I’ll have you know I had a nightmare a couple of days ago where it was Christmas Eve and I still hadn’t finished the Summer of Swayze. CLEARLY I have bit off more than I can chew. I also think I have absolutely no concept of time anymore (thanks, 2020) and that has set me up for failure.
Anyway, I actually did watch Too Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. But then I was like “wow there’s a lot to unpack here. And unpack it, I never did. I think it’s best summed up by saying it’s very of its time. And in 1995 I think it was good to have a feature film portrayal of these characters as whole, sympathetic people with a full range of complicated emotions (a.k.a. not caricatures or the butt of the joke).
But I’m not exactly sure what the movie was trying to be. These characters describe themselves as drag queens but they’re in drag 100% of the time and even take a cross-country road trip through areas where it would be much safer to dress as a cis man if, in fact, you were a cis man. So I suppose I question the premise a little bit. I also question the casting (since the main actors are all cis men). But I do recognize that this movie was released a mere two years after And the Band Played On, a television movie about the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic that took a daunting six years to get made. So yes, I do think there’s hopefully some social good that came from three action star types playing drag queens.
Here are a few articles that analyze this way better than I ever could:
Thankfully, we’ve largely moved past this casting now and so this film feels very much like a museum piece. And I’m grateful for that because I’d also like Dirty Dancing to feel like a museum piece, but unfortunately it still feels very relevant to today’s social issues.
Speaking of Dirty Dancing, I’m actually going to wrap up the last bit of the Summer of Swayze (lol) with my thoughts on Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights which is simply that it is EXTREMELY UNDERRATED. And no I haven’t seen it since 2007 or so but I loved it very much at the time and based on these clips below, still do.
This movie is great if you don’t think about the plot. At all. Just don’t think about the plot at all!
I mostly succeeded in doing this until a giantttt glaring hole presented itself near the film’s climax. In which, Keanu Reeves’s Johnny Utah, having already blown his cover by pursuing his friend-turned-bank-robber-perps in his plain clothes and normal ass face, some how decides to still join them on a sky-dive in order to — what — not blow his cover? — wtf I don’t know. That’s the point where I could no longer make the movie make sense at all.
However, I will say it’s so, so nice to see Patrick Swayze playing against type and killing it. (Also has his hair ever looked better?) Furthermore, this was Keanu’s first action movie for which I think we can all count ourselves eternally grateful.
Plus, let’s be honest, this movie is all about the vibes, not the plot. It introduced me to this really great early Sheryl Crowe song and reminded me that I find Lori Petty absolutely charming. I also very much enjoyed Patrick Swayze’s performance. His character made sense even when the plot didn’t, which I think deserves a whole ton of credit.
Other things I would be remiss for not mentioning: Red Hot Chili Peppers’s Anthony Kiedis makes a cameo as a member of a surfer gang that beats the crap out of Keanu.
And also Ratt (a band I would like to go on record and say I do not like) recorded the final song, which was the last featuring their original lineup. The song is fine, I guess. Feels like a Red Hot Chili Peppers song would have been better though…
More importantly, a number of bars have taken inspiration from the film:
Moving Sidewalk (permanently closed) had several Point Break themed cocktails. You may not be able to order one from the bar anymore, but you could try recreating your own “Lawyers Don’t Surf,” which Eater Houston tells me is a “mix of Rye Whiskey, Aperitif wine and Rhubarb Amaro with a salty sea water twist via celery salt tincture.”
Okay, up next is To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. This will be a first time watch for me. I’m definitely going to have to do my research on that one! I didn’t really do research on this one. All that trivia came from the IMDB trivia page. Oh and I should mention that the IMDB trivia also mentioned that Keanu Reeves learned how to surf in Hawaii after being cast in this role. And Swayze did a substantial number of his own stunts (including an honest to God sky dive). Because of course he did.
This movie is truly a classic. The cast is phenomenal. The plot is captivating. And dare I say feminist? I mean yeah, technically Patrick Swayze’s “unfinished business” is that he must save Demi Moore from danger and stop his murderer from harming her too in pursuit of access to laundered drug money (Oops sorry, spoiler alert. But come on this movie has been out for 31 one years so that’s on you.) However, I would argue that the movie is really about overcoming his fragile masculinity, which held him back in life and threatens to prevent him from achieving his ghostly goals but damn he is resourceful and with the help of a subway ghost and Oda Mae Brown he manages to save the day and move on to the afterlife in one fell swoop! Talk about inspiring!
It also contains one of the sexiest (and most parodied) scenes without actually involving sex because Patrick Swayze is just that good. And it was filmed on location in New York. Honestly, this movie checks all the boxes for me. I will say that I watched this back to back with Point Break as Hurricane/Tropical Storm Henri pelted New York City with rain and I was trapped inside eating dinner roles and trying to entertain myself. Therefore, my thoughts are kind of blending together and you’ll probably get shorter recaps of both of these because of it.
But honestly, I don’t have too many opinions on this one aside from the fact that I love it. I mean, find me one person on this planet who doesn’t love Ghost? It’s especially comforting after Patrick Swayze’s death. It’s an overwhelmingly positive feeling about humanity — like aside from the plot about the drug money laundering and the murder. But like. It’s an overwhelmingly positive feeling about humanity’s ability to spiritually overcome a drug money laundering, murdering kind of world, you know?
Idk honestly I’m going to stop here because I am blessed to inform you that this movie is available in its entirety, for free, no-ads, on YouTube Movies. It’s legit. It’s not a lowkey ripoff. 2021 threw us a break and made Ghost free for everyone on YouTube. You’re gonna have to click that little “watch on YouTube” button in the bottom cause I’m definitely not allowed to embed a two-hour long video. But otherwise, you should be good to go. Bye!
I like RoadHouse. I think there’s something here for everyone. In fact, allow me to quote myself from 2015: “I feel like this movie is kind of like Footloose but with violence instead of dancing. It’s like a cool dude goes to a weird little town and makes life better.” Expanding upon that during my second watch of the film I’d also add that it has elements of Dirty Dancing, mostly because Patrick Swayze seduced his love interest in each film with a slow dance to “These Arms Of Mine.”
Here’s the trailer which tells you absolutely everything you need to know about the plot — as in — the entire plot:
The film’s soundtrack is largely provided by The Jeff Healey Band. But Patrick Swayze has a writing credit for one of the two songs he performs for the film’s soundtrack:
And here’s the song he didn’t write but also performs, which I think suits his voice better:
According to Fast-Rewind, Patrick Swayze said the following about his decision to take the role of Dalton: “The reason I did Roadhouse, which the guys love, was because I wanted people to see … one time … the level of fight skills that I’ve developed though being a martial artist and a weapons expert since I was real little,” Swayze says. “We did all those fights full contact, except for the face.”
As much as I appreciate Swayze’s dancing and, yes, skating. Road House gave me a new appreciation for his physical acting abilities. Other than that, I’m not really sure what to say about the movie because it is a visual experience. And honestly, it’s really nice to see one ripped and chill white dude take on a bunch of angry white dudes and put them in their place. Also, I really like that his love interest is a doctor because literally everyone else in the movie is obsessed with violence. So. Yeah. It’s a little on the nose. But I still like it.
Stay tuned next week for (maybe my favorite Patrick Swayze movie), Ghost.
I have to be honest. I kind of struggled with this one! I grew up on this movie, so it felt weird to turn a critically eye on it. And once I did, it felt difficult to know what to say about it. On the one hand, we have a light-hearted rom-com that’s trying to convince us we’re at a summer resort in the 1960’s despite all that 1980’s hair. On the other hand, absolutely none of the action in this movie would be happening if not for an illegal abortion. Baked into that is class struggle, coming of age, toxic masculinity, and the double edged sword of the sexual revolution (see previous list item regarding toxic masculinity). So frankly, I didn’t know where to start.
Let’s start with a fun fact about the music before we get into the hard-hitting family/class/abortion drama subject matter: According to The Movies That Made Us, the scriptwriter, Eleanor Bergstein, was dead-set on using music from the early 60’s that she hand picked. The budget was so tight that most of it went to acquiring the music rights. But honestly, thank God they did or we would never have had this gem:
I also learned in The Movies That Made Us that this tight budget presented Patrick Swayze with the opportunity to approach the film’s creators with “She’s Like The Wind.” Originally recorded for Grandview, U.S.A, the song went unused until it was included on Dirty Dancing‘s soundtrack.
Anyway, not to burst your “Time of My Life” or “She’s Like The Wind” bubble, but “Hungry Eyes” is the best song on the soundtrack.
I suppose the above scene is a good segue back into the subject matter of the film. Frances “Baby” Houseman is at a summer resort with her parents and sister when she clandestinely borrows money from her doctor father to pay for featured dancer, Penny, to have an abortion. Baby will also fill in for Penny during the procedure and her post-op recovery time. Oh and this is 1963 so things don’t go so well during the procedure.
Now I’m sure you’re expecting a better recap from me, and frankly I was too, but I can’t afford another streaming service, and I haven’t seen this movie in a long time. So I relied on YouTube clips. My sincerest apologies.
Here’s a clip of Robbie explaining to Baby why he is unwilling to help Penny after he slept with her. Robbie is working as a waiter but it’s just a summer job to him. He’s from a wealthy family and attends Harvard.
Anyway, Robbie’s a real Ayn Rand kind of guy and he doesn’t think Penny matters. (He’s also probably a narcissist who doesn’t think anyone counts but suffice it to say he’d be a little more helpful if knocked someone of his social status up.
Robbie’s social status is, of course, largely why Baby’s sister, Lisa, thinks he is a good catch. And failing to recognize the universal symbol for, “someone is having sex in here,” Lisa pushes right past that towel on Robbie’s doorknob and finds out who he really is the hard way. (This clip is in Italian. But. You get it.)
Of course, Robbie is the fu**boi villian of this movie, but he’s really a metaphor for a larger point the film’s making. Some people have options and some people don’t. And the decisions people make can look very different and have wildly different repercussions when they don’t have any options.
And I guess that’s what made me super sad about all of this and perhaps reluctant to write this post. I’ve seen this movie numerous times over the past twenty-years or so and it’s never felt more relevant than it does today, which is weird because you’d think we’d learn from history (but time and again, I suppose, we don’t). In 1963, abortion was illegal for everyone, though maybe people like Lisa or Baby could have found a more reputable doctor to help them out quietly than Penny could have. Nowadays, I’ve found myself increasingly concerned that our supreme court could revert abortion laws back to the early 70’s when some states allowed abortion and others didn’t.
Regardless of how you feel about abortion, federal abortion laws are an equalizer. Overturning Roe vs. Wade won’t stop abortions, it will just stop safe abortions for people who can’t afford to go somewhere safe to get one…you know the same people who can’t really afford to have a child or even afford the pre-natal care that it would take to safely have a child and place it with a family for adoption. It’s never the people like Lisa and Baby who loose access to abortion (pretending for a moment they don’t all live in New York already). It’s the people like Penny who loose access because they don’t have the means or the opportunity.
And I’m anticipating all of the negative comments from random people coming across this post which I imagine will contain moral arguments levied mostly against Penny. To which I can only say, nothing happens to Robbie. They make the same decision and there’s no repercussion for Robbie. There’s no moral judgment. Doesn’t that bother you? It really bothers me.
In this class struggle of the wealthy and the working class, it’s not only Penny who suffers. We see this arc with Johnny’s character too. He’s repeatedly used by the women who visit Kellerman’s, who he finds sophisticated and interesting, only to find that they’re using him as an easy lay because he isn’t the kind of person they’d take seriously anyway. Just horrible.
Now I’m kind of telling this story out of order, but you’ll see from the clips number below that Penny’s botched abortion happens prior to the clip above. And this is, of course, when Baby’s wonderful father Jerry Orbach gets involved. Even though he doesn’t personally agree with abortion, he provides Penny with free and diligent medical care. (I’ll just list this as a great option that our country could offer if we actually wanted to reduce abortions for everyone.)
Anyway, the fact that Baby lied to her father originally to get money for Penny — which to be fair it makes complete sense her father is angry about this — eventually comes to light after she provides an alibi for Johnny when he is accused of stealing wallets at Kellerman’s.
And this brings us to the most beautiful scene in the movie, Baby’s heart-to-heart with her father.
In the end, Johnny is fired anyway. But he crashes the end of the season show to perform the final dance as he always does, this time with Baby and his own choreography. And Baby’s father apologies for accusing Johnny of being the creep who knocked up Penny and then left her all alone to handle it. Still no repercussions for Robbie though…which may be the most timeless message of all. *Sigh*
Stay tuned for Road House, which I remember having lighter subject matter — hopefully, my memory is correct on that one!
The 1984 film Red Dawn paired Patrick Swayze opposite his co-star from The Outsiders, C. Thomas Howell, and future Dirty Dancing co-star, Jennifer Grey. Joined by Lea Thompson and Charlie Sheen, the cast plays a group of teens in a Cold War era adventure-film envisioning a Soviet land invasion of the midwest.
Prepping for this post was my very first time watching Red Dawn. Before that my only exposure came from the wonderful VH1 Anthology Series I Love The 80’s 3-D. (They’re all good but I might actually be partial to I Love the 80’s Strikes Back).
Unfortunately, I Love The 80’s 3-D made this movie look a lot more fun that it really is. Suffice it to say, I regret having to watch this one and not Skatetown, U.S.A. However, Red Dawn is pretty important in the development of Patrick Swayze’s career and, even though I think it’s fair to say I absolutely hated it, I still feel like it wouldn’t be right to skip this.
Just like in The Outsiders, Patrick is still carrying that Big Dad Energy in Red Dawn. He’s playing the slightly older brother of a high-school senior-aged Charlie Sheen, even though in real life Patrick Swayze was born a whole thirteen years before Charlie Sheen. When Soviet and Cuban forces invade their small Colorado town (instead of say, a more pivotal strong-hold for reasons that make absolutely no sense when scrutinized) by parachuting into their schoolyard (please, don’t pay attention to any logic here), the two brothers and a bunch of teens (including C. Thomas Howell and a few other boys I didn’t recognize) head for the hills (or rather, mountains) to wait out the attack.
When their parents are either killed or placed in re-education camps, the teens and Swayze quickly transition from “wait it out” mode into “paramilitary” mode, employing their high school mascot (Wolverines!) as their rallying cry. So here’s where I’ll pause and say that, aside from the clunky plot, the biggest problem with this movie is that it feels like watching two straight hours of propaganda. The next biggest problem is that when they finally introduce a couple of female characters (played by Jennifer Grey and Lea Thompson), it kind of feels like the two women are acting out some Rambo version of Nell while the guys exist in the Rambo version of The Goonies — I’m borrowing this phrase from “Fast-Rewind” — which is to say that the guys have a lot more character development and fairly good scenes while the women are usually left with very little dialogue and a murky backstory.
It’s almost like the movie wanted to be a little “girl power” wit them because Lea Thompson’s character goes off on Charlie Sheen’s character when he tells her to “make herself useful” with the dishes and both women are very capable paramilitary members…but…who are these women? Aside from knowing their grandpa asked Patrick Swayze to take them up into the mountains because they were being harassed by the invading troops, I literally know nothing about them. Even with the guys I can’t remember (because I don’t recognize them from any other movies), I know approximately how old they are, where they went to school, and how they feel about their families. Heck, I even know one of them is the student body president.
So let’s talk about what the movie did well (because it’s not all bad). Spoilers abound in this next part:
-Jennifer Grey’s physical acting was put to good use in this movie in a way that I maybe should have expected having seen Dirty Dancing but didn’t.
-Both Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen have fully developed characters and a ton of highly emotional scenes that they handled incredibly well. Even when the plot was disjointed, I found them both to be very believable.
–Harry Dean Stanton was around for a little while as the father to our protagonist brothers. It’s always good to see him. He always does a good job. He did play a lot of dad’s didn’t he? Unfortunately, in this movie he has some of the corniest dialogue ever written.
-Powers Boothe played an American pilot and, like all Powers Boothe appearances, it’s impossible to take your eyes off him.
-We got a cameo from Coach Reilly from The Mighty Ducks and Judd Omen from Dune and, at some point or another, practically every 70’s or 80’s TV Mystery show you’ve ever seen.
-I wasn’t really sure what C. Thomas Howell was going for at first or if he would have much of a character. I know he’s a good actor, but like I said this script isn’t really doing anyone any favors. That said, I found his performance to be one of the most affecting in the film. He starts off as an innocent and tender-hearted teen, who gradually becomes hardened and hollowed out as he spends more time as a paramilitary member until he is left with almost no sense of morality by the end of the film. He’s usually doing this with very little dialogue, which I cannot imagine is easy to do. I’m guessing he’s about sixteen or so in the film, so about two years younger than an eighteen year old soldier. But I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching the slow development of P.T.S.D. in the making, which was possibly the hardest part to watch at times.
-While the casting of Superfly‘s Ron O’Neal (who as far as my research can tell was not Latino) as Cuban Commander Bella is problematic for a number of reasons, the script at least afford itself a little bit of nuance FINALLY when we see Bella struggle (as a former paramilitary member himself) with his new role in a totalitarian takeover without populist support. He also gives Swayze and a mortally wounded Sheen safe passage (even though they’re doomed anyway). However, this collective 90 or so seconds is a welcome reprieve in an otherwise jingoistic (with the absolute broadest of brushstrokes)film.
-This movie is beautiful. Yes, it’s incredibly painful and depressing to watch for two very long hours, but the cinematography is genuinely gorgeous. (FYI the locations are Nevada not Colorado).
But you’re here to hear about Swayze so let me focus on the man of the hour (er, I mean, summer):
Look, I’m obviously a fan girl or I wouldn’t be doing any of this, but all that aside — there were so many moments in this movie where I felt like Patrick Swayze belonged in another, better version of this film. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of good acting from the younger actors, but they’re all trudging their way through a mediocre film, trying to make the best of it. Meanwhile, Patrick Swayze gives a consistently sincere and nuanced performance in a script that contains almost no nuance. He’s the kind of actor who gives you hope for what Red Dawn could be — the kind of film where nuance and subtlety do exist because a ragtag bunch of resistance fighters is an interesting and effective story when in the right hands (a.k.a not in the most paranoid, and frankly racist, plot I have ever seen in anything that isn’t technically called “propaganda”). You can’t help but think, damn this man needs a better script! (Luckily, he was about to get it.)
I’m going on a very special vacation, so join me in mid-July for Dirty Dancing.
Patrick Swayze’s second feature film role in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film The Outsiders, based on the novel by S.E. Hinton. According to The New York Times, it was a librarian and a petition from middle school students that convinced Coppola to make the film.
The cast of this movie is truly a who’s who of the Brat Pack. Patrick Swayze was the eldest (and only one I wouldn’t consider a Brat Packer or at least Brat Pack adjacent) playing the father-figure of the group at 29. You wouldn’t know it from his perennial baby face, but Ralph Macchio was the only other lead cast member over the age of twenty at the time filming began. Tom Cruise hadn’t even had his teeth fixed yet, though he did remove a cap to make himself appear more street-tough for the film.
This is the first film Patrick Swayze would appear in with C. Thomas Howell. They would appear together again in the following year’s Red Dawn, alongside Jennifer Grey, and in Grandview, U.S.A. — released one week prior to Red Dawn. Swayze would also appear on screen again with Rob Lowe, playing Lowe’s mentor in the hockey film Youngblood.
The Hollywood Reporter, reviewed Swayze’s role in The Outsiders favorably overall, though not without criticism of Darry as a character: “Patrick Swayze makes a strong impression as Howell’s older brother, although the script has him a brute one minute, a compassionate pal the next and dilutes his possibilities.” This is fairly true to my memory of the character from the book as well. S.E. Hinton wrote the book between the ages of fifteen and sixteen and quite possibly grasped the younger characters better than she would have understood their pseudo-father Darry. Or perhaps, this hot and cold demeanor is a fairly accurate portrayal of a young man in his circumstances. Patrick Swayze may have been twenty-nine, but I believe Darry was written a bit younger, perhaps in his early twenties.
The film is solidly good. It’s hard to go wrong with a Coppola flick. Stevie Wonder wrote an original song based on Johnny’s last words to Ponyboy and Van Morrison re-recorded “Gloria,” which he originally performed with Them in 1965. But the most interesting thing about The Outsiders is the film’s legacy. C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio regularly visit schools for screenings and talkbacks. They describe kids that are still enthralled with the movie and use it as medium for discussing bullying, social, and class issues. And even more interesting, is the queer reading of the movie — though S.E. Hinton staunchly denies it.
It may not have been S.E. Hinton’s intention, but The Outsiders certainly reads like a tale of first love in many ways. I can remember finishing this book in the public library when I was eleven years old. I locked myself in the bathroom so I could cry privately after I read the part where Johnny died. I felt a little silly, but I had developed a crush on Johnny, largely because of how he is portrayed through Ponyboy’s eyes and through the tenderness he shares with Dallas. Are either of those relationship necessarily romantic, no? But they could be or one day could have become so.
Personally, I’m really disappointed that S.E. Hinton didn’t embrace the queer messaging even if that’s not what she intended as a teenage writer. The text certainly does lend itself to a wide range of interpretations. That’s the best part of books and movies, you can take from them what you personally relate to and what feels most cathartic to your individual experience in life. Books and movies should be more inclusive so that more people can have that experience.
The house used in the film is now a museum that is open to the general public, offers student tours, and private screenings of the film.
For many, many years I was TOO sad to watch a Swayze movie because I miss him SO much. But this year, I’m swinging in the other direction. This is also my 500th post (!!) and we’re coming up on the blog’s 7th anniversary (!!!) so I want to do something big to celebrate. Very Special Readers, Welcome to the Summer of Swayze.
I’m really excited to share this line-up with you.
–M*A*S*H – “Blood Brothers“ –The Outsiders –Red Dawn –Dirty Dancing –Road House –Ghost –Point Break –To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar –Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
In the meantime, feast your eyes on a young Patrick Swayze dancing in Toto’s “Rosanna” music video. Swayze’s the one in the red jacket (until he takes it off at 04:15).