Written by Randy Gardner
Concept by Susan Austin and Randy Gardner
There have been many skating stars throughout the decades, but no one has had the talent and as diverse a life as Belita. She was a professional dancer, actress, swimmer and champion ice skater where she skated for Britain in the 1936 Olympics.
She was born Gladys Lyne Jepson-Turner on October 25, 1923 in Nether Wallop, Hampshire, England. She was given the name 'Belita' named after a railroad stop that her great grandfather had built in Argentina.
Her professional skating career took her on tour with Ice Capades (1940), Rhapsody on Ice, London productions at Empress Hall; "Babes in the Woods," "London Melody," "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "White Horse Inn On Ice" then her own show, "Champagne on Ice."
She then parlayed into an acting career in the movies. She starred in several highly profitable productions made by Monogram Studios. Her appearances included Silver Skates (1943), Lady, Let's Dance (1944) and Suspense (1946). Suspense, with it's novel mixture of ice skating and film noir proved enormously popular at the box office and more than repaid the studios investment. She also appeared with Clark Gable in Never Let Me Go (1953) and played opposite Charles Laughton in The Cherry Orchard. She would often both dance and skate in her movies. She once said, "When I skate I want to dance and when I dance I want to skate."
In 1946, Belita married Joel McGinnis Riordan (marriage dissolved in 1956) then married second husband James Berwick.
During the 1950's she juggled all her talents and went between ice shows, movies and plays. She worked Off-Broadway in New York in "Ulysses In Nightown" and her other theater shows included "The Cherry Orchard", "Damn Yankees" and "Sight Unseen."
The PFSC Historical Foundation has been able to acquire a 45 minute audio tape of her talking where she is reflecting on her life. We are proud to tell her story and invite you to look at the photographs we have collected of her and brief remembrances by some who worked with her and were her friends.
Belita passed away December 18, 2005 at her home in the south of France.
When I was eight or nine years old, I was at Queens Ice Rink when a lady with very blue eye shadow came to the rink and sat at the edge of the ice - that was "Queenie", Belita's mother.
I had only heard of Belita, the wonderful skater, and when she stepped onto the ice, I stepped back and watched this very balletic skater and was enthralled... Click for more
When I first saw Belita, it was in Ice Capades in about 1944 more or less. Also in the show were Megan Taylor and Vera Hruba. These ladies always skated to classical music and tended to present themselves in a very dramatic routine. Belita was on of these ladies.
While her skating was spectacular, she had very little personality. Very serious and almost defiant when she completed a series of axels or whatever...Click here for more
"Silver Skates" 1943
"Silver Skates", Belita's first movie includes close to 45 minutes of skating. Belita and Eugene Turner are the featured skaters. Click here for more
"Lady Let's Dance" 1944
The first four movement scenes are dance not skating. This movie gives us a chance to see Belita as dancer. Click here for more
Belita's best known movie, "Suspense" has two great skating ensemble scenes featuring Belita that are jazzy, steamy and sexy. Click here for more
"The Hunted" 1948
"The Hunted" is the last of the films where Belita skated. There is only one dramatic solo in this movie that is dimly lit with a couple of spots. Click here for more
CREDITS: The PFSC Historical Foundation would like to thank the following for their contribution with their time, artifacts and knowledge in helping us write this piece:
HEATHER BELBIN, BILL BLACKBURN, ROY BLAKEY, JOE MARSHALL, BOB TURK AND BILL UNWIN.
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