An Early Frost is a 1985 American made-for-television drama film and the first major film, made for television or feature films, to deal with the topic of AIDS. It was first broadcast on the NBC television network on November 11, 1985. It was directed by John Erman, from the Emmy Award-winning teleplay written by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, (story by Sherman Yellen). Aidan Quinn stars as Michael Pierson, a Chicago attorney who goes home to break the news – that he is gay and has AIDS – to his parents, played by Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands.
Michael Pierson, a successful lawyer, suffers a bad coughing jag at work and is rushed to the hospital. There he learns from a doctor that he has been exposed to HIV. At home, he receives another piece of disturbing news: his lover, Peter (D. W. Moffett), confesses that he had sex outside the relationship because Michael is a workaholic and is living in the closet. Michael, in a rage, throws Peter out of the house. He then travels to his parents’ home to inform them that he is gay and has AIDS.
Michael’s father, Nick (Ben Gazzara), is a lumber company owner, and his wife, Kate (Gena Rowlands), is a former concert pianist, housewife, and grandmother. The couple’s daughter, Susan (Sydney Walsh) is married and has a child. Nick reacts angrily to the news, while Kate attempts to adapt to the situation. Nick initially refuses to speak to Michael for a day before breaking silence by saying, “I never thought the day would come when you’d be in front of me and I wouldn’t know who you are.” Susan, who is pregnant, refuses to see Michael, saying that she “can’t take that chance,” and Nick explodes when Michael tries to kiss Kate. Kate remembers reading in a magazine article that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact and tries to get the rest of the family to accept Michael (Gena Rowlands also taped a public service announcement about HIV transmission). Michael eventually winds up in the hospital (after paramedics who are called to his parents’ house refuse to transport him to the hospital) and meets a fellow patient named Victor (John Glover), a flamboyant homosexual with AIDS. The film depicts Victor’s death and shows a nurse throwing Victor’s few possessions into a garbage bag because she fears that the items could be contaminated.