Patrick Swayze died yesterday after a battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of fifty seven. But we all know that actors live on in their work, frozen forever at different stages of their lives and their careers. Some of them, like Swayze, are imprinted on our minds in roles that make them larger than life. That said, we’ve selected a few of Swayze’s most memorable roles… roles that will live on forever.
First and foremost is Swayze as Johnny Castle in 1987’s Dirty Dancing. The role of the guy from the wrong side of the tracks who finds respect and love as a Catskill resort dance instructor and part time lothario put Swayze on the map. The bad boy with the heart of gold who wins the heart of the doctor’s daughter, Baby, made many people sit up and take notice of an actor who’d been working since 1979. Swayze showed off his dance moves and wrote and performed a song for the film’s soundtrack. And it spawned the line that probably will be mentioned in every article about Swayze: “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
Just say Ghost and you might very well elicit nods and sighs from women all overt the world. As the murdered Sam Wheat struggling to find a way to communicate with his lover, Demi Moore, Swayze showed the vulnerable side that audiences embraced in Dirty Dancing. The bad boy side was nowhere to be seen. This was Swayze as sensitive romantic leading man. The film became a hit and won Oscars for its screenplay and Whoopi Goldberg for best supporting actress. It’s likely the sale of pottery wheels went up after people saw the scene of Swayze and Moore using the wheel for a bit of foreplay set to the background music of the Righteous Brothers Unchained Melody.And of course the word Ditto, took on a new romantic meaning.
To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar
Not many actors can don a dress, wig and makeup and somehow manage not to elicit guffaws. But Swayze did just that in To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar in 1995. Swayze seized upon the unique opportunity to go where few actors have successfully gone before. As drag Queen Vida Boheme he didn’t play the role with a wink. He committed himself to it and pulled it off with style. Not a small feat for an actor who was seen as about as thoroughly masculine as one can get. The story is he had to fight for the role and that Spielberg who produced the film didn’t recognize him when he saw Swayze’s screen test.
North and South
Sandwiched between his roles in 1983’s The Outsiders and 1984’s Red Dawn, there was a miniseries called “North and South” and “North and South Book 2”. Broadcast in 1985 and 1986, audiences met Patrick Swayze in the role of Confederate soldier Orry Main. The miniseries, adapted from the John Jakes novel followed Orry Main through the events leading up and through the Civil War.
Swayze as Bodhi, surfer/bank robber. A member of the Ex-Presidents gang in the 1991 film Point Break. The film directed by Kathryn Bigalow follows FBI agent Johnny Utah, Keanu Reeves efforts to infiltrate the surfer gang. An action film follow up to the ultra romantic chick flick Ghost. Reeves sense of duty starts to falter the stronger his friendship with Bodhi becomes. A film that lets Swayze as Bodhi go out on that once in a lifetime monster wave. Seeing Bodhi riding out on the wave, the authorities in Australia are livid that Utah has let their man slip away. They tell Utah they’ll get Bodhi on his way back.
“He’s not coming back” is the simple reply.
Neither is Patrick Swayze, but that’s because in the movies, he will never really leave. Patrick Swayze had a remarkable eclectic career, often playing the tough guy with the soft heart. This is a guy who could be appealing as characters as diverse as dance instructor Johnny Castle, bouncer Dalton in Road House, surfer/bank robber Bohdi in Point Break to the sensitive Dr. Max Lowe in City of Joy.
Swayze worked up until the end of his life in the television series “The Beast”. His last film Powder Blue is scheduled for release this month. From his debut in 1979 in Skatetown USA to his last work and his fight against a terminal disease, I think we can all agree that nobody ever put Patrick Swayze in a corner.