Monday 26 March 2018

Film: 'The Ice King'

And anyone who suggests that a more 'apt' title' to this film would be to replace its final word with.....(you can guess).... leave the classroom NOW!

Film about the British figure ice-skating phenomenon that was John Curry, gold medallist at the Innsbruck Winter Olympics of 1976, the first ever openly gay Olympian (confirmed by himself, when asked by a reporter on the eve of that very same final - "Not a big deal!") - who then went on to have considerable success around the world with his solo performances and with the ice skating company he founded and largely funded. Returning home to his mother exhausted and near-destitute - by now ailing with having contracted the AIDS virus, he died in 1993 at the age of 44.  

This warts-and-all film, in documentary form though without a commentary, consists of recollections by people who knew him - mother, friends, associates, surviving lovers - as well as the reading out of substantial extracts from his letters illustrating his mood swings, his carefree lifestyle (gay venues including Fire Island), and detailing his varying affections at any given time. No attempt is made to justify his heavy professional demands on himself and on others and his harsh criticisms of them. 

I found the entire film touching, even incredibly moving at times - and I learnt a lot about a figure about whom I knew only a little. I hadn't owned a TV at the time of peak of his fame and only heard of him through work colleagues who used him to have gentle digs at me as this was also the time when I myself had only just 'come out' at work. I do recall the tabloid papers at the time being obsessed beyond reason with his sexuality, though they would claim it was only in a joshing sense rather than intentionally malicious. But there was always an undercurrent of nastiness to articles about him, even if the prejudices weren't completely quite spelt out.  

Until today I'd never seen an extended play of any of his performances and I have to say that though we only see extracts here, what we do see is simply breathtaking, making me want to see much more. 

Director and writer James Erskine has done a sterling job of bringing this enigmatic and significant figure to the screen, someone who is in danger of being forgotten, or at least fading somewhat from memory. I think John Curry himself would have been well satisfied to have this as a memorial to his achievements................7.


  1. Replies
    1. Wish I remembered him in a more favourable light, Rachel, as for me his emergence was all tied in with a militant period of my life when I was keen to distance myself from his 'sort' - something which I regret now with quite some shame.

    2. My mother and I loved ice skating and watched all the major tournaments. Since Courtney Jones and Doreen Denny we had had nobody to really look at. That is going back a bit but anybody who follows ice skating will know who I mean. At least you have moved on from those dark days Ray and it is history as they say.

    3. It's been an activity that I've never been really gripped by. Even Torvill & Dean, though excellent enough, never transfixed me as they do others. But at least this film opened my eyes, if only just a bit.

  2. We saw his ice-dancing show in Washington DC in the '80s. It was exceptional.

    1. It must have been, Mitch. A film can show one the most spectacular bits but it needs one to be present at a live show to capture the electric energy and the sustaining power. Given the chance I'd go now.