancing features an iconic pairing in Patrick Swayze's Johnny and Jennifer Grey's Baby, but their characters are far from the same age.

Dirty Dancing features an iconic pairing in Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, but how big is their age gap, and does it make the movie problematic? Dirty Dancing is somewhat autobiographical for screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, as it's based on her own teenage experiences. This fact only brings the question of Baby and Johnny's age difference further into the light. While the movie doesn't explicitly state the two protagonists' ages, there's enough evidence to suggest that the years between them borders on creepy.

Now streaming on HBO and HBO Max, the 1987 film explores the romance between a teenage girl and her much older dance partner, who meet at a New York resort.  Dirty Dancing became a pop culture phenomenon due to its soundtrack and central performances, and was Directed by Emile Ardolino. Set in the early '60s, Dirty Dancing stars Grey as Frances “Baby” Houseman and Swayze as Johnny Castle. The storyline takes place at a Catskills resort called Kellerman's (actually the Mountain Lake Lodge in Mountain, Lake Virginia), where Jake Houseman (Jerry Orbach) and wife Marjorie (Kelly Bishop) spend time with their daughters, Baby and Lisa (Jane Brucker). Meanwhile, Patrick Swayze's Johnny teaches classes and performs with his long-time friend Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes). When Penny becomes pregnant and contemplates an abortion, Baby accepts an offer to train and perform with Johnny so that he can keep his job. In the process, the partners bond through the power of dance.

Related: All HBO Max Original Shows & Movies Releasing In 2022

Johnny and Baby's ages in Dirty Dancing come into question simply by looking at Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray. The two don't even look like they're in the same age group, and the movie takes no strides to explain any part of it. While this could be a product of the time it was made, Dirty Dancing might not hold up well under today's magnifying glass in terms of its more problematic areas. Here's exactly how old Baby and Johnny are in Dirty Dancing, and whether or not their age is far too wide.

How Old Are Baby And Johnny

Clues in Dirty Dancing place Johnny's age at 25 years old and Baby’s age at 17. At the beginning of Dirty Dancing on HBO, Baby's narration references the "summer of '63." Early dialogue reveals that she's planning to attend Mount Holyoke (an all-female private college in Massachusetts) to study the economics of underdeveloped countries. In Dirty Dancing, Baby also states that she plans to join the Peace Corps shortly before laying eyes on Johnny for the first time. Some reports have suggested that Baby is supposed to be 18 or even 19 years old. However, based on iMDB's trivia notes and a 2017 interview with Grey (via Closer Weekly), it seems that Baby was presumably born in 1946 and is supposed to be 17 years old. The character doesn't actually reveal her age in Dirty Dancing, nor does Johnny ask on-camera. If Baby is indeed a minor, that would explain her father's confrontational attitude with Mr. Castle throughout most of the film.

In Dirty Dancing, Johnny's 1938 birth date makes him 25 years old. The character initially questions why Baby gained access to a private dancing area, but then invites her to boogie and subsequently teaches her some moves. Johnny and Baby slowly become friends while dealing with Penny's medical procedures (Jake Houseman provides the appropriate assistance), and they eventually become romantic partners. Dirty Dancing on HBO never addresses the eight-year age difference between the two characters, which makes the film somewhat controversial – both then and now – because Baby is indeed a minor.  In 1963 America, though, it wasn't uncommon for men and women to commit at a young age. The focal Dirty Dancing relationship may not be appropriate, but the age gap isn't enough to make Baby's father concerned during the climactic performance. In fact, Jake Houseman essentially apologizes to Johnny.

How Old Were Patrick Swayze And Jennifer Grey During Dirty Dancing?

The late Swayze was approximately seven years older than Grey in real life. When Dirty Dancing premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1987, Patrick Swayze was 34 years old and was best known for portraying Darrel "Darry" Curtis in The Outsiders and Jed Eckert in Red Dawn. As for Grey, she had just turned 27 and had previously portrayed Jeanie Bueller in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. She also appeared alongside Swayze in Red Dawn as Toni Mason. In 2010, Grey won Dancing with the Stars season 11, just over a year after her Dirty Dancing co-star, Swayze, passed away at age 57 from pancreatic cancer.

Related: Why Road House Is Patrick Swayze's Most Misunderstood Movie

Johnny And Baby’s Age Gap In Dirty Dancing Is Questionable At Best

Johnny and Baby's ages in Dirty Dancing are certainly problematic. And worse still, if she was 17 years old and he was 25, then New York state law would deem nothing wrong with their relationship. This is a problem, as the age gap is discomforting to think about, technically legal, and would definitely raise concerned discussions were a movie to feature it today. Despite this, age gaps like in Dirty Dancing are unfortunately too common. Movies like Licorice Pizza can get away with extensive lovers' age differences, and people seem to be forgiving of its inclusion. After all, Dirty Dancing is still a beloved and critically acclaimed movie when it comes down to it. The film is so prolific that it got a (pretty terrible) TV remake in 2017. Dirty Dancing remains popular, but when put up to today's standards, the age gap between Johnny and Baby wouldn't fly unquestioned were a script to include it today.

Next: What Happened To Dirty Dancing's Jennifer Grey

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About The Author

Quinn Hough (1894 Articles Published)

Q.V. Hough is a senior writer at Screen Rant. He's also the founding editor at Vague Visages, and has contributed to and Fandor.

More From Quinn Hough

'Dirty Dancing:' Jennifer Grey Had 5 Minutes To Prove She Could Play a Character Who Was 8 Years Younger

Dirty Dancing is a classic romance movie with Patrick Swayze portraying one of the main characters. Jennifer Grey acted alongside him as Baby. However, getting the starring role took a surprising turn for the actor, who, reportedly had only 5 minutes to prove she could act Baby’s age. 

Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze starred in ‘Dirty Dancing’

With only a few months left before joining the Peace Corps, Baby is looking for a summer to remember. She doesn’t think she’ll find it at a sleepy Catskills resort until a local dance instructor picks her as his partner. 

A whirlwind romance ensues with plenty of drama and dancing, complete with the iconic lift at the end of the movie. Dirty Dancing, starring Grey as Baby, premiered in the 1980s and remains a favorite film for many dancers and rom-com enthusiasts.

During one interview with News Hub, Grey shared what the filming and the audition project was like. She shared that she was sure another actor would star alongside her. That is, until she danced with Swayze.

“Billy [Zane] was one of my partners, and I thought he was going to get it because he was very like Marlon Brando and his dancing was pretty good,” Grey said of the audition process and finding her scene partner. “But then I remember Patrick and I dancing together, and all of a sudden it was very easy.”

American actors Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in ‘Dirty Dancing’ | Getty Images

RELATED: Netflix’s ‘The Movies That Made Us’ Tells the Story Behind Films Like ‘Home Alone’ and ‘Ghostbusters’

Jennifer Grey was quite a few years older than her character, Baby

Baby, fresh out of high school and looking forward to her new adventures as an adult, is still a teenager in Dirty Dancing. With the movie being set in 1963, and Baby is 18 years old, while her love interest, Jonny, is 24 years old. 

Grey, 27 years old at the time, was eight years older than the character of Baby. As a result, at her audition, she had only 5 minutes to prove she could play younger and rock the dance moves needed for the role. Swayze’s age at the time of filming Dirty Dancing, according to Closer Weekly, was 34 years old.

RELATED: ‘Dirty Dancing’: Patrick Swayze Hated Working With Jennifer Grey — ‘He Sort of Made Fun of Her’

Now, Grey will reprise the role for an upcoming ‘Dirty Dancing’ project

Aside from Dirty Dancing, Grey appeared in a few other iconic movies of the 1980s, including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Red Dawn. Now, fans look forward to another Dirty Dancing related project, recently announced by the actor. 

Most of the details are still foggy regarding this upcoming release, including its premiere date. However, due to the actor’s death from pancreatic cancer, Swayze will not appear in this sequel. Still, fans look forward to new adventures, filled with plenty of nostalgia. 

In the meantime, fans can watch the original Dirty Dancing with a subscription to HBO or with a premium subscription to Hulu.

Cancer, plates in the neck and a whole new look. Baby from "Dirty Dancing" - 61!

Has changed beyond recognition

Despite the fact that the actress Jennifer Gray has more than 40 roles, she will go down in cinema history as Baby from Dirty Dancing .

Frame from Dirty Dancing (1987)

Now the actress is 61 years old. She looks very good for her age, but you will never recognize the girl from the legendary movie in her. The reason for this is plastic surgery, as a result of which she has changed beyond recognition.

She also survived an accident, overcame cancer, overcame the risk of being paralyzed and lives with metal plates in her cervical vertebrae. tells how the fate of the actress turned out.


Jennifer Gray was considered an ascending star, appearing in films Clot Clot (1984) Francis Ford Coppola and “Ferris Buller's Housage Buller” (1986). At 27 years old, with the release of "Dirty Dancing" , she became a celebrity and received a nomination for "Golden Globe" as the best actress.

But this was preceded by a problematic situation: nine days before the premiere of "Dirty Dancing" while on holiday in Ireland Gray , along with her then-boyfriend Matthew Broderick , got into a terrible car accident. Broderick was driving and drove into the oncoming lane, where he collided head-on with an oncoming car. The actors survived, but the two women from the other car did not. Broderick broke his leg and Gray injured his neck. She felt the consequences of the accident constantly, but how serious this injury would be, she did not know for many years.

Jennifer Gray and Matthew Broderick shortly after the accident

As a result of post-traumatic stress disorder Gray decided to postpone big projects and took a short break. In the 1990s, she could be seen in the films "If the Shoe Doesn't Tighten" , "Murder in Mississippi" , "View of the Witness" . These are low-budget television projects that have long been forgotten even at home.

Radical changes in life

Realizing that all progress in her career was lost, she decided to do something and could not think of anything better than to go under the surgeon's knife to change the shape of her nose. She wanted to give facial features more correct, as she believed, forms. Among relatives and friends there were those who dissuaded from this venture, but the actress was adamant.

As a result, in the early 1990s, the operation took place (according to rumors, there were even two of them) and no one else saw Baby. After the work of the surgeon, the nose Jennifer Gray really became more accurate and beautiful, but at the same time, "gave" the actress a completely new appearance.

Jennifer Gray in The Wind, 1992. Even here she doesn't look like herself at all

Relatives and admirers rightly considered her nose with a hump to be the cutest part of her face. By removing, as she believed, the flaws, the actress lost her zest and personality.

After realizing what she had done, Jennifer Gray became depressed.

“I went into the operating room as a celebrity and came out as an unknown person. It was like a witness protection program, when someone needs to be made invisible, ”the actress later said.

Even some of her acquaintances at secular parties passed by or did not pay attention to her, not realizing that their friend was nearby. She even had thoughts of changing her name and starting all over from scratch, but she did not fall into this extreme.

Jennifer Gray in The Murder Case, 1993. The film was released only on TV Jennifer Gray in the film "The Murder Case", 1993. The film was released only on TV

Unknown actress

To her credit, Gray quickly accepted the fact that now she is a completely new person that no one in Hollywood knows.

Since then, the actress has not received any significant proposals.

Mindy, Rachel's friend on Friends

Season 1 episode 20

Only 7 years have passed between Dirty Dancing and this episode.

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Patient mother, who learned that she became a grandmother in the Anatomy of Passion

9000 13 Season 15


despite all the ups and downs with her appearance and ruined career, Jennifer Gray has always been a tidbit for the producers of the American show Dancing with the Stars . They begged the actress for many years to take part, but she consistently answered that she was not a dancer, but simply played such a character well many years ago. In addition, pain in the neck, which appeared after the accident 20 years ago, made itself felt.

However, in 2009 she agreed to appear on the show and went for a medical examination, the results of which showed a dangerous displacement of the vertebrae. Doctors forbade Gray any physical activity and did not even recommend driving a car. The slightest injury could lead to paralysis.

The actress had to go through a complex and dangerous operation, which resulted in titanium plates in her vertebrae. This partially helped and allowed me to do dance and yoga.

But in order to finally overcome the problem, another operation was required. In preparation for it, the doctors drew attention to a bump on the throat and made a diagnosis - goiter of the thyroid gland, in other words, a benign tumor. And although it seemed that the bump was not dangerous, they decided to remove it. As it turned out, not in vain - the neoplasm turned out to be malignant.

After two cancer surgeries, Gray had her last spinal surgery and agreed to take part in Dancing with the Stars.

This is an image of Jennifer Grey's vertebrae. On the right is the final appearance after all the manipulations

She got into season 11 and at the age of 50 she became its winner along with professional dancer Derek Howe .

The expected number from the finale of "Dirty Dancing" they did not reproduce. But they showed themselves “dirty dancing” right on the table at the judges. Jennifer Gray has held the record as the show's oldest winner for over 10 years.

What now?

Despite the fact that Jennifer Gray did not succeed as such in the cinema, she always remained close to big show business. Gray is friends with many celebrities, in particular, with Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael J. Fox .

With Jamie Lee Curtis With Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox with his wife and on the right Jennifer Gray

And for almost 20 years she was married to Clark Gregg , who played Agent Coulson in the Marvel films. They had a daughter, who is now 19 years old. In 2020, the couple announced their separation.

The only notable project on Jennifer Gray's schedule is the sequel to Dirty Dancing , where she plans to reprise her role as a grown-up Baby and also take over as producer.

According to Deadline, the film has writers and will be directed by two directors. True, there is no data on the production schedule and release date. But it is known for certain that Johnny, Patrick Swayze's character , will not appear in the film. The actor died in 2009, and no one will look for a replacement or create a digital copy.

“You can't reproduce that chemistry. All I can say is you can't replace anyone. Do not try to repeat something like magic. You just need to follow something else,” commented the actress.

Jennifer Gray - photo, biography, personal life, news, movies

American actress Jennifer Gray is known for her roles in the cult films of the 1980s Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Dirty Dancing. Her work in TV shows and movies has won thousands of hearts around the world. She is the winner of the 11th season of Dancing with the Stars in 2010.

Jennifer Gray as a child

Jennifer Gray was born on March 26, 1960 in New York. She is the daughter of the famous theater and film actor Joel Gray and singer Joe Wilder, the granddaughter of comedian and musician Mickey Katz. She also has a brother, James Katz, who became a chef.

As a young girl, Jennifer studied acting and dance at the Dalton School in Manhattan, graduating in 1978. Later, the girl entered the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse in order to study acting for 2 years.


Jennifer Gray started her career at the age of 17 with participation in commercials for the soft drink brand Dr. Pepper. She made her feature film debut in 1984 with a minor role as Cathy Bennario in the romantic drama Fearless. In the same year, participation in the action movie "Red Dawn" followed. At 1985th Jennifer tried on the role of Carol Schwartz in the series "ABC Special After School".

Jennifer Gray in her youth

The first known project of the actress was the comedy film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in 1986. She played the character Jeanie Bueller, the protagonist's sister. The picture grossed $70.1 million at the box office across America, receiving high praise and critical acclaim. The tape acquired the status of a cult school comedy of the 80s along with The Breakfast Club, The Cutie in Pink and Sixteen Candles. Matthew Broderick played the title role in The Day Off.

The next project became an important milestone in the creative biography of the actress and attracted public attention to her. In 1987, Gray starred as Baby Houseman in the melodrama Dirty Dancing, along with actor and dancer Patrick Swayze. They played two young people from different social strata who fell in love with each other through preparation for a joint sensual dance.

Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray in Dirty Dancing

This melodrama on a limited budget grossed $63.9million across America and became the first motion picture to sell over half a million copies on videocassette. The role in "Dirty Dancing" brought the girl a nomination for the prestigious Golden Globe Award.

Despite the success of the dance melodrama, the further career of the actress began to decline, she was filmed only in minor roles. In 1988, Gray provided her voice for the English language version of the French fantasy cartoon Gandahar: Light Years. The following year, Jennifer co-starred with Madonna in the feature film Bloodhounds of Broadway, based on stories by writer Damon Runyon. The latter received a nomination for the Golden Raspberry anti-award.

Jennifer Gray and Johnny Depp

At this time, the girl began dating actor Johnny Depp, but their engagement was broken off, and the couple soon broke up. From 1990 to 1991, Gray played in the television films "Murder on the Mississippi" along with Tom Hulse and Blair Underwood, "Criminal Justice", "If the Shoe Don't Press" and "Eye of the Witness".

In 1995, the actress starred in the television film "West Side Waltz" with Shirley MacLaine and Liza Minnelli, and the following year - in the thriller "Portraits of a Killer" and the melodrama "Love Knot". At 1998th Jennifer got the opportunity to take part in the TV pictures "Anger and Fury" and "Where You Wore".

Jennifer Gray in "Old Christine's New Adventures" The film stars Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow in the lead roles. In 2006, the actress appeared in the TV movie Road to Christmas with her husband Clark Gregg. A year later, Jennifer worked on the set of the martial arts feature film Red Belt, and one year later, in the independent drama film The Whale.

In 2010, Jennifer Gray participated in the 11th season of the dance competition "Dancing with the Stars" along with partner Derek Hough. They are the winners of this season. The following year, the actress tried on the role of a shift judge in the 9th season of the British analogue of the dance project.

Jennifer Gray and Derek Hough on Dancing with the Stars

Gray provided her voice for a character from the American adaptation of the Japanese animated drama film The Wind Rises in 2013. The following year, she starred in the critically acclaimed fantasy film In Your Eyes and the comedy series Red Oaks.

In addition, the actress's filmography mentions participation in popular television series such as "Friends" (in 1995), "Perfect Crimes" (in 1995), "John from Cincinnati" (in 2007), "Phineas and Ferb" ( in 2009), "The New Adventures of Old Christina" (in 2009) and "Doctor House" (in 2010).

Personal life

Jennifer Gray's personal life has been successful. July 21, 2001, after a long relationship with actor Clark Gregg, she married him. The couple had a daughter named Stella Gregg on December 3, 2001. The family now lives in Venice, a Los Angeles beach area. Jennifer and Clark no longer have children.

Her husband describes himself as a "sober alcoholic" and is a member of a Jewish family. He has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The Grays were demonstrators at the Women's March, which took place on January 21, 2017 in Washington.

Jennifer is known to have undergone nose surgery in the early 90's which left her unrecognizable to fans, friends and family.

Jennifer Gray after plastic surgery
"I entered the operating room as a celebrity and left anonymous," the actress said in an interview in 2012. "I will always be that once famous actress that no one will recognize because of the unsuccessful work of the surgeon. I decided to play a joke over it to make my miss come true. It's not cancer after all, so it's absurd that a simple plastic surgery can do so much damage.

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