15 September 2009 by Published in: General musings 5 comments

Normally, I would not mention the passing of an actor like Patrick Swayze in this blog. As lamentable and sad as that might be, lots of actors have died without being mentioned here. Swayze’s passing is a notable exception, because the first role I ever remember seeing him in was in a pot-boiling, bodice-ripping mini-series about the Civil War.

North and SouthIn 1985, Swayze starred in an awful production called North and South, based on the novels by John Jakes. Swayze played Orry Main of South Carolina, a West Pointer who goes with his state when it secedes from the Union. The series followed his story, as well as that of his best friend from West Point, George Hazard, a Yankee. It was awful–large leaps of faith that diverged from the truth–with bad overacting and a terribly convoluted and unrealistic story. It was, perhaps, one of the very cheesiest productions in the history of Hollywood, but it did have an unbelievable cast. Among the many stars who appeared were Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, Hal Holbrook (as Abraham Lincoln), Forrest Whitaker, Johnny Cash, and lots of others. There’s no doubt that ABC spent a fortune on it, and even though it was incredibly cheesy, it was a huge success. It was such a huge success that they did two sequels, just as cheesy. Swayze appeared in the first sequel but not the second.

These bad mini-series are the last time that Hollywood has tried to tackle the Civil War on a large scale, and the 18 episodes of the three series cover a lot of ground, even if they are pot-boiling, bodice-ripping, and often historically inaccurate. They brought the drama of the Civil War to the unwashed masses, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

While I have no doubt that the vast majority of the women who watched this dreck did so to get a big dose of beefcake, undoubtedly a few became interested in the Civil War as a result. For that reason, the passing of Patrick Swayze is noteworthy and lamentable. If he helped to spur interest in the Civil War in even one person as a consequence of his performances, then that’s a good thing, and I regret his death.

Besides, this is the same man who uttered THE cheesiest move line ever, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” from the end of Dirty Dancing. The man had a real gift for cheesy performances, and I respect that.

Rest in peace, Patrick, and thanks for the cheese.

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Comments

  1. Tue 15th Sep 2009 at 4:52 pm

    1. You forgot to mention Lee Horsley among the stellar cast.
    2. Almost to a man, my reenactor friends who took part in Book 2 said James Read (“George Hazard”) was the best natural horseman of the whole “N&S” cast.

  2. PHW
    Tue 15th Sep 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Yea…N&S was pretty bad.

  3. Chris Evans
    Wed 16th Sep 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I always watch the battles in Part II. I thought they had some interesting recreations of the Battles of First Bull Run and Antietam. I always fast forward through the cheese to the battle scenes. Jimmy Stewart is also in Part II (one of my favorite actors).

    At least there has been more serious productions like ‘Glory’, ‘Gettysburg’, and ‘Andersonville’ since then. I hope even better Civil War movies or series are made in the future.

    Chris

  4. Rebecca Fitzgerald
    Fri 18th Sep 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I already had a deep interest in the CW before this movie. I unabashedly put forth the fact that my fascination for N&S was strictly for that big dose of beefcake. Thank you Eric for this post. Patrick will be missed.
    (Oh and he positively Hated having to say the Baby in the corner line in Dirty Dancing. Maybe he too recognized the cheesiness of some of his roles.)

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