A Familiar Comfort: Remembering Patrick Swayze Commentator Linda Holmes was a teenager when she first saw Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. Like most 16-year-old girls of her time, she fell in love. Holmes says Swayze delivered the easy familiarity of a good movie star in both Dirty Dancing and Ghost. Swayze kept her company. Holmes says he'll be missed.
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A Familiar Comfort: Remembering Patrick Swayze

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A Familiar Comfort: Remembering Patrick Swayze

A Familiar Comfort: Remembering Patrick Swayze

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Patrick Swayze's biggest movie moments, "Dirty Dancing" and "Ghost," came about two decades ago, but those films and other Swayze movies still entertain viewers. Patrick Swayze died yesterday at age 57.

Linda Holmes writes NPR's entertainment blog, Monkey See, and she's one of many who remember him fondly.

LINDA HOLMES: I was 16 when "Dirty Dancing" came out. In the film, Johnny, Patrick Swayze's character, famously says of his love: Nobody puts Baby in a corner. It's a really good line because when you're 16, somebody is always trying to put you in a corner. And it's not so bad to fantasize about Patrick Swayze teaching you how to dance.

(Soundbite of movie, "Dirty Dancing")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PATRICK SWAYZE (Actor): (as Johnny Castle): Don't put your heel down.

Ms. JENNIFER GREY (Actress): (as Frances "Baby" Houseman) I didn't. I…

Mr. SWAYZE: (as Johnny Castle) Just stay on the toe.

Just stay on the toe. Just listen to me. The steps aren't enough. Feel the music.

HOLMES: So it may be an accident of timing that I was so attached to Swayze, his death yesterday hit surprisingly hard. I haven't watched him in anything new in years. He's not in any of my very favorite movies. Why does this seem so crushingly sad?

I admired the way he kept working even after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I admired the fact that he stayed married to the same lady from 1975 until his death. I admired his sense of humor, which he showed off in a famous sketch on "Saturday Night Live," where he and Chris Farley played aspiring exotic dancers.

But what stands out the most is just how much time I've spent watching the guy. Like many leading men, Swayze made both fighting movies and kissing movies. Some remember the fighting movies, like "Road House" and "Point Break." But I am who I am, and I do not deny, for me, it is the kissing movies, "Ghost" and "Dirty Dancing."

Between those two, I've seen him on screen a preposterous number of times, not usually giving the films my full attention or studying them like I would with something more serious. But with a cup of tea and a blanket on the first really cold day of the fall, or late at night when you can't sleep, you should be so lucky as to find "Dirty Dancing" on television.

Of course, if you're clutching a box of tissues and don't mind pondering your mortality, there's "Ghost," which was actually nominated for Best Picture. It hasn't aged well, with the little white lights leading Swayze off into heaven's cornfield and the slithery shadows dragging the bad guys to their undesirable hereafter.

It's hokey, and it's overwrought, and the potter's wheel love scene has been parodied so many times that trying to appreciate its romantic swoon is nearly impossible, but "Ghost" is also oddly lovely in places - tragic and weepy and utterly Hollywood in every way. There's no irony, just an unapologetic romantic melodrama; and when you've seen enough dumb-guy comedies and psychopath thrillers and disastrous attempts at boy-girl banter, that can sound pretty good.

(Soundbite of movie, "Ghost")

(Soundbite of song, "Unchained Melody")

Ms. DEMI MOORE (Actress): (as Molly Jensen) what's the matter?

Mr. SWAYZE: (as Sam Wheat) It's like whenever anything good in my life happens, I'm just afraid I'm going to lose it.

HOLMES: Actors who die with a closet full of awards have achieved one thing, but actors who leave behind that odd feeling that something has happened to someone who has kept you company have achieved something different. Making things that are beloved certainly isn't everything, but it is something, and Patrick Swayze made things that were beloved broadly and without cynicism.

"Dirty Dancing" and "Ghost" will both be on cable this weekend. You might want to stock up on tissues and tea.

(Soundbite of song, "Love Man")

Mr. OTIS REDDING (Singer/Songwriter): (Singing) I'm a Love Man, call me the Love Man.

BLOCK: Linda Holmes offers commentary and criticism on the npr.org entertainment blog Monkey See.

(Soundbite of song, "Love Man")

Mr. REDDING: (Singing) Six feet one weigh 210. A long hair…

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