Wed, Sep 16, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Patrick Swayze dies at age 57 of pancreatic cancer

REUTERS AND AP , LOS ANGELES

Actor Patrick Swayze, whose turn as a smoldering dance instructor in Dirty Dancing made him one of the iconic film stars of the 1980s, died on Monday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.

Swayze, an actor and dancer who cemented his status as sex symbol opposite Demi Moore in the 1990 romance Ghost, died at his home.

“Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months,” publicist Annett Wolf said.

Swayze became one of Hollywood’s top stars with 1987’s Dirty Dancing, which defied Hollywood expectations to become one of the most-watched movies of all time.

The Texas-born actor played the swaggering dance instructor Johnny Castle in the film opposite Jennifer Grey’s sheltered teenager Frances “Baby” Houseman, who becomes smitten with him while on vacation at a New York resort in the 1960s.

Swayze was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of the disease, in January last year. He said at the time that the cancer had already spread to his liver.

But he vowed to fight the disease and had treatment with an experimental drug, surprising Hollywood by filming a new detective series for television called The Beast in which he played the grueling lead role.

The series was broadcast earlier this year.

“I think everybody thought I was out of my mind ... thinking I’m gonna pull off a TV show,” Swayze said in an interview last January, adding that he was scared and angry at his diagnosis.

Swayze was working on a memoir with his wife of more than 30 years, Lisa Niemi, earlier this year.

Swayze was born in 1952 in Houston, the son of champion rodeo cowboy Jesse Swayze and choreographer Patsy Swayze, whose films include Urban Cowboy.

He was drawn to dance and theater, performing with the Feld, Joffrey and Harkness Ballets and appearing on Broadway as Danny Zuko in Grease.

He turned to acting in 1978 after a series of injuries.

Off-screen, he was an avid conservationist who was moved by his time in Africa to shine a light on “man’s greed and absolute unwillingness to operate according to Mother Nature’s laws,” he said in 2004.

Swayze was married since 1975 to Niemi, a fellow dancer who took lessons with his mother; they met when he was 19 and she was 15. A licensed pilot, Niemi would fly her husband from Los Angeles to Northern California for treatment at Stanford University Medical Center.

Dirty Dancing, which was made for a modest budget and almost scrapped by its studio, became a massive box-office hit, earning Golden Globe nominations for both stars and spawning the Oscar-winning hit single (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.

Producers did not have high hopes for the film, but it reaped US$64 million at the US box office and US$214 million worldwide.

Swayze co-wrote and performed the song She’s Like the Wind for the movie’s soundtrack, which went to No. 3 on the pop music charts.

The film remains widely popular more than two decades later and recently spawned a stage musical version.

In 1990, Ghost was an even bigger hit, with a domestic box office take of more than US$217 million and US$505 million around the world.

Swayze starred as Demi Moore’s deceased lover, Sam, in the tear-jerker romance, which was nominated for a best film Academy Award.

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