Friday, October 01, 2010

Tony Curtis 1925-2010 R.I.P.

Tony Curtis, easily one of the coolest actors of the 1950s and '60s best remembered for his hilarious turn in drag in Billy Wilder's classic Some Like It Hot passed away Wednesday night at 85 of cardiopulmonary arrest.

Born Bernard Schwartz on June 3, 1925, in New York, the oldest son of Jewish Hungarian immigrants. His father was a tailor, and his mother reared their three boys. His early life was a series of struggles; he said he was taunted constantly for being young, Jewish and handsome.

At 17, he enlisted in the Navy, serving aboard USS Proteus, a submarine tender in the Pacific during World War II. After leaving the service, he used the GI Bill for acting classes and soon found himself in New York doing Golden Boy at the Cherry Lane Theatre. He was noticed there by a Hollywood talent scout and, by age 23, was under contract with Universal for $75 a week. He changed his first name to Anthony and his last to Curtis. Before long, he was known simply as Tony Curtis.

In the late 50's, Curtis starred in two of his best films, The Defiant Ones the 1958 convict-escape film in which he was chained to co-star Sidney Poitier and for which he was Oscar nominated and Some Like It Hot. Curtis got fully into the role of Josephine in Some Like It Hot. Although Jack Lemmon conceded he looked a lot like his mother in female makeup, Curtis went for glamour, perfecting a sexy pout.

From 1956 to 1959 starred in a string of critical and popular hits: Trapeze, The Vikings and Operation Petticoat. His characters varied, with swashbuckling heroes as well as a smarmy press agent, and showed, when the role called for it, a genuine comic talent. And his co-stars were the biggest names in Hollywood: Burt Lancaster, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Sidney Poitier, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and — in The Vikings, Houdini and other films — his first wife, Janet Leigh.

In 1960, Curtis starred with Douglas in the swashbuckling Spartacus but in later years, he mostly was reduced to being a celebrity without serious portfolio and combined with his early teen-idol image and a raft of mediocre films, left him with a reputation that was lighter than many of his substantial roles during his prime otherwise would support. In 1984, after family and friends intervened to talk about his drug and alcohol problem, he admitted himself to the Betty Ford Center at Eisenhower Memorial Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Curtis also appeared frequently on television; he co-starred with Roger Moore in the TV series The Persuaders! In the early 1960s, he was immortalized as "Stony Curtis," a voice-over guest star on The Flintstones.

Throughout his life, Curtis enjoyed painting, and since the early 1980s, painted as a second career. His work commands more than $25,000 a canvas now. In the last years of his life, he concentrated on surrealist painting rather than movies.

Daughter, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, said in a statement, "My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages. He leaves behind children and their families who loved him and respected him and a wife and in-laws who were devoted to him. He also leaves behind fans all over the world."

Source: Sabrina Forde, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Seattle Times, Wikipedia

3 comments:

PF said...

Glad you got the 'Stony Curtis' reference in, especially as on the same day Tony died the Flintstones were 50 years old.

Vaughan said...

well done colonel a concise and respectful obituary.....Some like it hot is the greatest comedy of all time and you bring back happy childhood memories of watching Curtis drown on a St Stephens day morning in the great Houdini ( that's right RTE thought the best day to show this classic tragic ending was the day after Christmas, they also use to show The Great Race where Curtis reunited with Lemmon around Christmas as well at 9 in the morning.)
He was a brave actor as well by playing the Infamous Boston Strangler, a good twenty years before playing psychotic killers got you Oscars...many believe this was the role that signaled the finish of his cinema career.
And as for the Persuaders....ahh we will at least always have the sound of Curtis's Cuban Heels clicking in every scene and I know the Colonels Favourite scene where Roger Moore in Drag Playing his own Grandmother flirts with Curtis.that one will never die in the Colonels Memory.

Colonel Creedon said...

It had died you clown, now it'll stay fresh in my head for another ten years!!! Curse you Vaughan!