Patrick Swayze, the balletically athletic actor who rose to stardom in the films Dirty Dancing and Ghost and whose 20-month battle with advanced pancreatic cancer drew wide attention, died Monday (Sept. 14, 2009). He was 57.
His publicist, Annett Wolf, said in Los Angeles that Mr. Swayze died with family members at his side.
Mr. Swayze's cancer was diagnosed in January 2008. Six months later he had already outlived his prognosis and was filmed at an airport, smiling at photographers and calling himself, only half-facetiously, "a miracle dude."
He even went through with plans to star in The Beast, a drama series for A&E. He filmed a complete season while undergoing treatment. Mr. Swayze insisted on continuing with the series. "How do you nurture a positive attitude when all the statistics say you're a dead man?" he told the New York Times last October. "You go to work."
Mr. Swayze rose to stardom in 1987. He had received attention in several early movies and in the miniseries North and South, but the coming-of-age film Dirty Dancing established him as a romantic leading man. He starred opposite Jennifer Grey as a young working-class dance instructor at a Catskills resort who proved to have more heart, integrity and sex appeal than many of the wealthy guests with whom he was forbidden to fraternize.
He exhibited similar emotional intensity in the supernatural romance Ghost in 1990, an enormous box-office hit. His character, a loft-living yuppie banker, is murdered early in the film and spends the rest of it as a spirit, desperately trying to communicate with his fiancee (Demi Moore) with the help of a psychic (Whoopi Goldberg). The film, which also showcased his physical grace, solidified his stardom.
Mr. Swayze was proud of Ghost, as he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1990. "I needed to do something that will affect the audience in a positive way, make them feel better about their lives and appreciate what they have," he said.
Patrick Wayne Swayze was born on Aug. 18, 1952, in Houston, the son of Jesse Wayne Swayze, an engineer and rodeo cowboy, and Patsy Swayze, a dance instructor and choreographer. He began dancing as a child and was often teased about it. But he was also a student athlete, and his dancing career was hampered by a football injury.
After attending San Jacinto, a community college in Texas, Mr. Swayze moved to New York to study dance, becoming a member of Eliot Feld Ballet. He made his Broadway debut in 1975 as a dancer in Goodtime Charley and was cast in the original Broadway production of Grease, taking over the lead role. (He returned to Broadway almost three decades later, filling in as the razzle-dazzle lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago in 2003.)
He made his screen debut in Skatetown, USA in 1979, a roller-disco movie starring Scott Baio. Looking back on that film, he told the Toronto newspaper the Globe and Mail in 1984, "I saw that with not too much trouble I could become a teenybopper star, but I knew if I accepted that, it would take years to win credibility as a serious actor."
He also appeared in The Outsiders, Red Dawn, Point Break, Donnie Darko and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. He received three Golden Globe nominations.