There’s a certain generation of women who still laugh when they hear “toe pick.” Then they begin dreaming about a certain swoon-worthy character in the memorable scene when that line was first employed, and wonder why aren’t romantic leads like that now? Why can’t they all be like D.B. Sweeney’s Doug Dorsey: athletic, virile, funny, easygoing, ambitious, and more emotionally open than those traits might suggest?
The Cutting Edge (1992) never received the credit it deserved, but I hear the occasional reference to it in films and TV episodes, echoing the devoted following it obtained then and still now for its engaging sports narrative, its funny tone, and the sizzling chemistry between Sweeney and Moira Kelly.
In the story, Doug’s dreams of hockey stardom have been destroyed by an injury to his eye at the Olympics. Kate Moseley’s (Kelly’s) Olympic dreams have been dashed by a particularly ugly drop by her figure skating partner. The next Olympics is coming up, and no one wants to partner with the notoriously chilly Kate. Meanwhile, Doug has lost his scholarship and any chance at even a minor league hockey career. Then one day, Kate’s coach approaches Doug with some figure skates, and despite his (and her) hilariously expressed doubts, an unlikely professional pairing begins to form. Before long, Doug starts to realize he has feelings for her, and she, in spite of her engagement to another, begins to realize she is attracted to him too.
There are many differences between the two characters: he’s a stereotypical guy in many ways, and she’s a reserved, uptight, very wealthy and very feminine woman.
But you see the attraction too, especially their hyper-competitiveness and dedication. What I love so much about their union is that BOTH of them grow due to the influence of the other. It’s not just the punishment of the type A personality woman we so often see (though Kate is definitely–and deservedly–taken down a peg or two). (Actually, their dynamic is so similar to the one in It Happened One Night that I wrote about it in one of my earliest blog posts.)
My own love for Doug Dorsey was quite fervent. He was EVERYTHING I wanted in a partner in my late teens: Smart, relaxed, charismatic with an incredibly sexy smile. Confident but open, willing to admit mistakes. Promiscuous when he wasn’t in love, but when he was, not willing to go for Kate if she was still engaged or had too much to drink. Proud but mature enough to leave the pride behind when he had to. Ultimately willing to prioritize her even above his dreams. And, of course, there was his tolerance of her heinous (but enthusiastic) dance skills, which bore a strong resemblance to mine. His ability to throw a paper wad into a trashcan and make it. His skill with the cutting line, and reluctance to read Great Expectations (close to my least favorite book at the time).
My love for Doug Dorsey led me to seek D.B. Sweeney’s other work over the years, and believe me, it hasn’t been easy: Eight Men Out, a Leverage episode. Why his fully embodied, sensual, funny performance didn’t lead to stardom, I don’t know. But although he and I have aged, my opinion of Sweeney’s character hasn’t. What I realize now is that he was also what a teen’s heartthrob character so rarely is: an adult (with, admittedly, some rough edges). That’s why I can still enjoy the film now, when other teen loves have lost their allure. And besides all that? The Cutting Edge is such a fun sports film (another favorite genre of mine), and it’s full of comedy, especially when Doug confesses he’s become a figure skater to his working class, uber-masculine brother (and hometown).
When I heard Font and Frock & Silver Screenings were hosting a Reel Infatuation blogathon celebrating character crushes, I thought of others: obviously Nick of The Thin Man, Cary Grant’s hilarious The Awful Truth husband. But suddenly, D. B. Sweeney popped in my head, reminding me of Doug and the long-ago, but never-dead crush, and I figured some of the rest of you hadn’t had the joy of encountering him yet, and others would love the reminder. Hope if you haven’t seen the film yet, you’ll soon enjoy toe picks as much as I do.
For others’ wonderful posts on their film crushes, click here.