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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

STAR OF THE MONTH: Tony Curtis



Tony Curtis was told by a number of people, including the legendary Billy Wilder, that he was the "best looking kid in show business." A good 60 years or so after his hey-day, the title may still apply. Tony's beauty and charisma made him stick out like a sore thumb in Hollywood. While he isn't normally revered as one of the top actors in cinematic history, his career, the people he has worked with, and the classic movies that he has made, keep him forever cemented in our memory. You can't look anywhere in the final days of the studio era without bumping into him! This kid loved to work, and he took every opportunity he could to chase his dreams and expand on them. Starting out in silly B-movies, he crawled his way up the ladder to more established and respected roles, rubbing elbows with some of the most famous and lauded talents of his generation, thus making himself one of them. Despite the prejudice he sometimes felt due to his Jewish background, (and the jealousy over his good looks), Tony lived the high life, partied with the best of them, and starred in film after film, determined to prove himself as a good actor. He is a true testament to what a little grit and determination will do! And he did it with style.

 
 Tony with first wife, Janet Leigh

As per usual, it wasn't always wine and roses. The man that Tony would become grew from the insecure and isolated boy he was in his youth. After witnessing the constant fights of his parents and suffering the physical beatings of his schizophrenic mother, Tony would learn to take care of himself. Victimized in his home life, he swore that he would never play the patsy again. When picked on by neighborhood kids, Tony learned to throw a punch; in love, he would search for the perfect nurturer, while refusing to be pinned down himself or forced to play the subservient male he saw in his own father. He spent his youth swinging his fists, hellbent on finding his freedom and getting the heck out of the Bronx-- but he always carried its mettle with him. An early means of escape and detachment came from the movies. Despite whatever pains he was dealing with, including the shocking death of his younger brother Julie, Tony could always disappear in cinema. After joining the Navy at the age of 16, Tony served his time, grew into a man, and pursued his dreams as a Hollywood superstar. Despite all the cards stacked against him, he succeeded far beyond his expectations.

With Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones

Tony became the symbol of the American dream: a boy from humble upbringings living a fairy tale life at the top. Married to beautiful actress, Janet Leigh, his career grew and grew, and he lavished in the fame. His boyish quality, the little scalawag he could never quite outrun, followed him to Hollywood, and his audiences loved him for it. The guys copied his duck-tail haircut, and the girls swooned at his cocky pout. But one can only outrun his demons for so long. Tony wanted too much out of life. He overcompensated for the privileges and love he had been denied in his youth until he found himself sinking under the weight of his own desires. One minute he was hanging with Frank Sinatra, starring in films like Some Like It Hot, and living the high life; the next, he was divorced (several times), struggling to find work, addicted to cocaine, and drowning in the sea of depression he had tried for so long to avoid.


Luckily, the fighter came out swinging again. At the ripe old age of 85, Tony has triumphed. Embracing and overcoming all of the obstacles and faults within himself, he has beaten his addictions, found solace in his love of painting, and lives to tell the tales of his crazy life in the movies. He regrets none of it. Filling people in on his romances with Marilyn Monroe and Natalie Wood, he has become our touchstone to the past; a living link to the glamour of the studio days, which have long since passed. The guy simply won't quit, and we don't really want him to! A lifetime of struggles and an unstoppable passion have given him a life full of accomplishments and us a list of classic, American films: The Defiant Ones, The Sweet Smell of Success, Operation Petticoat, Spartacus, and of course, Some Like It Hot. In the long list of roles he's played, the only character more fascinating is the man himself. This month, let's tip our hats to the Manhattan boy with the deep, blue eyes. Sit back, salivate, enjoy!


* We lost Tony a mere two months after this article was written. He died of cardiac arrest on Sept. 30, 2010. Rest in Peace, sweet Prince. We'll miss you.

8 comments:

  1. Love his tribute to Cary Grant via his rich boy interpretation in Some Like It Hot. Wonderful post!

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  2. Sarah: I know! What a stroke of genius!
    Billy: Me too! Such a great film.

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  3. Fantastic as always! I love him in The Great Race. It's a silly one, but he's so hilarious in it!

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  4. Sally: I agree! I actually saw The Great Race for the first time while researching Tony. Over-the-top entertainment. I loved Natalie and Jack too!

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  5. You can see a little bit of the real Tony Curtis (ie; Bernard Scwartz) in the 1957 film Mister Cory .... it's quite a good film.

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    1. Ooh, thanks for the recommendation! I will add it to my ever-expanding queue, hahaha. ;)

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