Monday, September 14, 2009

Patrick Swayze


Nobody would claim he was the best actor in the world, though he could certainly work a mullet. He made indelible marks in two uber-smash films, and his courageous battle with pancreatic cancer endeared him to a public already enamored of his athletic good looks and unassuming lifestyle.

He was born and raised in Texas, the son of dancer Patsy Swayze, who choreographed John Travolta in Urban Cowboy. He was equally at home on the football field and in the dance studio, and he spent some time with several ballet companies before injuries caused him to turn to acting. In his early career, he was known as a musical theatre performer (he played Danny in Grease on Broadway), and in more recent years, after his brush with film stardom, he returned to the musical stage in the New York production of Chicago, and the London production of Guys and Dolls.

Swayze launched his film career as part of the ensemble of young hunks who brought the iconic teen classic The Outsiders to the big screen. Here is a pic from that film, co-starring Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Kevin Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, and Tom Cruise. Don't they all look so YOUNG?

Patrick became an international sensation for his performance in 1987's Dirty Dancing, playing the bad boy Johnny Castle; his smooth, sensual dancing in the film spawned a whole genre of dance (called, appropriately, "Dirty Dancing"). He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his work. Three years later, he appeared in his second huge smash, Ghost, opposite Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg. Swayze worked hard to get the role of the murdered Sam Wheat, which was intended for Kevin Kline, and was rewarded with his second Golden Globe nod. The scene in which Moore and a shirtless Swayze mold pottery together, to the strains of the Righteous Brothers' Unchained Melody, is one of the most sensuous film sequences of the decade. Patrick was dubbed The Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine.

Swayze appeared in many more films during his career, including an unusual turn as a drag queen in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar, Hollywood's answer to the international hit Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Patrick was repeatedly shot down for the film, until his screen test was sent to producer Stephen Spielberg, who did not recognize him. He won his third Golden Globe nomination for his performance.

On television, Swayze appeared in the sprawling mini-series North and South in the mid-80s, and more recently, headlined The Beast on A&E, which was his final performance. (He filmed the series while undergoing aggressive chemotherapy.)
Patrick Swayze died today at the age of 57. His 20 month battle with cancer was tabloid fodder; he wasted away before our very eyes. But instead of remembering him as the gaunt (though optimistic) shadow of his former self, I'd like to remember him in his prime. This clip is a terrific example of his charisma on the dance floor; the routine mixes ballet with the "dirty dancing" he helped invent. His partner is his wife of 34 years, Lisa Niemi:

1 comment:

Bailey said...

Oh, Scott, where did you find this!
What a lovely piece. I know a lot of folks that worked/studied with both Patrick and Patsy. My heart goes out to them - this is a very fitting tribute to a consummate performer who did the very best he could with the material presented.