Best known for his dashing matinee-idol looks in 1950s and 1960s films, actor Tony Curtis, passed away at his home in Las Vegas on September 29, 2010, at the age of 85 from a heart attack.
Tony’s best known role was opposite Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon, in 1959’s “Some Like It Hot,” where he and Jack Lemmon play musicians dressing as women to escape after witnessing a murder. Tony also does a Cary Grant imitation. He appeared as the rebellious slave, Antoninus, in 1960’s “Spartacus,” with Kirk Douglas in the title role. He also was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Act opposite Sidney Poitier in “The Defiant Ones” (1958). In 1958, Tony Curtis was named “the world’s favorite movie actor.” by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Tony Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx, New York on June 3, 1925. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he used his GI Bill benefits to study acting with Erwin Piscator at the New School for Social Research. Future stars, Walter Matthau and Harry Belafonte were in his class. Curtis soon was spotted by a Universal talent scout, who signed him to a $75-a-week contract.
Tony’s Bronx accent was often fodder (excuse the pun) for comedians, particularly when he was cast as a prince in movies, such as “The Prince Who Was a Thief” (1951) and “Son of Ali Baba” (1952). Comedians would get a laugh with the line “Yonder lies the castle of my fodda,” mocking Tony’s accent. Tony says in his memoir “American Prince” that Debbie Reynolds was the first to come up with that one, although the real line was “Yonder in the valley of the sun is my father’s castle.” It was mostly all in good fun, and Tony Curtis had a marvelous sense of humor which he displayed in many interviews. “Comedy is the most honest way for an actor to earn his living,” Tony said, “People would rather laugh than cry. The quickest way to change drama into comedy is simply to speed up the film.”
Also well-known as a Hollywood lothario, Tony often fell for his leading ladies and had numerous affairs with the likes of not only Monroe, but Natalie Wood. He was frank about his weakness for women in his memoirs, “Tony Curtis: An Autobiography” and “American Prince.” Sometimes the woman talked about it. Actress Mamie Van Doren, who co-starred with Tony in “The All American” (1953), recounts her fling with Tony during the filming of Spartacus (1960) on her blog.
Tony was married 6 times (some say 5 — see photos of his wives) . His first marriage to actress, Janet Leigh, which began in 1951, ended when life imitated art on the set of Taras Bulba (1962). Curtis fell in love with German actress Christine Kaufmann. They divorced in 1967 and a year later, he married model, Leslie “Penny” Allen. After they split in 1982, Tony Curtis said he was married to actress Andrea Savio in 1984. In 1993, he married attorney, Lisa Deutsch. His last marriage in 1998, to horse trainer Jill Vandenberg lasted until his death. The couple ran a sanctuary and refuge for horses, known as Shiloh Horse Rescue.
Tony Curtis continued to act into the 1970s and 80s, mostly in television. He also spent some time in the Betty Ford Clinic, battling various addictions. Tony Curtis later spent his spare time cultivating his favorite hobby, painting, at which he was quite talented. The Butler Institute of American Art, in Youngstown, Ohio, gave him a one-man exhibition in 1992 and for a while, he sold his paintings online. He was rumored to have a role in the film, Morella (2011), which is now filming.
Tony Curtis is survived by wife, Jill; his daughters Kelly and Jamie Lee (with Janet Leigh); his daughters, Alexandra and Allegra (with Christine Kaufmann); and his son, Benjamin (with Leslie “Penny” Allen). Penny and Tony also had a son, Nicholas, who passed away in 1994. Tony Curtis also leaves six grandchildren.
For a recap of some of his best movies, check out Essential Tony Curtis Movies.
and IMDB: Tony Curtis