February 23, 2018

The Ice King


John Curry transformed ice skating from a dated sport into an exalted art form. Coming out on the night of his Olympic win in 1976, he became the first openly gay Olympian in a time when homosexuality was not even fully legal. Toxic yet charming; rebellious yet elitist; emotionally aloof yet spectacularly needy; ferociously ambitious yet bent on self-destruction, this is a man forever on the run: from his father’s ghost, his country, and even his own self. Above all he was an artist and an athlete whose body time and time again –sometimes against his will– become a political battlefield.

Winner of Gold at Innsbruck Winter Olympics of 1976, and of that year’s World and European figure-skating championships, Curry then developed and staged professional ice dancing extravaganzas with a hand-picked troupe of world class skaters that worked ballet manoeuvres in with the sport’s competitive rigours creating a whole new spectacle which was successful.

Curry is filmed saying his father forbids him to attend ballet classes, but his father let him skate because that was “protected by the umbrella of ‘sport’.  Curry went on to become the best in the world and says that if he won every major completion and then took an Olympic Gold then no one would be able to tell him that what he did, and the way that he did it, was wrong! What a will.  He comes across like that in the film, which although hints at the daemons of depression and insecurity he harboured focuses mainly on his triumphs.  The film has a lovely narrative using his own handwritten letters to various people voiced over, with plumy gay charm by Freddie Fox.

Curry was worshiped by the British public, a star, every women was in love with him, some men were lucky enough to love him,  he  won the Sports Personality of the Year award, he appeared on every chat show and  Blue Peter, included in the film. The film briefly looks at his troubled relationship with his father but also with his supportive relationship with his Mother who was there for most of his triumphs and also supported him at the end, as he died of AIDS and became the first British celebrity to publicity acknowledge it and talk about it. Fearless to the end, he died as he lived, on his own terms.   The film, rather properly , concentrates on Curry the man, the skater and the champion, dwelling with some superb –and before unseen- footage of some of his famous and iconic skates, this is the man who skated at the Metropolitan Opera house and wowed them.

Read the New York Times review from 1984 here

The film follows his life in American, the fun of Fire Island in the late 1970’s with some heart-warming archive film of the ‘gays back then’ and one lingering sand covered photo of his perfect bubble butt, but it always comes back to the ice. It’s where Curry burned the brightest, where his searing flame of genius roared the loudest and one of the most touching parts of the film is part of the only known recording of his ice dance ‘Moon Skate,” a solo set to the slow movement of Ravel’s G Major Concerto, a reflective, melancholy, cathartic piece which show him at his breath-taking astonishing best.

Uncompromising, a little waspish, funny and charming, utterly vulnerable, stronger than an Ox, fast, lithe and inspiring, camp, sensual and a rejecter of received butch ways of sport and skating,   John Curry is one of the LGBTQ heroes who should be held up and venerated and this film goes a  long way to restoring him not just to public acclaim, but to international recognition for his transformative aspect on sport, on the winter Olympics and on younger gay skaters and sportsmen who needed a role model.

You can’t argue with an Olympic Gold medal, he was the best in the world, arguably still is one of the best male skaters in the world and his legacy lives on.

On UK Wide release today

For more info, to check cinema release dates or to book tickets or download on iTunes see the website here.