The same magic spirit that guided him through Hollywood for nearly 30 years was ever present in his fight against cancer. We all secretly wished that Dalton from “Road House” was strong enough to beat the disease, but sadly there was no happy ending in this struggle.
Swayze was born on August 18, 1952 in Houston, Texas. He went on to leave an indelible mark on our hearts. Everyone has a favorite moment in the career of the iconic actor, though for each, it’s different. Whether it is the eloquently delivered line, “Nobody puts baby in the corner” or the image of him taking his final surf in “Point Break,” Swayze played a minor yet important role in movie history.
He was a reminder of the past, similar to Gene Kelly in that he didn’t look like a dancer, but rather a tough guy that happened to be an incredible one.
He trained for years in the art of the dance and was able to back it up with his calm, cool and confident persona, making him a true force to be reckoned with in the movie industry. He was a movie star in every sense of the word, even when his career hit a few low points.
He was also a prime example of what a man should be: tough, loyal, compassionate and full of desire and ambition.
Similar to Paul Newman, he found true love with Lisa Niemi at a young age before he became famous and unlike so many other people in public’s eye, he stayed married throughout his whole career to that one special woman that made such an impact on his life. It was utterly heartbreaking to watch them recently on “The Barbara Walters Special,” as she could not imagine life without him. Their bond was so strong that Swayze didn’t want her to see the pain that he was in and would go to the bathroom on early mornings and silently deal with the aches without waking her.
That love is probably why he found his niche in romantic movies and helped provide him with a brief singing career with the hit, “She’s like the Wind,” a powerful love ballad made famous thanks to his strong, yet emotional voice.
His movie career began to pop after “Skatetown U.S.A.” thanks to the “The Outsiders,” in which he played Darrel Curtis. It was here where Swayze played the tough, but level-headed leader of the greasers, each of whom was played by fresh-faced talent, destined to become today’s stars. His performance as the leader was effortless and natural every step of the way, even though his character is not always on screen.
Then came “Uncommon Valor” opposite Gene Hackman and “Grandview U.S.A.” featuring Jamie Lee Curtis, which is a hidden gem that America has not yet discovered. After that, came the massive “Red Dawn” opposite Charlie Sheen and C. Thomas Howell (for the third time). The film was designed around the concept of Russia taking over America and the young people (Wolverines) left to fight it. It was a scary “what if” that delivered on all aspects of action and human drama.
TV work on “North and South” books one and two and the Steven Spielberg-produced series “Amazing Stories” followed, serving as the start of how America became acquainted with Swayze. But his best work on for television came later, when he had a male stripper dance-off with Chris Farley on “Saturday Night Live” for a sketch that still holds up hysterically today.
The next series of films, however, is what made him a household name, kicking off with “Dirty Dancing” where he played Johnny Castle. He followed that with a completely opposite genre for guys who love movies, “Road House” and then the supernatural tearjerker “Ghost,” opposite the beautiful Demi Moore. This impressive array of work is filled with spectacles that have all become cherished classics, earning him a spot as a Hollywood icon.
“Point Break” with Keanu Reeves is one of the best photographed and shot action pictures in the genre. Principal scenes are shot while skydiving or surfing with those on land including many high-speed chase scenes. An adrenaline rush from start to finish, it is one film that manages to constantly entertain.
His last good film was “11:14,” in which he played a father trying to hide the victims that his daughter might have killed. Slowly, the pieces come together in this unique motion picture.
His final work was for A & E’s “The Beast,” which is a series that showed a lot of promise and even though he was sick, he still performed many of the stunts required (a real man’s man that never quit).
Swayze cherished his fans and in the end, they cherished him just as much. Seeing him on television one last time proved to be a nice exit for the former star as the show got solid ratings and proved that he was still every bit a man — fighting for his life as he was, while defending his country in “Red Dawn” or his own turf in “The Outsiders.”
Underrated due to his good looks, Swayze is still one of the best on-screen talents of his time, a man that during his prime was loved by millions of women and envied by millions of men.
Throughout that time however, he gave his heart to his loving wife and focused on his craft and his family- a lesson to the rest of Hollywood hunks who lack the poise and civility a man like Swayze possessed throughout his career and will always be remembered for.
Patrick Hickey Jr. and Olga Privman contributed to this article.