Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Patrick Swayze - A Nice Guy...Gone Too Soon

The first time I saw Patrick Swayze was in a video of the movie “Red Dawn” (the DVD of this would not come out for many years later). This was a typical “boys own” movie with lots of action, violence, and typical of the “B” grade movies that came out in the 80’s. This film had a large number of well known actors, many who would go onto bigger and better roles. Some of these actors were Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, and Lea Thompson (who later played the part of Michael J. Fox’s mother in the “Back to the Future” films), Jennifer Grey (who later starred with Patrick in “Dirty Dancing”), Harry Dean Stanton (he later starred in the first “Alien” movie).

When “Dirty Dancing” was released I was rapped as musicals are one of my favorite type of films. Then there was “Ghost” with Demi Moore (one of my favorite actresses, along with Jodi Foster). This was a great tear jerker and me being a bit of a softie, I’m not ashamed to admit a tear or two was shed. I heard today that Paul Hogan had been offered the role, but he turned it down.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on the photo.

Patrick Wayne Swayze was born on Aug. 18, 1952, in Houston, TX. His father, Jesse Wayne, had been a champion rodeo cowboy and Mom, “Patsy” Yvonne Swayze, was a dancer and choreographer who owned the Houston Jazz and Ballet Company. His parents were not the only performers in the family – Swayze was also a distant relation of actors William Holden and Tom Hulce. He had two younger brothers, actor Don (born 1958) and Sean Kyle (born 1962), and two sisters, Vicky Lynn and Bambi, who were adopted into the family.

During his school period, he also pursued multiple artistic and athletic skills, such as ice skating, classical ballet, and acting in school plays. He studied gymnastics at nearby San Jacinto College for two years. In 1972, he moved to New York City to complete his formal dance training at the Harkness Ballet and Joffrey ballet schools.

Patrick was married to Lisa Niemi from June 12, 1975 until his death. The couple first met in 1970 when Swayze was 18 years old. Niemi, 15 years old at the time, was taking dance lessons from Swayze's mother. They did not have any children.

Two photos of Patrick and his wife Lisa.

As a reaction to his 57 year old father's death (how strange is that as Patrick was 57 when he died too) from a heart attack in 1982, Swayze began to drink heavily. His sister Vicky committed suicide by overdose in 1994, leading him to seek treatment for alcoholism. After initial recovery, he temporarily withdrew from show business, retreating to his ranches in California and Las Vegas, New Mexico, to breed Arabian horses.

Patrick's mother, Patsy and his wife, Lisa.

Swayze's first professional appearance was as a dancer as Prince Charming in the “Disney on Parade” touring ice show.. He starred as a replacement for Danny Zuko in the long-running Broadway production of Grease. Patrick’s first major success was in the 1985 television miniseries “North and South”, which was set during the American Civil War. Swayze’s big film breakout came in 1983 when he was cast as eldest greaser Darrel Curtis in Francis Ford Coppola’s period teen melodrama, “The Outsiders” – a movie which also launched the careers of Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise and as one of the local militants in the action flick, “Red Dawn” (1984) in which he and future Dirty Dancing co-star Jennifer Grey played teenagers fighting invading Russians. Hollywood quickly saw Swayze’s leading man potential, giving him the starring role as a young Confederate soldier in the miniseries, “North and South” (ABC, 1985).

Everything changed in 1987 when he became an overnight sensation with his starring role in “Dirty Dancing” opposite Jennifer Grey. It may have been the part he had been preparing for his whole life – rakish dance teacher Johnny Castle, who enjoyed tight pants, Cuban heels, and had an eye for the young ladies. He earned a Golden Globe nomination for the film, and also contributed an original song – “She’s Like the Wind” – to the soundtrack. The song hit No. 3 on the pop charts and the film soundtrack became one of the top-selling soundtracks in history. “Nobody puts Baby in the Corner” uttered by Swayze to Jennifer Grey’s father, Jerry Orbach (who appeared for many year in “The Law and Order” T.V. show. Jerry was also a renown opera singer and had a brilliant voice), during the film’s dance-off finale, which in subsequent years, has became one of the most often repeated lines in film history. “Dirty Dancing” was a low-budget project that was intended to be shown in theaters for one weekend only and then go straight to video, but it became a surprise hit and achieved massive international success. It was the first film to sell one million copies on video, and as of 2009, has earned over US$505 million worldwide.

Two photos of Patrick and Jennifer Grey from "Dirty Dancing".

After "Dirty Dancing", Swayze found himself heavily typecast as beefcake and appeared in several flops, of which “Road House” was the most successful. His biggest hit came in 1990, when he starred in “Ghost”, which was a romantic drama starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Tony Goldwyn and Whoopi Goldberg, written by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Jerry Zucker. It was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture, winning for Best Original Screenplay. Whoopi Goldberg won an Academy Award for her supporting role as a spiritual medium who helps Swayze's character Sam communicate with his girlfriend from beyond the grave. Goldberg credited Swayze with convincing director Jerry Zucker to cast her.

Whoopie Goldberg, Patrick and Demi Moore from "Ghost".

“Ditto,” though, is surely one of the great one-word one-liners. Patrick Swayze‘s character in “Ghost”, Sam, couldn’t bring himself to tell Molly he loved her, and used the phrase whenever she said “I love you.” And there was another famous scene in which Swayze and Moore erotically sculpt clay to the Righteous Brothers’ ballad, “Unchained Melody.”

The "famous" pottery making scene from "Ghost".

For his work, Swayze received a second Golden Globe nomination and People magazine included him in their “Sexiest Man Alive” issue the following year.

This is the final scene where Sam (Patrick) kisses and says goodbye to Molly (Demi) and he then walks away and his figure fades (dissolves). If you weren’t shedding a tear before this scene, then this will surely open the flood gates.

In 1991, he starred alongside Keanu Reeves in another major action hit, “Point Break.”

Swayze was seriously injured in 1996 while filming HBO's “Letters from a Killer” near Ione, California, when he fell from a horse and hit a tree. Both of his legs were broken and he suffered four detached tendons in his shoulder. Filming was suspended for two months, but the film aired in 1999. Swayze recovered from his injuries, but he had trouble resuming his career until 2000, when he costarred in “Waking Up in Reno”, with Billy Bob Thornton and Charlize Theron.

Patrick with Charlize Theron and Billy Bob Thornton.

“To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar” is a 1995 American comedy film, starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo as three New York drag queens who embark on a road trip. It was quoted that after Patrick was “made up” he look so good the other actors on the set didn’t recognize him.

Patrick "done up" for the film "To Wong Foo, Thanks for everything Julie Newmar.

In the film “One Last Dance” (2003) when the successful artistic director Alex McGrath (Matthew Walker) dies, his New York dance company invites three veteran dancers, Travis MacPhearson (Patrick Swayze), Chrissa Lindh (Lisa Niemi) and Max Delano (George De La Pena), to exhibit a never performed dance piece called "Without a Word" as a last homage in a benefit show. Along the troubled trio reunion, secrets are disclosed, deep wounds are healed, culminating with their last dance together.

The film was written and directed by Patrick’s wife Lisa Niemi. The dance sequences are superb. Patrick's mother, Patsy was one of the choreographers, and both Patrick and Lisa were producers. Overall the reviews of the film were very good and both Patrick and Lisa’s dancing were quoted as outstanding.

Above I have included a film clip taken from "One Last Dance'. Just watch and enjoy the dancing chemistry by Patrick and his wife, Lisa. Just beautiful.

He made his West End theatre debut in the musical “Guys and Dolls” as Nathan Detroit on July 27, 2006, and remained in the role until November 25, 2006. His previous appearances on the Broadway stage had included productions of “Goodtime Charley”, West Side Story and “Chicago”.

Swayze, a licensed pilot with an instrument rating, made the news on June 1, 2000, while flying with his dogs in his twin-engine Cessna from Van Nuys, California to Las Vegas, New Mexico. His plane developed a pressurization problem over northern Arizona, causing Swayze to make a precautionary landing on a dirt road in a housing complex in Prescott Valley. The plane's right wing struck a light pole that he hadn't seen from the air, but Swayze was unharmed. He locked up the cockpit left it parked in the subdivision, and obtained a ride (with his dogs) from a passing vehicle, in order to telephone the authorities.

His last role was the lead in the A&E TV series “The Beast” which premiered on January 15, 2009. Due to a prolonged decline in health, Swayze was unable to promote the series, and on June 15, 2009, it was announced that the show had been cancelled.

Two scenes from the TV series "The Beast".

Diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in January 2008, Swayze told Barbara Walters a year later that he was "kicking it" However, he died "with family at his side" on September 14, 2009, at age 57, twenty months after being diagnosed. He is survived by his wife of over 30 years, Lisa and his mother, Patsy.

Films I have in my collection are “Dirty Dancing”; ”Ghost”; “Uncommon Valor”; “Red Dawn”; “Next of Kin”; “Road House” and “Black Dog”. Patrick was known as a “country” gentleman, turned up on the set on time, with his lines memorized, caused no trouble and was well liked by his peers. At 57 he was too young to have passed onto that great set in the sky and his dancing skills, humour and passion for his craft will be sorely missed. Fortunately his legacy of dance and acting will be available for future generations to view and admire with the advent of DVD.


Peter said...

Anyone famous is probably shivering in their boots in case they become the subject of your next blog post.

Puss-in-Boots said...

Wow, you sure know your stuff, Warren. That's a great post on Patrick Swayze. I loved him in Dirty Dancing...great bod he had. RIP to a great star.

LZ Blogger said...

Warren ~ Nice tribute to Patrick Swayze! He will always be the great male dancer from "Dirty Dancing" to me. Thanks for the post! ~ jb///

Jim said...

Hey Warren, this is an excellent write-up. As are the others you do.
I have a special place for Swayze as he is a home boy from here, in Houston, Texas.
San Jacinto College is my alma mater, I graduated there (pre-engineering) in 1967. Then I left my employment at NASA (Houston) to teach there, starting in 1979. I taught 22 years before retiring.

Swayze is one of our more famous students (he didn't graduate) but the athletes were more famous and made more money. I had basketball players Sam Cassell and Steve Francis in my classes.
Roger Clemens (baseball) is the most famous athlete we had.

I will most likely reread because there aren't many sources as complete, or long, as yours.
Thank you.

Merle said...

Hi Warren ~~ Great post as usual.
I am a bit behind as usual !!!
I like the dust storm post also.
Not so good for those in it or the farmers who lost their topsoil.
Take care, Regards,Merle.