Tony Curtis

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Tony Curtis
Tony Curtis 1958.jpg
Curtis in 1958
Born
Bernard Schwartz

(1925-06-03)June 3, 1925
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
DiedSeptember 29, 2010(2010-09-29) (aged 85)
Resting placePalm Memorial Park (Green Valley), Las Vegas, Nevada
Education City College of New York
Alma mater The New School
OccupationActor
Years active1948–2008
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)
  • Janet Leigh
    (m. 1951;div. 1962)
  • Christine Kaufmann
    (m. 1963;div. 1968)
  • Leslie Allen
    (m. 1968;div. 1982)
  • Andrea Savio
    (m. 1984;div. 1992)
  • Lisa Deutsch
    (m. 1993;div. 1994)
  • Jill Vandenberg
    (m. 1998)
Children6, including Kelly, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Allegra Curtis

Tony Curtis (born Bernard Schwartz; June 3, 1925 September 29, 2010) was an American film actor whose career spanned six decades but who achieved the height of his popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. He acted in more than 100 films in roles covering a wide range of genres, from light comedy to serious drama. In his later years, Curtis made numerous television appearances.

Contents

Although his early film roles mainly took advantage of his good looks, by the latter half of the 1950s he had demonstrated range and depth in numerous dramatic and comedy roles. In his earliest parts he acted in a string of mediocre films, including swashbucklers, westerns, light comedies, sports films and a musical. However, by the time he starred in Houdini (1953) with his wife Janet Leigh, "his first clear success," notes critic David Thomson, his acting had progressed immensely. [1] [2]

Swashbuckler film Subgenre of the action film genre

Swashbuckler films are a subgenre of the action film genre, often characterised by swordfighting and adventurous heroic characters, known as swashbucklers. Real historical events often feature prominently in the plot, morality is often clear-cut, heroic characters are clearly heroic and even villains tend to have a code of honour. There is often a damsel in distress and a romantic element.

<i>Houdini</i> (1953 film) 1953 film by George Marshall

Houdini is a 1953 American Technicolor film biography from Paramount Pictures, produced by George Pal and Berman Swarttz, directed by George Marshall, that stars then husband-and-wife Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. The film's screenplay, based upon the life of magician and escape artist Harry Houdini, is by Philip Yordan, based on the book Houdini by Harold Kellock. The film's music score was by Roy Webb and the cinematography by Ernest Laszlo. The art direction was by Albert Nozaki and Hal Pereira and the costume design by Edith Head.

Janet Leigh American actress

Janet Leigh was an American actress, singer, dancer, and author. Raised in Stockton, California, by working-class parents, Leigh was discovered at age eighteen by actress Norma Shearer, who helped her secure a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Leigh had her first formal foray into acting appearing in radio programs before making her film debut in The Romance of Rosy Ridge (1947).

He achieved his first serious recognition as a dramatic actor in Sweet Smell of Success (1957) with co-star Burt Lancaster. The following year he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in The Defiant Ones (1958) alongside Sidney Poitier (who was also nominated in the same category). Curtis then gave what could arguably be called his best performance: three interrelated roles in the comedy Some Like It Hot (1959). Thomson called it an "outrageous film," and an American Film Institute survey voted it the funniest American film ever made. [3] The film co-starred Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, and was directed by Billy Wilder. That was followed by Blake Edwards’s Operation Petticoat (1959) with Cary Grant. They were both frantic comedies, and displayed his impeccable comic timing. [4] He often collaborated with Edwards on later films. In 1960, Curtis played a supporting role in Spartacus , which became another major hit for him.

<i>Sweet Smell of Success</i> 1957 film by Alexander Mackendrick

Sweet Smell of Success is a 1957 American film noir made by Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Productions and released by United Artists. It was directed by Alexander Mackendrick and stars Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, and Martin Milner. The screenplay was written by Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman, and Mackendrick from the novelette by Lehman. Mary Grant designed the film's costumes.

Burt Lancaster American actor

Burton Stephen Lancaster was an American actor and producer. Initially known for playing "tough guys" with a tender streak, he went on to achieve success with more complex and challenging roles over a 45-year career in film and, later, television. He was an Oscar winner and four time nominee for the Academy Award for Best Actor, also winning two BAFTA Awards and one Golden Globe Award for Best Lead Actor.

Academy Award for Best Actor Award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The Academy Award for Best Actor is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is given in honor of an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance in a leading role while working within the film industry. The award is traditionally presented by the previous year's Best Actress winner.

His stardom and film career declined considerably after 1960. His most significant dramatic part came in 1968 when he starred in the true-life drama The Boston Strangler , which some consider his last major film role. [4] The part reinforced his reputation as a serious actor with his chilling portrayal of serial killer Albert DeSalvo.

<i>The Boston Strangler</i> (film) 1968 film by Richard Fleischer

The Boston Strangler is a 1968 American neo-noir film loosely based on the true story of the Boston Strangler and the book by Gerold Frank. It was directed by Richard Fleischer and stars Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo, the strangler, and Henry Fonda as John S. Bottomly, the chief detective who came to fame for obtaining DeSalvo's confession. Curtis was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his performance. The cast also featured George Kennedy and the film debut of Sally Kellerman.

Albert DeSalvo American criminal and convicted rapist

Albert Henry DeSalvo was a criminal in Boston, Massachusetts who confessed to being the "Boston Strangler", the murderer of 13 women in the Boston area from 1962 to 1964. It was widely believed that DeSalvo was imprisoned for a series of the rapes. However, DeSalvo was paroled in April 1962 and was released from jail. Despite this, his murder confession has been disputed, and debate continues as to which crimes he actually committed.

He later starred alongside Roger Moore in the ITC TV series The Persuaders! , with Curtis playing American millionaire Danny Wilde. The series ran twenty-four episodes.

Roger Moore British actor

Sir Roger George Moore was an English actor best known for playing British secret agent James Bond in seven feature films from 1973 to 1985, beginning with Live and Let Die. His most notable television role was playing the main character, Simon Templar, in the British television series The Saint from 1962 to 1969. He also had roles in some American television shows and films in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including replacing James Garner and portraying Beau Maverick in the Maverick series in 1960 to 61. Moore starred with Tony Curtis in The Persuaders television series in 1971 to 1972, and had roles in several theatrical films in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Incorporated Television Company (ITC), or ITC Entertainment as it was referred to in the United States, was a British company involved in production and distribution of television programmes.

<i>The Persuaders!</i> British television series (1971–1972)

The Persuaders! is an action-comedy series starring Tony Curtis and Roger Moore, produced by ITC Entertainment, and initially broadcast on ITV and ABC in 1971. The show has been called "the last major entry in the cycle of adventure series that began 11 years earlier with Danger Man in 1960", as well as "the most ambitious and most expensive of Sir Lew Grade's international action adventure series". The Persuaders! was filmed in Britain, France, and Italy between May 1970 and June 1971.

Curtis is the father of actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis by his first wife, actress Janet Leigh. [5] [6]

Jamie Lee Curtis American actress, author

Jamie Lee Haden-Guest, Lady Haden-Guest is an American actress, author, and activist. She made her film debut in 1978 as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter's horror film Halloween. The film established her as a "scream queen", and she appeared in a string of horror films in 1980, including The Fog, Prom Night, and Terror Train. She reprised the role of Laurie Strode in four sequels, including Halloween II (1981), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002), and Halloween (2018).

Kelly Curtis American actress

Kelly Lee Curtis is an American actress. She is known for her roles in Magic Sticks (1987), and The Devil's Daughter (1991).

Early life

Tony Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz on June 3, 1925, at the Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital on 105th Street in Manhattan, New York City, the first of three boys born to Helen (née Klein) and Emanuel Schwartz. [7] [8] Biographies have propagated a misconception that he was born in the Bronx, probably due to the family's moves when he was very young, but Tony pointedly corrected this in a TV interview. [9] His parents were Jewish emigrants from Czechoslovakia and Hungary: his father was born in Ópályi, near Mátészalka, and his mother was a native of Nagymihály (now Michalovce, Slovakia); she later said she arrived in the U.S. from Válykó (now Vaľkovo, Slovakia). [10] [11] He did not learn English until he was five or six, delaying his schooling. [12] His father was a tailor and the family lived in the back of the shop—his parents in one corner and Curtis and his brothers Julius and Robert in another. His mother once made an appearance as a participant on the television show You Bet Your Life , hosted by Groucho Marx. [11] Curtis said, "When I was a child, Mom beat me up and was very aggressive and antagonistic." His mother was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. His brother Robert was institutionalized with the same mental illness.

Jews Ancient nation and ethnoreligious group from the Levant

Jews or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and a nation, originating from the Israelites and Hebrews of historical Israel and Judah. Jewish ethnicity, nationhood, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, while its observance varies from strict observance to complete nonobservance.

Czechoslovakia 1918–1992 country in Central Europe, predecessor of the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Czechoslovakia, or Czecho-Slovakia, was a sovereign state in Central Europe that existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until its peaceful dissolution into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.

Kingdom of Hungary (1920–1946) Central European state between 1920 and 1946

The Kingdom of Hungary, sometimes referred to as the Regency or the Horthy era, existed as a country from 1920 to 1946 under the rule of Regent Miklós Horthy. Horthy officially represented the Hungarian monarchy of Charles IV, Apostolic King of Hungary. Attempts by Charles IV to return to the throne were prevented by threats of war from neighbouring countries and by the lack of support from Horthy. Charles died in 1922, leaving the throne empty for the remainder of the country's time as a kingdom.

When Curtis was eight, he and his brother Julius were placed in an orphanage for a month because their parents could not afford to feed them. Four years later, Julius was struck and killed by a truck. Curtis joined a neighborhood gang whose main crimes were playing hooky from school and minor pilfering at the local dime store. When Curtis was 11, a friendly neighbor saved him from what he felt would have led to a life of delinquency by sending him to a Boy Scout camp, where he was able to work off his energy and settle down. He attended Seward Park High School. At 16, he had his first small acting part in a school stage play. [13]

Military service

Curtis enlisted in the United States Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Inspired by Cary Grant's role in Destination Tokyo and Tyrone Power's in Crash Dive (1943), he joined the Pacific submarine force. [12] Curtis served aboard a submarine tender, the USS Proteus , until the end of the Second World War. On September 2, 1945, Curtis witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay from his ship's signal bridge about a mile away. [14]

Following his discharge from the Navy, Curtis attended City College of New York on the G.I. Bill. He then studied acting at The New School in Greenwich Village under the influential German stage director Erwin Piscator. His contemporaries included Elaine Stritch, Harry Belafonte, Walter Matthau, Beatrice Arthur, and Rod Steiger. While still at college, Curtis was discovered by Joyce Selznick, the notable talent agent, casting director, and niece of film producer David O. Selznick.

Career

In 1948, Curtis arrived in Hollywood at age 23. In his autobiography, Curtis described how by chance he met Jack Warner on the plane to California, and also how he briefly dated Marilyn Monroe before either was famous.

Universal as "Anthony Curtis"

Under contract at Universal Pictures, he changed his name from Bernard Schwartz to Anthony Curtis and met unknown actors Rock Hudson, James Best, Julie Adams and Piper Laurie. [15] The first name was from the novel Anthony Adverse and "Curtis" was from Kurtz, a surname in his mother's family. [16] Although Universal Pictures taught him fencing and riding, in keeping with the cinematic themes of the era, Curtis admitted he was at first interested only in girls and money. Neither was he hopeful of his chances of becoming a major star. Curtis's biggest fear was having to return home to the Bronx as a failure:

I was a million-to-one shot, the least likely to succeed. I wasn't low man on the totem pole, I was under the totem pole, in a sewer, tied to a sack. [13]

Curtis's uncredited screen debut came in Criss Cross (1949) playing a rumba dancer, dancing with Yvonne de Carlo. The male star was Burt Lancaster who would make a number of films with Curtis.

In his second film, City Across the River (also in 1949), he was credited as "Anthony Curtis". [17] He had four lines in The Lady Gambles (1949) and a bigger part in Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949). He could also be spotted in Francis (1950), Woman in Hiding (1950), and I Was a Shoplifter (1950).

He was in three Westerns, Sierra (1950), starring Audie Murphy, one of many names he worked with (including fellow Universal contractee, Rock Hudson), Winchester '73 (1950), starring James Stewart and Shelley Winters. He supported Murphy in another Western, Kansas Raiders (1951), playing Kit Dalton; this time he was billed as "Tony Curtis".

Stardom

Curtis was receiving numerous fan letters, so Universal awarded him the starring role in The Prince Who Was a Thief (1951), a swashbuckler set in the Middle East with Piper Laurie. It was a hit at the box office and Curtis was now established.

He followed it up with Flesh and Fury (1952), a boxing movie; No Room for the Groom (1952), a comedy with Laurie directed by Douglas Sirk; and Son of Ali Baba (1952), another film set in the Arab world with Laurie.

Curtis then teamed up with then-wife Janet Leigh in Houdini (1953), in which Curtis played the title role. His next movies were more "B" fare: All American (1953), as a footballer; Forbidden (1953), as a criminal; Beachhead (1954), a war film; Johnny Dark (1954), with Laurie, as a racing car driver; and The Black Shield of Falworth (1954), a medieval swashbuckler with Leigh. The box office performances of these films were solid, and Curtis was growing in popularity.

For a change of pace he did a musical, So This Is Paris (1955), then it was back to more typical fare: Six Bridges to Cross (1955), as a bank robber; The Purple Mask (1955), a swashbuckler; The Square Jungle (1955), a boxing film.

Major star

Curtis graduated to more prestigious projects when he was cast in support of Burt Lancaster and Gina Lollobrigida in Trapeze (1956). It was one of the biggest hits of the year.

Curtis made a Western, The Rawhide Years (1957); was a gambler in Mister Cory (1957); and was a cop in The Midnight Story (1957). Lancaster asked for him again, to play scheming press agent Sidney Falco in Sweet Smell of Success (1957), starring and co-produced by Lancaster. The film was a box office disappointment, but Curtis, for the first time in his career, received sensational reviews.

Another star-maker was eager to work with him - Kirk Douglas - in The Vikings (1958). Janet Leigh also starred, and the resulting movie was a box office hit. Curtis then co-starred with Frank Sinatra and Natalie Wood in Kings Go Forth (1958), a war story. It was mildly popular, but The Defiant Ones (1958), was a bigger success. Curtis gave an Oscar-nominated performance as a bigoted white escaped convict chained to a black man, Sidney Poitier.

Curtis with Marilyn Monroe in
Some Like It Hot (1959) Monroe and Curtis in Some Like it Hot.JPG
Curtis with Marilyn Monroe in
Some Like It Hot (1959)

Curtis and Leigh then made a popular comedy for Blake Edwards at Universal, The Perfect Furlough (1958). He co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959). It was a huge success and became a classic; equally popular was Operation Petticoat (1959), a military comedy which Curtis made for Edwards alongside Cary Grant.

Curtis and Leigh made one more film together Who Was That Lady? (1960), a comedy with Dean Martin. He and Debbie Reynolds then starred in The Rat Race (1960).

Douglas came calling again, offering Curtis a key role in the former's epic production Spartacus (1960). It was a huge hit and earned Curtis a Golden Globe nomination.

Curtis then made his first movies in a while without a significant "name" co star. Both were biopics: The Great Impostor (1961), directed by Robert Mulligan, playing Ferdinand Waldo Demara; and The Outsider (1961), where he played war hero Ira Hayes. He went back to epics with Taras Bulba (1962), co starring Yul Brynner and Christine Kaufmann, who soon became Curtis' second wife.

Comedic roles

He starred with Suzanne Pleshette in the comedy 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), which was a mild hit.

Curtis was one of many stars who had small roles in The List of Adrian Messenger (1963). He supported Gregory Peck in Captain Newman, M.D. (1963) and had an uncredited dual role in Paris When It Sizzles (1964). He and Kaufman made their third movie together, the comedy Wild and Wonderful (1964). His focus remained on comedies: Goodbye Charlie (1964), with Debbie Reynolds; Sex and the Single Girl (1964), with Natalie Wood; The Great Race (1965), with Wood and Lemmon for Blake Edwards — the most expensive comedy film up till that time, but popular; Boeing Boeing (1965) a sex farce with Jerry Lewis; Not with My Wife, You Don't! (1966) with George C. Scott; Drop Dead Darling (1966), a British comedy; Don't Make Waves (1967), a satire of beach life from director Alexander Mackendrick, with Claudia Cardinale; and On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who... (1967), an Italian comedy with Monica Vitti. In the early 1960s, he was a voice-over guest star on The Flintstones as "Stoney Curtis".

The Boston Strangler

Curtis's first dramatic film after a number of years was The Boston Strangler (1968) playing the title role. Response from the critics and public was excellent. He returned to comedy for Monte Carlo or Bust! (1969), an all-star car race film in the vein of The Great Race.

He made some comic adventure tales: You Can't Win 'Em All (1970) with Charles Bronson and Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came (1970).

Curtis decided it was time to turn to television and co-starred with Roger Moore in the TV series The Persuaders! .

He was one of the villains in The Count of Monte Cristo (1975) and had the title role in the gangster film Lepke (1975). Curtis had the lead in a TV series that did not last, McCoy (1975–76). He was one of many names in The Last Tycoon (1976) and had the title role in an Italian comedy Casanova & Co. (1977). Later, he co-starred in Vega$ and was in The Users (1978).

Later career

Curtis supported Mae West in Sextette (1978) and starred in The Manitou (1978), a horror film, and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (1978), a comedy. He had good roles in It Rained All Night the Day I Left (1980), Little Miss Marker (1980) and The Scarlett O'Hara War (1980) and was one of many stars in The Mirror Crack'd (1980). On television, he continued to make occasional guest appearances (sometimes playing fictional versions of himself) into the mid-2000s. His final TV series was as host of the documentary-retrospective series (adapting Kenneth Anger's book series) in 1992-93; each episode would include Curtis recalling some anecdotes from his own career.

Painter

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 painting rather than movies. A surrealist, Curtis claimed Van Gogh, [Paul] Matisse, Picasso, and Magritte as influences. [12] "I still make movies but I'm not that interested in them any more. But I paint all the time." In 2007, his painting The Red Table was on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. His paintings can also be seen at the Tony Vanderploeg Gallery in Carmel, California.

Curtis spoke of his disappointment at never being awarded an Oscar. In March 2006, Curtis received the Sony Ericsson Empire Lifetime Achievement Award. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame inducted in 1960, and received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France in 1995.[ citation needed ]

Personal life

Marriages and children

Curtis was married six times. [18] His first wife was actress Janet Leigh, to whom he was married from 1951 to 1962, and with whom he fathered actresses Kelly and Jamie Lee. "For a while, we were Hollywood's golden couple," he said. "I was very dedicated and devoted to Janet, and on top of my trade, but in her eyes that goldenness started to wear off. I realized that whatever I was, I wasn't enough for Janet. That hurt me a lot and broke my heart." [18] [19]

The studio he was under contract with, Universal-International, generally stayed out of their stars' love lives. However, when they chose to get married, studio executives spent three days trying to talk him out of it, telling him he would be "poisoning himself at the box office." They threatened "banishment" back to the Bronx and the end of his budding career. In response, Curtis and Leigh decided to defy the studio heads and instead eloped and were married by a local judge in Greenwich, Connecticut. Comedian and close friend Jerry Lewis was present as a witness. [13]

The couple divorced in 1962, and the following year Curtis married Christine Kaufmann, the 18-year-old German co-star of his latest film, Taras Bulba. He stated that his marriage with Leigh had effectively ended "a year earlier". [12] Curtis and Kaufmann had two daughters, Alexandra (born July 19, 1964) and Allegra (born July 11, 1966). They divorced in 1968. Kaufmann resumed her career, which she had interrupted during her marriage.

On April 20, 1968, Curtis married Leslie Allen, with whom he had two sons: Nicholas Bernard (December 31, 1970 – July 2, 1994) [20] [21] and Benjamin Curtis (born May 2, 1973). The couple divorced in 1982.

Two years later, in 1984, Curtis married Andrea Savio; they divorced in 1992. [22]

The following year, on February 28, 1993, he married Lisa Deutsch. They divorced only a year later in 1994.

His sixth and last wife, Jill Vandenberg, was 45 years his junior. They met in a restaurant in 1993 and married on November 6, 1998. [22] "The age gap doesn't bother us. We laugh a lot. My body is functioning and everything is good. She's the sexiest woman I've ever known. We don't think about time. I don't use Viagra either. There are 50 ways to please your lover." [23]

In 1994, his son Nicholas died of a heroin overdose at the age of 23. After his son's death, Curtis remarked that it was "a terrible thing when a father loses his son." [24]

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette , Curtis, who had a problem with alcoholism and drug abuse, went through the treatment center of the Betty Ford Clinic in the mid-1980s, which was successful for him. [22]

Philanthropy

Beginning in 1990, Curtis and his daughter Jamie Lee Curtis took a renewed interest in their family's Hungarian Jewish heritage, and helped finance the rebuilding of the Great Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary. The largest synagogue in Europe today, it was originally built in 1859 and suffered damage during World War II. [25] In 1998, he also founded the Emanuel Foundation for Hungarian Culture, and served as honorary chairman. The organization works for the restoration and preservation of synagogues and the 1300 Jewish cemeteries in Hungary and is dedicated to the 600,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Hungary and lands occupied by the Hungarian Army. [26] Curtis also helped promote Hungary's national image in commercials. [27]

Books and appearances

Curtis in 2009, during a book-signing of his memoir American Prince 2009-0314-LV-002-TonyCurtis.jpg
Curtis in 2009, during a book-signing of his memoir American Prince

In 1965, Tony Curtis was animated in an episode of The Flintstones ; he also voiced his character Stoney Curtis. In 1994, a mural featuring his likeness, painted by the artist George Sportelli, was unveiled on the Sunset Boulevard overpass of the Hollywood Freeway Highway 101 in Los Angeles. The mural was relocated to Hollywood Boulevard and Bronson Avenue in September 2011. [28] His face is featured among the celebrities on the cover of the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album by The Beatles.

Also in 1994, the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation awarded its Lone Sailor Award for his naval service and his subsequent acting career.

In 2004, he was inducted into the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Hall of Fame. [29] A street is named after him in the Sun City Anthem development of his adopted hometown, Henderson, Nevada.[ citation needed ]

In 2008, he was featured in the documentary The Jill & Tony Curtis Story about his efforts with his wife to rescue horses from slaughterhouses. [30]

In October 2008, Curtis's autobiography American Prince: A Memoir, was published. [31] In it, he describes his encounters with other Hollywood legends of the time including Frank Sinatra and James Dean, as well as his hard-knock childhood and path to success. It was followed by the publication of his next book, The Making of Some Like it Hot: My Memories of Marilyn Monroe and the Classic American Movie (2009). [32] Curtis shared his memories of the making of the movie, in particular about Marilyn Monroe, whose antics and attitude on the set made everyone miserable.

On May 22, 2009, Curtis apologized to the BBC radio audience after he used three profanities in a six-minute interview with BBC presenter William Crawley. The presenter also apologized to the audience for Curtis's "Hollywood realism." Curtis explained that he thought the interview was being taped, when it was in fact live. [33]

Later years and death

Curtis was a lifelong Democrat and attended the 1960 Democratic National Convention alongside such liberal performers as Edward G. Robinson, Shelley Winters, Ralph Bellamy, and Lee Marvin. [34]

During the 1971 filming of The Persuaders! , Curtis developed a reputation among his costars and crew as a frequent marijuana smoker. [35] Curtis developed a heavy cocaine addiction in 1974 while filming Lepke , at a time when his stardom had declined considerably and he was being offered few film roles. [36] In 1984, Curtis was rushed to the hospital suffering from advanced cirrhosis as a result of his alcoholism and cocaine addiction. He then entered the Betty Ford Clinic and vowed to overcome his various illnesses. [37] He underwent heart bypass surgery in 1994, after suffering a heart attack. [38]

Curtis in 2004 Tony Curtis portrait.jpg
Curtis in 2004

On July 8, 2010, Curtis, who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was hospitalized in Las Vegas after suffering an asthma attack during a book-signing engagement in Henderson, Nevada, where he lived. [39]

Curtis died at his Henderson home on September 29, 2010, of cardiac arrest. [40] [41] [42] He left behind five children and seven grandchildren. [43] His widow Jill told the press that Curtis had suffered from various lung problems for years as a result of cigarette smoking, although he had quit smoking about 30 years earlier. [44] In fact, during the 1960s Curtis served as the president of the American 'I Quit Smoking' Club. [45] In a release to the Associated Press, his daughter, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, stated:

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. He will be greatly missed. [46]

His remains were interred at Palm Memorial Park Cemetery in Henderson, Nevada, on October 4, 2010. The service was attended by daughters, Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Rich Little; and Vera Goulet, Robert Goulet's widow. [47] [48] Investor Kirk Kerkorian, actor Kirk Douglas and singer Phyllis McGuire were among the honorary pallbearers.

Five months before his death he rewrote his will, naming all his children and intentionally disinheriting them with no explanation, then leaving his entire estate to his wife. [49] [50] [51]

Filmography

Film

YearTitleRoleNotes
1949 Criss Cross Gigolouncredited
1949 City Across the River Mitchcredited as Anthony Curtis
1949 Johnny Stool Pigeon Joey Hyattcredited as Anthony Curtis
1949 The Lady Gambles Bellboycredited as Anthony Curtis
1949 Take One False Step Hot Rod Driveruncredited
1949 How to Smuggle a Hernia Across the Border unknown roleShort film
1950 Francis Captain Jonescredited as Anthony Curtis
1950 Woman in Hiding Dave Shaw (voice role)uncredited
1950 I Was a Shoplifter Pepecredited as Anthony Curtis
1950 Sierra Brent Coultercredited as Anthony Curtis
1950 Winchester '73 Doancredited as Anthony Curtis
1950 Kansas Raiders Kit Dalton
1951 The Prince Who Was a Thief Julna
1952 Flesh and Fury Paul Callan
1952 No Room for the Groom Alvah Morrell
1952 Son of Ali Baba Kashma Baba
1952 Meet Danny Wilson Himself – Nightclub Patronuncredited
1953 Houdini Harry Houdini
1953 All American Nick Bonnelli
1953 Forbidden Eddie
1954 Beachhead Burke
1954 Johnny Dark Johnny Dark
1954 The Black Shield of Falworth Myles
1954 So This Is Paris Joe Maxwell
1955 Six Bridges to Cross Jerry Florea
1955 The Purple Mask Rene de Traviere aka Purple Mask
1955 The Square Jungle Eddie Quaid/Packy Glennon
1956 Trapeze Tino Orsini
1956 The Rawhide Years Ben Matthews
1957 Mister Cory Cory
1957 The Midnight Story Moe Martini
1957 Sweet Smell of Success Sidney Falcoalso Executive Producer
1958 The Vikings Eric
1958 Kings Go Forth Corporal Britt Harris
1958 The Defiant Ones John "Joker" Jackson
1958 The Perfect Furlough Corporal Paul Hodges
1959 Some Like It Hot Joe/Josephine/Shell Oil Junior
1959 Operation Petticoat Lieutenant Nicholas Holden
1960 Who Was That Lady? David Wilson
1960 The Rat Race Pete Hammond, Jr.
1960 Spartacus Antoninus
1960 Pepe Himselfuncredited
1960 The Great Imposter Ferdinand Waldo Demara, Jr./Martin Donner/Dr. Gilbert
1961 The Outsider Ira Hamilton Hayes
1962 Taras Bulba Andriy Bulba
1962 40 Pounds of Trouble Steve McCluskey
1963 The List of Adrian Messenger Organ Grindercameo
1963 Captain Newman, M.D. Corporal Jackson "Jake" Leibowitz
1964 Paris When It Sizzles Maurice/Philippe – 2nd Policemanuncredited
1964 Wild and Wonderful Terry Willams
1964 Goodbye Charlie George Tracy
1964 Sex and the Single Girl Bob Weston
1965 The Great Race The Great Leslie
1965 Boeing, Boeing Bernard Lawrence
1966 Chamber of Horrors Mr. Julianuncredited
1966 Not with My Wife, You Don't! Tom Ferris
1966 Arrivederci, Baby! Nick Johnsonalso known as Drop Dead Darling
1967 Don't Make Waves Carlo Cofield
1967 On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who... Guerrando da Montone
1968 Rosemary's Baby Donald Baumgart (voice role)uncredited
1968 The Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo
1969 Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies Chester Schofieldalso known as Monte-Carlo or Bust!
1970 You Can't Win 'Em All Adam Dyer
1970 Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? Shannon Gambroni
1975 Lepke Louis "Lepke" Buchalter
1976 The Last Tycoon Rodriguez
1977 Some Like It Cool Giacomo/Casanova
1977 The Manitou Harry Erskine
1978 Sextette Alexei Karansky
1978 The Bad News Bears Go to Japan Marvin Lazar
1979Title ShotFrank Renzetti
1980 Little Miss Marker Blackie
1980 It Rained All Night the Day I Left Robert Talbot
1980 The Mirror Crack'd Martin N. Fenn
1982Black CommandoColonel Iago
1982BrainWavesDr. Clavius
1982 Sparky's Magic Piano TV interviewer (voice role)Direct-to-Video
1983Dexter the Dragon & Bumble the Bearunknown role (voice role)English version
1983BalboaErnie Stoddard
1984 Where Is Parsifal? Parsifal Katzenellenbogen
1985 Insignificance Senator
1986Club LifeHector
1986The Last of Philip BanterCharles Foster
1988 Welcome to Germany Mr. Cornfield
1989 Lobster Man from Mars J.P. Shelldrake
1989MidnightMr. B
1989Walter & Carlo i AmerikaWilly La Rouge
1991 Prime Target Marietta Copella
1992Center of the WebStephen Moore
1993 Naked in New York Carl Fisher
1993The Mummy LivesAziru/Dr. Mohassid
1995The ImmortalsDominic
1997 Hardball Wald Direct-to-Video
1997Brittle GloryJack Steele
1998Louis & FrankLenny Star Springer
1998StargamesKing Fendel
1999 Play It to the Bone Ringside Fan
2002Reflections of EvilHost
2006Where's Marty?HimselfDirect-to-DVD
2007The Blacksmith and the CarpenterGod (voice role)Short film
2008 David & Fatima Mr. Schwartz

Television

YearTitleRoleNotes
1955Allen in MovielandHimselfTelevision Movie
1955–1956 The Ed Sullivan Show Himself (Guest)3 episodes
1959 The Joseph Cotten Show: On Trial CharlieEpisode: "Man on a Rock"
1960 Startime The JugglerEpisode: "The Young Juggler"
also Executive Producer
1965 The Flintstones Stony Curtis (voice role)Episode: "The Return of Stony Curtis"
1968 The Song Is You HimselfTelevision Movie
1968–1971 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Himself (Guest Performer)recurring role (8 episodes)
1970 American Cancer Society anti-smoking public service announcements Himselfmultiple PSAs [52] plus interview with Martin Agronsky on WTOP-TV News [53]
1971–1972 The Persuaders! Danny Wilde/Aunt Sophieseries regular (24 episodes)
1972 The ABC Comedy Hour Himself (Guest Performer)Episode: "The Friars Roast of Joe Namath"
1972 The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour Himself (Guest Performer)2 episodes
1973 The Third Girl from the Left Joey JordanTelevision Movie
1973 Shaft Clifford GraysonEpisode: "Hit-Run"
1975 The Count of Monte-Cristo Fernand MondegoTelevision Movie
1975–1976 McCoy McCoyseries regular (5 episodes)
1978 The Users Randy BrentTelevision Movie
1978–1981 Vega$ Rothseries regular (17 episodes)
1980 The Scarlett O'Hara War David O. Selznick Television Movie
1981Inmates: A Love StoryFlanaganTelevision Movie
1981The Million Dollar FaceChester MastersonTelevision Movie
1982Portrait of a ShowgirlJoey DeLeonTelevision Movie
1983 The Fall Guy Joe O'HaraEpisode: "Eight Ball"
1986Mafia PrincessSam GiancanaTelevision Movie
1986 Murder in Three Acts Charles CartwrightTelevision Movie
1989 Tarzan in Manhattan Archimedes PorterTelevision Movie
1989CharlieScott ParishTelevision Movie
1990Thanksgiving DayMax SchlossTelevision Movie
1992 Christmas in Connecticut Alexander YardleyTelevision Movie
1992–1993Hollywood BabylonHimself (Host)5 episodes
1994Bandit: Beauty and the BanditLucky BergstromTelevision Movie
1994 A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Grimacing Governor Johnny SteeleTelevision Movie
1994Cilla's WorldHimselfTelevision Movie
1995–2003 Biography Himself (Interviewee)4 episodes
– Episode: "Roger Moore" (1995)
– Episode: "Ernest Borgnine" (2000)
– Episode: "Tony Curtis" (2001)
– Episode: "Janet Leigh" (2003)
1996 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Dr. MambaEpisode: "I Now Pronounce You..."
1996 Roseanne HalEpisode: "Ballroom Blitz"
1997 Elvis Meets Nixon Himself (uncredited)Television Movie
1998 Suddenly Susan Peter DiCaprioEpisode: "Matchmaker, Matchmaker"
2004 Hope & Faith MorrisEpisode: "Jack's Back"
2005 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation HimselfEpisode: "Grave Danger (Part 1)"
2006 60 Minutes HimselfEpisode: "Gay Marriage/The Marilyn Mystery"
2010 Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Himself (Celebrity Question Presenter)Episode: "Million Dollar Movie Week 1"

Box office ranking

For a number of years Curtis was voted by exhibitors in an annual poll from Quigley Publishing as among the top stars in the United States:

Radio appearances

YearProgramEpisode/source
1951 Suspense The McKay College Basketball Scandal [54]
1952Stars in the AirModel Wife [55]

Awards and nominations

AssociationYearCategoryNominated WorkResult
Academy Awards 1959 Best Actor The Defiant Ones Nominated
BAFTA Awards 1958 Best Foreign Actor Sweet Smell of Success Nominated
1959 Best Foreign Actor The Defiant OnesNominated
Bambi Awards 1958 Best Actor, International Sweet Smell of SuccessWon
1959 Best Actor, International The Defiant OnesNominated
1960 Best Actor, International Some Like It Hot Nominated
1973 TV Series International The Persuaders! Won
Bravo Otto Awards 1972 Best Male TV Star The Persuaders!Won
California Independent Film Festival2004Lifetime Achievement AwardWon
David di Donatello Awards 2001 Special David Won
Empire Awards 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award Won
Golden Apple Awards 1952 Most Cooperative Actor Won
1958 Most Cooperative Actor Won
1964 Least Cooperative Actor Won
Golden Camera Awards 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award Won
Golden Globe Awards 1958 World Film Favorite, Male Won
1959 Best Actor in a Motion Picture— Drama The Defiant OnesNominated
1961 World Film Favorite, Male Won
1969 Best Actor in a Motion Picture— Drama The Boston Strangler Nominated
Jules Verne Awards 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award Won
Laurel Awards 1958 Top Male Dramatic Performance Sweet Smell of SuccessNominated
1960 Top Male Star Nominated
1960 Top Male Comedy Performance Who Was That Lady? Nominated
1961 Top Male Star Nominated
1962 Top Male Star Nominated
1962 Top Male Dramatic Performance The OutsiderNominated
1963 Top Male Star Nominated
1963 Top Male Dramatic Performance 40 Pounds of TroubleNominated
1964 Top Male Star Nominated
1964 Top Male Comedy Performance Captain Newman, M.D.Nominated
1965 Male Star Nominated
Montreal World Film Festival 2008 Grand Prix Special des Ameriques Won
Palm Springs International Film Festival 1995 Desert Palm Achievement Award Won
Photoplay Award1959Most Popular Male StarWon
Primetime Emmy Awards 1980 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special The Scarlett O'Hara War Nominated
Sitges Catalonian International Film Festival 2000 "The General" Honorary Award Won
St. Louis International Film Festival 1997 Distinguished Hollywood Film Artist Award Won
TP de Oro 1973 Best Foreign Actor The Persuaders!Nominated
Walk of Fame 1960 Star on the Walk of Fame–Motion Picture 6817 Hollywood Blvd. Won

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Further reading