In Death, Praising Patrick Swayze's Dignity and Dancing

Mourners for the deceased actor focus on his two-decade old heartthrob roles, and his graceful decline in the face of cancer.

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Patrick Swayze, claimed by pancreatic cancer after a public battle that outlasted doctors' prognoses, is being tenderly remembered by fans of his dancing and gentle romantic roles. Swayze's death had been expected since January 2008, and was prematurely declared in May of this year. An unusually sympathetic star, if one little seen in recent years, he has inspired tributes to his physical gifts, his dignity in the face of cancer, his fight against being typecast, and by some for his more off-beat roles, from playing a pederast in "Donnie Darko" to a Communism-fighting teen in "Red Dawn."

  • Cast as the Noble Sort, writes Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times. "Even when society had labeled him a bad guy, when anger and outrage came it was because someone else had stepped over a line and it was up to him to make things right, as he did as a bouncer-drifter in the gritty 1989 flick 'Road House.' It was that decency and dignity, along with that defiance, that he would bring to his final challenge as he fought the pancreatic cancer that would fell him at 57, too soon."
  • Struggled with the 'Alienation of Fame,' writes Valerie J. Nelson, also in the Los Angeles Times. "'The loneliness of fame' was a theme to which he often returned, cautioning in Playboy in 1992: Fame can make 'you feel you've somehow pulled off an enormous hoax and that your whole life is a lie. All the hype wound up making me cynical, and I turned into a not-very-pretty drunk.'"
  • Less a Great Actor Than an Icon, writes Susan Wloszczyna in USA Today.  "Truth be told, he was never a great actor if measured by Olivier standards. But he could be awfully good in some pretty ridiculous roles and never took himself too seriously...He also had a kind of easygoing cool that can't be bought. Even in 2001's Donnie Darko, as a self-help guru and a closeted pedophile, his senior status lent a cheesy legitimacy to the dark trip into the far-out."
  • Even for Non-Fans, a Heroic Final Year, suggests Anita Gates in the New York Times. "He even went through with plans to star in 'The Beast,' a drama series for A&E. He filmed a complete season while undergoing treatment. Mr. Swayze insisted on continuing with the series. 'How do you nurture a positive attitude when all the statistics say you're a dead man?' he told The New York Times last October. 'You go to work.'"
  • Masculine Dancer, 'Real Cowboy,' says Jennifer Gray, co-star with Swayze in Dirty Dancing in a statement reported by ABC. "Patrick was a rare and beautiful combination of raw masculinity and amazing grace. Gorgeous and strong, he was a real cowboy with a tender heart. He was fearless and insisted on always doing his own stunts, so it was not surprising to me that the war he waged on his cancer was so courageous and dignified."
  • Star of 'Good-Bad' Movies, writes Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "[H]e carved a unique niche in what might be called good-bad movies: films enjoyable despite their preposterousness. Flicks such as Road House (as a bar bouncer with a Ph.D!). And To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (as Vida Boheme, majestic drag queen). And the extravagantly entertaining Point Break (as Bodhi, koan-spouting skydiver/surfer/ringmaster of countercultural bank robbers)."
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