Patrick Swayze dies of cancer at 57
'Dirty Dancing' star was nominated for three Golden Globes
Patrick Swayze, who soared to stardom as a heartthrob dancer in "Dirty Dancing" and ascended to romantic icon status as a deceased lover in "Ghost," died Monday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
"Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months," said a statement released Monday evening by his publicist Annett Wolf.
The actor had kept working despite the diagnosis, putting together a memoir with his wife and shooting "The Beast," an A&E drama series for which he had already made the pilot. It drew a respectable 1.3 million viewers when the 13 episodes ran last winter, but A&E said it had reluctantly decided not to renew it for a second season.
Swayze, whose work on "The Beast" was singled out as being particularly compelling, said he opted not to use painkilling drugs while making the show because they would have taken the edge off his performance. He acknowledged that time might be running out given the grim nature of the disease.
In fact, the actor was hospitalized with pneumonia in January while promoting "The Beast," which premiered Jan. 15. He had been scheduled to attend the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Los Angeles at the time to tubthump the show but was taken ill and couldn't attend.
It was first reported in March 2008 that the actor was being treated for inoperable Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In an ABC interview in January, Swayze said it "seemed likely" he would live for two more years.
A trained dancer and gymnast, the athletic Swayze was a swooner as a romantic lead, garnering his first of three Golden Globe nominations for his electrifying performance in "Dirty Dancing."
The 1987 movie showcased Swayze's dual abilities as a dancer and actor. He also composed and performed a song for the movie, "She's Like the Wind," which became a hit. And his line, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" -- which he directed at Jennifer Grey character's father, played by Jerry Orbach -- became a classic movie one-liner.
Swayze turned down an offer of $6 million to appear in a sequel but 17 years later popped up in a cameo role in "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights."
Swayze followed "Dirty Dancing" with two projects that capitalized on his sex appeal and athleticism: "Road House" and "Next of Kin," both released in 1989.
He soared further as a romantic lead the following year with Jerry Zucker's "Ghost." His robust and delicate performance as a dead man who didn't tell his girlfriend that he loved her while he was alive captivated audiences. Swayze and Demi Moore teamed for one of the most erotic scenes in mainstream movies when they sculpted clay to the Righteous Brothers' meltingly romantic 1965 love song "Unchained Melody."
Swayze earned his second Globe nomination for "Ghost" and became a poster boy, earning People's "Sexiest Man Alive" cover in 1991.
That same year, Swayze parlayed his buff stuff into a role as a bank robber/surfer guru in "Point Break."
While he was honored as ShoWest Male Star of the Year in 1992, Swayze's star aura dimmed by appearances in a number of lackluster films in the 1990s, including "City of Joy," "Father Hood," "Three Wishes" and Black Dog."
An intelligent and introspective performer, Swayze did on occasion play against his stud persona. He won acclaim, and his third Globe nom, as a drag queen in "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" (1995). Swayze also mixed things up by playing an antiseptic self-help guru in the subversive indie comedy "Donnie Darko" and as a golf instructor in the offbeat British comedy "Keeping Mum."
Before his breakout turn in "Dirty Dancing," Swayze built his career in a number of solid projects.
Among his earlier films, Swayze was part of the star-studded lineup of up-and-comers in Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 adaptation of S.E. Hinton's novel "The Outsiders," alongside Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez and Diane Lane. Swayze played Darrel "Dary" Curtis, the oldest of three wayward brothers -- and essentially the father figure -- in a poor family in small-town Oklahoma.
Other '80s films included "Red Dawn," "Grandview U.S.A." (for which he also provided choreography) and "Youngblood," again with Lowe, as Canadian hockey teammates. He co-starred in the popular ABC miniseries "North and South" (1985).
With his dancing prowess, he also took to the stage, starring on Broadway in "Chicago" in 2003 and as Nathan Detroit in "Guys and Dolls" in London in 2006.
Swayze was born Aug. 18, 1952, in Houston. His father was a rodeo cowboy, and his mother was a dance instructor and choreographer. Combining his athletic and cultural heritage, Swayze studied dance, principally ballet, as a child.
It was at his mother's dance studio that he first met Lisa Niemi, a fellow dancer, whom he married in 1975.
Swayze, a Texas-raised boy, had to overcome the stigma of such pursuits, which he more than compensated for by his participation in sports. He excelled as a high school jock, winning letters in football, gymnastics and swimming. He won scholarship offers for both athletics and dance, choosing a gymnastics scholarship at San Jacinto College in Houston.
His skills were made to order for figure skating, and Swayze soon became a top-notch skater. In his first professional gig, he skated as Prince Charming in a Disney on Ice traveling company.
In 1972, Swayze headed to New York, intent on becoming a professional dancer. He studied at the Joffrey and Harkness Ballet companies and was hired to dance as the principal dancer at the Eliot Feld Ballet Company. However, an old football knee injury hampered him, and he veered from dancing to acting and musical comedy, soon landing Broadway roles in "Goodtime Charley," "West Side Story" and "Grease."
Buoyed by his successes on Broadway, Swayze moved to Los Angeles and studied acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. He soon garnered TV guest-star roles, including a noteworthy performance as a dying soldier on the hit series "M*A*S*H."
Swayze made his film debut in the 1979 rollerskating movie "Skatetown USA" in 1979.
Swayze his survived by his wife, Lisa Niemi, his mother, Patsy, and brother Don.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Patrick Swayze filmography:
"The Outsiders," 1983
"Red Dawn," 1984
"Grandview, U.S.A.," 1984
"Dirty Dancing," 1987
"Road House," 1989
"Next of Kin," 1989
"Point Break," 1991
"City of Joy," 1992
"Father Hood," 1993
"To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar," 1995
"Three Wishes," 1995
"Black Dog," 1998
"Donnie Darko," 2001
"Keeping Mum," 2005
"Powder Blue," 2008
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