A throwback to the movie stars of old, Patrick Swayze was an updated version of Clark Gable, charming and rugged at the same time. Though his first love was dance, Swayze entertained audiences as a con man, crook, neglecting father and POW-rescuing hero over the years. Though genre musicals are few and far between these days, Swayze was often been able to work music and dance moves into his films.
Born on August 18, 1954, in Houston, Texas, Swayze’s mother was choreographer Patsy Swayze. His education included the Harkness Ballet School, the Joffrey Ballet School, and San Jacinto College. He first performed as a dancer in Disney on Parade. After playing in the Broadway production of “Grease,” he made his film debut as Ace in Skatetown, USA (1979). After many minor leg injuries, Swayze’s attempt to be a musical star was abandoned. He did gain considerable experience, including starring work in such films as The Outsiders (1983), Uncommon Valor (1983), Grandview USA (1984) and Youngblood (1986). He received a Golden Globe nomination for his role as the dance instructor Johnny Castle in the steamy musical-drama Dirty Dancing (1987) opposite Jennifer Grey–a film that did remarkable box office when it was released and continues to have a cult following.
His career was further boosted by his portrayal of ghost Sam Wheat in the box-office smash Ghost (1990), for which Swayze was nominated for the Academy Award. He followed that success with some hits and misses, including Point Break (1991), Fatherhood (1993), Tall Tale (1995) and Black Dog (1998). Even in his lesser roles, Swayze constantly demonstrated a heroic and likable everyman persona.
Some of Swayze’s later film choices proved a mixed bag. He played a self-help guru in the successful Donnie Darko (2001), but also appeared in Waking Up in Reno (2001) and Green Dragon (2002), which did little at the box office. Swayze married actress and fellow dancer Lisa Niemi in 1975 they met when they were both in their teens. Swayze developed pancreatic cancer in 2007 and died in 2009.