Patrick Swayze, the actor whose chiseled chin, blond hair and piercing eyes made him a cinematic heartthrob in the 1980s and 90s, has passed away earlier today at his home in Los Angeles, after a 20-month, publicly fought battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
Originally trained as a dancer, Swayze made an inauspicious film debut with a role in 1979’s Skatetown, USA. He slowly built his reputation through increasingly larger roles in films like The Outsiders (1983), Red Dawn (1984) and Youngblood (1986), as well as the 1985 television miniseries North And South. But it was 1987’s Dirty Dancingthat would present Swayze with his breakout role of Catskills resort dance instructor Johnny Castle, who famously warned the father of love interest Jennifer Grey, “No one puts Baby in a corner.”
While Swayze’s success with the film won him a legion of fans, it also trapped him in a series of films typecast in a number of beefcake roles, most notably in the 1989 cult classic Road House. It wasn’t until 1990’s Ghost where Swayze could stretch his acting muscles and give a nuanced performance of a recently murdered man whose spirit has trouble leaving his girlfriend’s side to go to his Heavenly reward. The film would become the biggest hit of Swayze’s career. Swayze reportedly fought for the role as Bruce Joel Rubin’s Oscar-winning script “made me cry four or five times.”
Swayze then paired with Keanu Reeves in the 1991’s Point Break before appearing against type as a drag queen in 1995’s To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. He also had a notable part in the 2001 cult favorite Donnie Darko and a cameo as a dance instructor in the Dirty Dancing sequel, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. His last role was in the A&E network drama, The Beast.