Patrick Swayze: 1952-2009

The star of Ghost, Dirty Dancing, and Point Break succumbs to cancer at age 57.

by | September 14, 2009 | Comments

Patrick Swayze, the versatile actor who starred in some of the biggest Hollywood hits of the late 1980s and early 1990s, died Sept. 14 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.

Swayze’s big break was in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders (which was also a springboard for the likes of Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dilion, and Diane Lane, among others). As a lead, Swayze found success in the Cold War action flick Red Dawn and the ABC Civil War miniseries North and South.


However, it was the sleeper hit Dirty Dancing that propelled Swayze to the big time. Playing Johnny Castle, a blue collar dance instructor at a swanky Catskills hotel, Swayze proved himself to be a credible romantic lead; he also showed off some spiffy dance moves — his mother Patsy is a choreographer — and sang a song on the film’s hit soundtrack, “She’s Like the Wind.” Swayze followed that commercial triumph with Road House, playing a philosophical bouncer; Ghost, as a dead man attempting to protect his girlfriend from harm; and Point Break, in which he lead a gang of bank-robbing surfers. (Though his work from this era is coltishly adored by admirers of camp, it should be noted that Swayze’s skilled under-acting keeps them grounded.)

Ghost was a huge commercial triumph, and garnered Swayze a Golden Globe nomination for best actor. However, he continued to branch out, playing a drag queen in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, and as a soul-searching doctor in City of Joy. He had a minor comeback as an ominous motivational speaker in the indie hit Donnie Darko.


Though Swayze appeared in a number of movie roles after the height of his fame, he also worked in theater, and starred in the AMC series The Beast (Swayze worked on the show after being diagnosed with cancer). Swayze is survived by his wife of 35 years, Lisa Niemi, as well as his mother Patsy and three siblings.

For Patrick Swayze’s complete filmography, click here. For a gallery of images from Swayze’s career click here.