Jennifer Grey's career in mainstream TV and film is one of ups and downs, but the reason for this - in her own words - can't necessarily be traced to the mercurial nature of Hollywood.
Grey comes from an entertainment dynasty and, by all accounts, had every advantage to become successful. Her father was Joel Grey, a well-known Broadway star who had won both an Academy Award, an Emmy and a Tony for his work on such hits as 1972's Cabaret and the 1992 sitcom Brooklyn Bridge. Her grandfather, Mickey Katz, was a well-known comedian / musician during the '40s and '50s. Jennifer, of course, was bound for stardom and so it was. Her first film, Reckless, saw Grey play a supporting role in the underrated dramedy. However, her next film would put her firmly on the map.
Directed by John Milius, 1984's Red Dawn became an international blockbuster with its frank depiction of guerilla warfare and the effects it had on the small band of teenage partisans - one of whom included her Dirty Dancing co-star Patrick Swayze. The film became a hot-button topic, with some feeling that it was militarist and driving paranoia to McCarthyist levels. Grey played a young teenager known as Toni, who famously bombs the Soviet-American Friendship Center all by herself.
Through working with Milius, Grey came to the attention of Francis Ford Coppola who cast her in The Cotton Club, his Jazz Era drama about a club in Harlem. Grey played Patsy Dwyer, the love interest of 'Dixie' Dwyer played by Nicolas Cage. From there, she was cast in Ferris Bueller's Day Off as the high-strung sister, Jeanie Bueller. One of the film's most iconic scenes sees Grey talking with a drugged-up, leather-clad teenager played by Charlie Sheen, who apparently had stayed up all night to get the washed-out look.
Undoubtedly, Grey's most well-known role is that of Frances 'Baby' Houseman in 1987's Dirty Dancing. Starring alongside her Red Dawn castmate, Patrick Swayze, the suprisingly dark coming-of-age story saw the young Grey become a woman with the help of music and dance. The film's subject matter was based on screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein's own experiences as a young woman who vacationed with her parents in the Catskills. Dirty Dancing's portrayal of eroticism and feminine desire was unlike anything seen in mainstream cinema and became a huge hit in the burgeoning home-video market. For her portrayal as Baby Houseman, Grey won her only Golden Globe nomination.
However, the success was short-lived. Grey had begun secretly dating Matthew Broderick during the filming of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The relationship became public when she and Broderick were involved in a fatal two-car crash in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh on the afternoon of August 5th, 1987. The collision caused the deaths of Anna Gallagher and her mother, Margaret Doherty. Grey, meanwhile, suffered severe whiplash and was in near-constant pain as a result of her injuries. She also felt survivor's guilt from the accident and, eventually, withdrew from acting altogether. "The juxtaposition of that deep sorrow, the survivor’s guilt, and then being celebrated as the new big thing just didn’t jibe. It didn’t feel good to be the toast of the town," Grey explained in a recent interview.
In the early '90s, Grey opted to have an rhinoplastic surgery which caused her problems. A second one was needed to correct those problems that stemmed from the first, however the surgery left her almost unrecognisable - both to her friends and to audiences. "I went in the operating theatre a celebrity - and come out anonymous. It was like being in a witness protection program or being invisible," said Grey. She turned up, briefly, in an episode of the hit sitcom Friends in 1995 and was almost unrecognisable from her previous self.
Despite this, Grey decided to poke fun at her situation when she starred in the successful NBC sitcom, It's Like, You Know, as a heightened version of herself. Jokes about Dirty Dancing and her nose-job were commonplace and encouraged by Grey. She participated in and won the US version of Dancing With The Stars and, most recently, starred in the critically-acclaimed Amazon VOD series Red Oaks. Grey, it would seem, has no intentions of stopping and, by all accounts, her surgery hasn't affected her spirit. "I'll always be this once-famous actress nobody recognises... because of a nose job."