Monday, September 14, 2009

In Memoriam - Patrick Swayze

I hate cancer ... it took my mother, my father, my good friend Jan and others. And now it's taken Patrick Swayze. The 57 year old actor died tonight, two years after we learned he was battling pancreatic cancer -- a relentless form of the disease.
Patrick Swayze, 57, an actor who enjoyed success in Hollywood as the snake-hipped charmer of "Dirty Dancing" and a romantic lead from beyond the grave in "Ghost," died Sept. 14, his publicist reported from Los Angeles. He had pancreatic cancer.

A former ballet and Broadway dancer, Mr. Swayze rarely received more than tepid reviews for his onscreen emotional range. But he found enduring mass approval for a handful of movie roles that took advantage of his muscular build, tousled hair and charismatic swagger.

Rita Kempley, a former Washington Post film critic, once described Mr. Swayze's appeal as "a cross of Brando and Balanchine. From the neck up, he looks like a guy who could fix your carburetor; from the neck down he has the body of an Olympian."

Mr. Swayze's best-remembered movies -- "Dirty Dancing" (1987) with Jennifer Grey and "Ghost" (1990) with Demi Moore -- were unexpected hits that relied more on terrific soundtracks and appealing performances than dramatic plausibility.

"Dirty Dancing" featured Mr. Swayze as a dangerously hunky Catskills dance teacher named Johnny Castle who teams with a guest's shy daughter for a dance performance at a neighboring hotel. They also fall in love.

Mr. Swayze co-wrote and sang a hit song from the film, "She's Like the Wind," which reached No. 3 on the pop charts.

Film critic Vincent Canby, writing in the New York Times, said Mr. Swayze was "at his best -- as is the movie -- when he's dancing."

"Dirty Dancing" made a fortune at the box office, a fact largely attributed to female ticket-buyers wowed by Mr. Swayze. Eleanor Bergstein, the film's writer and co-producer, told Parade magazine, "I wanted a hooded quality in the eyes -- someone a father would never want for his daughter."

When she saw Mr. Swayze, Bergstein said, "I told him I couldn't imagine doing the movie without him."
Swayze will be remembered for his roles in "Dirty Dancing" and "Ghosts" ... but I enjoyed his portrayal of drag queen Vida Boheme in "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar." It takes a man comfortable with his sexuality to don a flaming red wig and dress!

Swayze continued to work following his diagnosis.
While undergoing chemotherapy for his cancer, which was diagnosed last year, he received good reviews for his gritty portrayal of an undercover FBI agent in "The Beast" (2009), a drama series for the A&E cable network.

Mr. Swayze missed only one day of work while filming the series. "One thing I'm not going to do is chase staying alive," he told interviewer Barbara Walters at the time. "You spend so much time chasing staying alive, you won't live."
Condolences to his wife Lisa Niemi and to the rest of his family. Rest in peace Patrick Swayze.


Sue J said...

Thank you for posting this. We lost my partner's brother to pancreatic cancer last year, and it is such a devastating and painful disease. It was really hard to hear this news.

I absolutely adored him in "To Wong Foo..." He seemed to respect his character so much, and as you say, it takes a real man to wear the costumes he wore in that movie!

BAC said...

It's only been a year since my friend Jan died from pancreatic cancer, so it's still pretty raw for me, too.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you can join us Nov 7, in DC for our blogger meet up! Mark your calendar!