Patrick Swayze dead at 57

Actor, dancer and Eighties heart throb succumbs to pancreatic cancer.

by Jennie Kermode

“I keep my heart and my soul and my spirit open to miracles,” said Patrick Swayze just a year ago. But no last-minute escape was to be found, and the real miracle was that he did so much with the time he had.

The massively popular actor, who in 1991 was called 'the sexiest man alive', was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January last year and underwent extensive treatment. At first the prognosis looked good - it's a disease which can be very variable - but a year later it spread to his liver and he knew he was unlikely to survive. The disease was particularly difficult for him because it caused extensive muscle wasting and he lost the ability to dance which had been the hallmark of his career. He acknowledged it probably 'had something to do with' his his chain smoking, a habit he persisted with up until the end.

Swayze was a man who loved life, and who threw himself into everything he did. He first rose to stardom as the older dancer who teaches a shy Jennifer Grey to move and to feel good about herself in Eighties teen hit Dirty Dancing, but he deliberately toned down his own moves for the film, saying that he wanted to portray a style realistic for a character who had learned his skills on the streets. The DVD Swayze Dancing is the thing to look for if you want to see him at his best, effortlessly graceful.

Later in his career, anxious to show what he could do as an actor as well as as a dancer, Swayze diversified. He scored another big hit with romantic drama Ghost, in which he played the dead husband of Demi Moore and which included a potter's wheel scene still talked about to this day. Yet he wasn't obsessed with clinging to the conventional heart throb image and some of his most interesting work was as a vivacious New York drag queen in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. He became a surfing legend in iconic action flick Point Break, alongside Keanu Reeves, and he even found time to appear in a version of King Solomon's Mines.

Swayze worked right up until the end, continuing to appear in popular TV show The Beast. He died yesterday with his family at his side and is survived by his wife Lisa and mother Patsy, the woman who coached him to stardom.

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