Tony Curtis was as big as anyone in the ’50s and ’60s. Not only was Curtis a major star in his own right, but he also had a family of stars as well. His first wife was Janet Leigh, and they had a daughter who grew up to be Jamie Lee Curtis. But he also had countless admirers, becoming one of the most admired actors of the ’50s and ’60s, although his career started to decline afterward. Nevertheless, the time that Tony Curtis spent at the top is being remembered across Hollywood after his death today at the age of 85.
The actor was reported dead of a cardiac arrest at his home in Las Vegas, according to his business manager. Curtis had previously been hospitalized for breathing problems in July, and had been battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The death of Curtis comes after one of the more unique, roller coaster careers in the business. Born Bernie Schwartz, he became an actor after being wounded in World War II at the Pacific. He got the name of Anthony Curtis after signing with Universal-International in 1948, and eventually shortened it to Tony.
Immediately, Curtis was recognized for his looks and for his imitable New York accent — which never went away even in films set in the Middle East, Viking times, and Rome. But it was his looks that propelled him to stardom, although it may not have gotten him taken seriously at first.
He changed that with films like Sweet Smell of Success, Operation Petticoat, and his only Oscar-nominated role in The Defiant Ones. However, Curtis was immortalized in the annals of comedy when he dressed in drag with Jack Lemmon — and paid homage to Cary Grant — in Some Like It Hot.
As he rose up the Hollywood ranks, he also made headlines for being married to fellow star Janet Leigh. Yet in 1962, the couple divorced after Curtis had an affair with 17-year-old German actress Christine Kauffman. But their Hollywood legacy continued when daughter Jamie Lee Curtis became a star herself.
The ’60s had Curtis star in films like Spartacus, The Great Imposter and The Boston Strangler. But after that, his career dried up, as he would play supporting roles in movies and television from then on in. In any case, he had already moved on to a second career in painting, although he continued to juggle both careers up until his death.
Curtis did what the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt eventually did in today’s times, getting taken seriously for more than his face. He also survived the war, scandal, and the sudden decline of his acting career, leaving behind a legacy in more ways than one.
Los Angeles Times- “Actor Tony Curtis dies at 85”
MTV.com- “Tony Curtis Dead At 85”
Long Island Press- “Tony Curtis Dies at 85”