"Dirty Dancing" Star Patrick Swayze Dead at 57

By Caitlin Millat and DANIEL MACHT
|  Tuesday, Sep 15, 2009  |  Updated 10:32 AM CDT
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2009 in Memoriam

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Actor and dancer Patrick Swayze passed away from pancreatic cancer on Monday, Sept. 14. He was 57-years-old.

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Beloved actor Patrick Swayze, the star of romance movie classics "Dirty Dancing" and "Ghost," died surrounded by family at the age of 57 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, his publicist said Monday night. 

"Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months," publicist Annett Wolff said in a statement.

Swayze was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2008 and publicly told fans in March about his illness, a particularly deadly form of cancer.

The actor's health declined since the diagnosis and during his filming of his A&E series "The Beast," which aired last year. He continued working despite his illness and openly spoke about his battle with cancer while he promoted the show.

He also confessed that he decided not to use painkilling drugs during filming because it would've tainted his performance in the series.

In his final months, Swayze complained that "reckless reporting" that he was near death was tantamount to "emotional cruelty...when life was so precious," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Swayze broke onto the acting scene as a Broadway star, but shot to fame on film as bad boy Johnny Castle in teen flick "Dirty Dancing" opposite Jennifer Grey.

"When I think of him, I think of being in his arms when we were kids, dancing, practicing the lift in the freezing lake, having a blast doing this tiny little movie we thought no one would ever see," Grey said in a statement.

"Patrick was a rare and beautiful combination of raw masculinity and amazing grace. My heart goes out to his wife and childhood sweetheart, Lisa Niemi, to his mom, Patsy, and to the rest of their family."

The actor was nominated for three Golden Globes throughout his storied career.

Doctors told Swayze during their diagnosis that he might only live for a short while -- but he maintained his optimism despite the grim outlook.

"I want to last until they find a cure, which means I'd better get a fire under it," he told Barbara Walters earlier this year.

"I'd say five years is pretty wishful thinking," he said then. "Two years seems likely if you're going to believe statistics."

Swayze also starred in hit films like "Road House," "The Outsiders," and "Ghost," the hit romance that saw him play a spirit who haunted on-screen wife Demi Moore.

Moore took to her Twitter feed late Monday to write: "Patrick you are loved by so many and your light will forever shine in all of our lives."

In another post a few minutes later, Moore referenced the characters both played on "Ghost."

"And in the words of Sam to Molly. 'It's amazing Molly. The love inside, you take it with you,'" she Tweeted. "I love and will miss you Patrick."  

Swayze returned to the stage in 2003, starring in "Chicago" on Broadway, and in 2006 sang in the musical "Guys and Dolls" in London.

He's survived by wife Niemi, who he married in 1975. The couple, who met when Swayze was 19 and Niemi was 15, never had children.

Swayze was treated for the cancer at Stanford University Medical Center, where he would fly to from his home in Los Angeles.

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