x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The dirty dancer who smouldered

He had the rugged cowboy looks. He had the best one-liners. He could sing. And he could move like a dream.

Patrick Swayze went from Broadway dancer to Hollywood star.
Patrick Swayze went from Broadway dancer to Hollywood star.

He had the rugged cowboy looks. He had the best one-liners. He could sing. And he could move like a dream. Dirty Dancing, the film that made his name in the 1980s, may not have received much critical acclaim, but audiences loved it. Patrick Swayze, as its smouldering lead character, dance instructor Johnny Castle, playing opposite Jennifer Grey's sheltered rich girl "Baby", became a star overnight. The film reaped more than $300m (Dh1.1bn) worldwide. It spawned a television series, stage show, computer game and a less successful sequel.

More than a decade later, audiences wept as the ghost of Swayze's murdered Sam Wheat kept watch over his potter girlfriend, played by Demi Moore, in the 1990 box office hit, Ghost. Swayze himself admitted being moved to tears reading through the script. Born in 1952, Swayze, one of four children, learnt his steps at his mother's dance school in Houston, Texas. An accomplished ice-skater and all round sportsman, he toured America as Prince Charming with the Disney on Parade show. He attended Harkness and Joffrey ballet schools in New York before making his acting debut playing Danny Zuko in a Broadway production of the musical Grease. A few unremarkable appearances on film followed before his 1985 appearance as a Confederate officer in the television mini-series North and South, set in the American civil war, brought him to the attention of casting agents.

Despite starring in a number of movies in the 1990s, including Point Break and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, Swayze was never at ease with celebrity. He lapsed into alcoholism after the death of his father and suicide of a sister and retreated increasingly to ranches he owned in California and New Mexico, with his wife, childhood sweetheart Lisa Niemi. He reappeared sporadically, playing a troubling motivational speaker in Donnie Darko, and appearing on Broadway in the musical Chicago, but his time in the limelight was over. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2008, he continued shooting the television series The Beast while undergoing various pioneering treatments.

He is survived by his wife. Born August 18, 1952. Died September 15. * The National