Patrick Swayze: the time of his life

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Patrick Swayze enjoyed a long and varied career - but it was an 80s B-movie that made him famous.

Skatetown, USA gave 27-year-old Swayze his first crack at the big time - but the roller disco-inspired feature film failed to get the critics swooning.

They took more notice of the 1983 gang tale The Outsiders where Swayze played Darrel Curtis, with Rob Lowe and C Thomas Howell as his brothers.

He went on to star as Orry Main in the 1985 American Civil War drama North and South.

But Swayze had little reason to believe a low-budget boy-meets-girl film about dancing would change his luck. He was wrong.

In 1986 he began filming Dirty Dancing - and it was to make him a star.

Swayze said he did not consider it his breakthrough movie but instead that it launched his career into "hyperspace".

The film, released in 1987 to poor reviews, charts the coming of age of a young debutante rebelling against her father while the family enjoys a holiday at the 1960s American equivalent of Butlins.

The story centred on 17-year-old New Yorker Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey) who develops a crush on the resort's dance instructor Johnny Castle (Swayze), part of the working-class entertainment staff.

As plotlines go Dirty Dancing's was thin - but it ended with Baby and Castle performing together. And the famous lift - Swayze held Grey above his head - inspired a thousand imitations, all but a few unsuccessful.

The critics were not sure but the public - and the blossoming teenage market - adored it.

Although not initially a big screen hit, Dirty Dancing was the first massive VHS success. It was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video and Swayze was suddenly a megastar.

Dirty Dancing, which cost only five million dollars to make, has, to date, grossed more than 213,954,274 dollars worldwide.

And although the plot, script and acting were scoffed at by the film media's elite, it did bag an Oscar for Best Original Song and even today no wedding reception is complete without "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" and a drunken attempt at that lift.

Next for Swayze were the tough guy roles and Next of Kin and Road House followed - as did much tittering and finger pointing from those 'I told you so' critics. Neither were a success and Swayze may have thought to himself that he was back where he started.

But it was another romantic role that cemented his place in Hollywood history.

Both he and co-star Demi Moore needed a major hit - the memory of Dirty Dancing was fading and Moore, who had promised much as a young actress in St Elmo's Fire, had hardly troubled the box office.

Then came 1990 and Ghost.

Sam Wheat (Swayze) and girlfriend Molly Jensen (Moore) are returning from a night out in New York City when a street thug attempts to rob the pair. Wheat is shot dead. But instead of doing the decent thing and heading off to the afterlife he is tasked with unravelling a bizarre plot involving money laundering by a co-worker - as a ghost. And all the while he must protect Jensen from the scheming colleague.

As a ghost he manages to save the day and finally tell Jensen he loves her - something he had never done while alive.

The film was loved by the cinema-going public and won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay as well as a nomination for Best Picture. Swayze and Moore were suddenly Hollywood's hottest stuff.

Swayze decided to drop his Mr Nice Guy persona again when he starred as Bodhi, the charismatic leader of a gang of bank-robbing surfers, in the well received Point Break.

The actor insisted on doing many of his own stunts and cracked several ribs while surfing but the film's aerial jump instructor said he was a natural at skydiving.

Swayze had already earned three Golden Globe nominations - for Dirty Dancing and Ghost - and he took a third for his portrayal of drag queen Vida Boheme in 1995's To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.

The actor took another unusual turn when he appeared in Donnie Darko - the cult 2001 psychological thriller - as a local celebrity who is exposed as a paedophile.

But despite his efforts to throw off the role of romantic lead, Swayze will be best remembered by film fans as the man who made hearts melt in Dirty Dancing and Ghost.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...