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Patrick Swayze 1952 - 2009

Posted by Ty Burr  September 15, 2009 07:44 AM

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Swayze as evil surfer dude Bodhi in "Point Break"

Patrick Swayze died last night at the age of 57, losing his battle with pancreatic cancer. He wore a lot of hats in the public arena: Broadway hoofer, movie idol, pop singer, tabloid fixture, star of stage musicals and TV series, fighter of disease. The last could have defined his final years if not for Swayze's insistence on carrying on, playing the lead in a full season of "The Beast" on A&E.

But resoluteness was always the hallmark of his public persona, whether pulling Baby out of her corner in 1987's "Dirty Dancing," getting through to Demi Moore from the great beyond in "Ghost" (1990), or cresting the criminal waves in the joyously straight-faced 1991 action/surf film "Point Break." Intense poise and a wounded, almost angry sense of self are what galvanize Swayze's performances. He grew up a ballet dancer in a rough Houston neighborhood, taking on the bullies who taunted him with his fists and ultimately beating them with his talent. There was little irony to his persona; when you have to fight to be who you are, there probably isn't time for irony.

"Dancing," "Ghost," and "Point Break" were Swayze's three best-known movies, and in truth he seemed to wander far afield in the late 1990s and 2000s. There are solid little gems in his early filmography -- he stole "Grandview USA" (1984) from C. Thomas Howell (all right, not exactly hard to do) and "Road House" (1989) may be the great lost meathead action movie of its generation. After his peak, Swayze aimed for epic drama in the earnest and somewhat underrated "City of Joy" (1993), donned drag for 1995's "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar," a movie regrettably not up to the level of its title, and enlivened "Donnie Darko" (2001) as the sleazy self-help guru Jim Cunningham. The latter was the role many people under the age of 30 will remember him by, even as their moms and older sisters still hold Johnny Castle close to their beating hearts:

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7 comments so far...
  1. you underestimate young'uns, I'm afraid. While I'm not a Swayze fan by any stretch, I always forget he was in Donnie Darko, until you reminded me. The facebook crowd is declaring that now Baby will never come out of the corner and wondering if he'll become a ghost. Not terribly creative, true, but even the under-thirties seem to know him more as he was than as he was more recently.

    Posted by JW September 15, 09 09:05 AM
  1. Don't forget his hysterical audition for the Chippendales with Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live. RIP Patrick.

    Posted by Cordelia September 15, 09 09:55 AM
  1. "City of Joy" was definitely underrated. Patrick Swayze did a beautiful job in this film.

    Very talented and decent man. I will miss him.

    Posted by d3b0rah September 15, 09 10:12 AM
  1. What about the Outsiders and Red Dawn!? Great movies where he stood out from the ensemble.

    Posted by cneums September 15, 09 10:49 AM
  1. WOLVERINES!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by fafa September 15, 09 11:21 AM
  1. I thought his performance in "Too Wong Foo..." was very brave. While Welsey Snipes had fun with it and John Leguizamo used it to showcase his talent embodying characters, Patrick Swayze tried to embody what it's like to live as a draq queen. Was it a perfect performance? No. But he really tried and I give him credit for that.

    Posted by Josh Cohen September 15, 09 11:22 AM
  1. "Roadhouse" is one of the greatest over the top action movies of all time....his character Dalton was so ridiculous to the point of brilliance.

    Posted by bjam September 15, 09 11:22 AM

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