Thanks for Everything, Patrick Swayze
He had the looks, and the moves. As the star of some of the most iconic films of the 1980s and ’90s — Dirty Dancing, Ghost, Point Break and that epic of B-movie machismo, Road House — Patrick Swayze brought intelligence and warmth to old-fashioned movie maleness.
Then he played his greatest, most heroic role, in a gritty, dignified, very public 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer that ended on Sept. 14. The actor was 57.
With ambition and talent to match his looks, Swayze forged a solid career as a dramatic actor and, in almost a throwback to a bygone era, a dancer; he and John Travolta were the Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire of the non-dance-movie movement.
The American Film Institute named this immortal Swayze line from 1987’s Dirty Dancing one of the top 100 most famous movie quotes of all time: “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
Swayze might have seemed a figure of another time; his phase of top stardom lasted only a few years, and often amounted to triumphs over mediocre material. But his appeal gave his movies real staying power. Consider that, earlier this year, when the retail behemoth HMV polled customers for their all-time best romantic movies, Ghost and Dirty Dancing filled the top two slots.
He could grab attention by playing against type, as in the 1995 comedy To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (for which he received a Golden Globe nomination), in which he plays a draq queen named Vida Boheme. For once, the stud actor was every inch a lady, demonstrating that inside every gay man, there’s a beautiful woman just dying to accessorize.
This past January, Swayze was the subject of a one-hour “Barbara Walters Special” on ABC and talked openly about his illness. “I keep my heart and my soul and my spirit open to miracles,” he told Ms. Walters. But he said he was not going to pursue every experimental treatment that came along. If he were to “spend so much time chasing staying alive,” he said, he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the time he had left. “I want to live,” he said.