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Jennifer Grey Biography

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Birth Name: Jennifer Grey
Born: 03/26/1960
Birth Place: New York, New York, USA

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- ) 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.