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Wednesday, August 25, 2010


The go-getter in Tony Curtis was always looking for the next project. When he heard about a film being produced by a particular director with whom he wanted to work, or when he was very intrigued by a particular character, he had no qualms about contacting whoever was involved to add his name to the list of "Maybes." Even after he had established himself as a bankable star, he wasn't guaranteed every part he wanted. He still had to schmooze, ingratiate himself with the right people, and work to stay on top. From time to time, his efforts would be in vain. For example, when Tony heard that Blake Edwards was going to be shooting Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), he thought he would be perfect for the male lead. The fact that he was good friends with Blake also made him assume that he would have a little extra pull in the casting office. However, things didn't pan out, and the role went instead to George Peppard (above with Audrey on the set). Makes ya wonder... Tony was fine with the rebuff-- it was the business after all-- but he would remark that Blake spoke to him less frequently after this unfortunate exchange, as if embarrassed that he had let his friend down. Tony recalled a palpable awkwardness on the later set of their collaboration, The Great Race.

Interestingly, this wasn't the only Audrey Hepburn picture that Tony hoped to star in. He would also push for the role of Audrey's cross-country love interest in 1967's Two for the Road. Audrey seemed up for the idea, but it turns out that it was her husband at the time, Mel Ferrer, who thought the casting wasn't right. If he was threatened by the handsome Tony's reputation with the ladies, he needn't have been. Tony and Audrey never had anything but a respectful friendship. In fact, had Tony starred in the role of Mark Wallace, history may have turned out a bit differently... As well as Audrey's marriage. For it was Albert Finney, (pictured left on the set with Audrey) the rugged, British actor that would wind up snagging the role and engaging in a heated affair with the graceful and alluring gamin. (Whoops, Mel). Tony was a long shot for this one anyway, since the role had already been offered to Michael Caine and Paul Newman.

Again, Tony shed no tears. He had at least been able to enjoy sharing the screen with the delightful Audrey in his brief but memorable appearance in the classic Paris, When It Sizzles of 1964. Tony's role in the fantasy sequence where Audrey is approached by a potential love interest, on a moped no less, was an uncredited favor Tony did for director Richard Quine. Quine needed to buy some time on the set, due to the fact that the film's male lead, William Holden (with whom Audrey had earlier had an alleged, tumultuous affair on the set of Sabrina), was coming down from one of his benders and needed time to recuperate and rehabilitate before filming could resume. So, Quine added a little scene that would give Audrey another actor to perform with in William's absence, and his pal Tony honorably entered to save the day. The moment is memorable and made all the more perfectly absurd due to Tony's presence, which was completely in keeping with the tone of the film.

Tony relaxes on the set with Audrey.

Just as Tony was surreptitiously intercepted from the lovely Ms. Hepburn, Grace Kelly would likewise be "plot-blocked" from James Dean, and both times by Elizabeth Taylor! Don't get excited, no cat-fights were involved. The two instances in which Grace was offered a role that later went to Liz were the results of timing, not conniving. The first example occurred when Grace was offered the lead in Giant (1956). Grace (right in High Noon) was intrigued by the role in the film, but MGM wanted to put her in The Bottom of the Bottle at her home studio instead of loaning her out to George Stevens at Warner Bros. Grace balked, refused to take on the role in the Metro vehicle, and as a result was put on suspension. She was not a woman apt to be told what to do. So, while Grace enjoyed some well-deserved time off, mocking the studio's ineffective punishment, Liz snatched up the role in Giant and subsequently ran away with it. It was a fated situation, for on the set Liz would become incredibly close with both her male co-stars, the tragic Dean-- with whom she built an understanding and closeness that few others on the set could accomplish-- and more importantly, Rock Hudson. Their friendship was lifelong, and it was Rock's later lost battle with AIDS that would launch Liz's steadfast activism toward finding a cure for the disease. She remains passionate about the cause to this day.

The final casting coup: Liz, Rock, and Jimmy

Item #2 was ill-fated from the get-go. The original cast of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was to include James Dean and Grace Kelly-- and supposedly, Orson Welles as Big Daddy. The film had been in the works for several years, so by the time Richard Brooks finally got behind the camera to shoot the Tennessee Williams masterpiece, which was postponed until it ended its Broadway run on the stage, the original game pieces had already changed. Grace was married and living in Monaco, James had shockingly already died, and Orson was off being Orson somewhere. So, Liz stepped in opposite Paul Newman. I think we can all agree that this version of Maggie the Cat made the aforementioned 'Roof' much, much hotter! Though Grace's legendary use of restraint would have worked well in indicating the simmering, lustful boil beneath the beautiful surface of Maggie's character, Liz was far more openly sexual (feast your eyes, left). Grace was a sensual woman, equally capable of displaying eroticism, but her cries for sexual mercy would not have provided the carnal howl that Liz was able to produce. When she screams, "Maggie the cat is alive!" you know she means it, and you fear the fangs! (Well, maybe the guys don't). In the James vs. Paul category, it is hard to say who would have proved a better haunted and drunken golden boy. Paul had a few years on Jimmy, so his maturity certainly added to his understanding of the character. He is so perfect in the role that it is hard to imagine even the incomparable Dean showing him up. It also turned out that Burl Ives, (now best remembered for his renditions of Christmas songs), would play Big Daddy instead of Orson. Paul had fortunately already gotten to work opposite the eccentric master Welles when they co-starred in The Long Hot Summer earlier that year.

The true testament of sex appeal: when it still works on crutches

 Getting back to Jimmy (looking extra sexy, right), it may have been East of Eden that made him a star, but it was Rebel without a Cause that made him a phenomenon! Imagining anyone else racing around in that red windbreaker feels like sacrilege. Don't even try it; it will hurt your brain! However, the first name thrown onto the table of discussion for the role of Jim Stark was one of Jimmy's own idols: Marlon Brando! However, by the time filming was finally to commence, Marlon was pushing thirty and hardly seemed the right man to take on the role of a teenaged, angst-ridden boy. So, Nicholas Ray found his muse of adolescent torment in the smoldering and enticing Dean, who had the magical power of being at once both vulnerable and dangerous: the perfect, modern dreamboat. It all worked out according to plan. Just as Marlon seemed built for his infamous, star-making wail, "Stella!" in A Streetcar Named Desire, James was destined to cry out, "You're tearing me apart!" in Rebel. And that my friends, is why we let fate do the dirty work.

Friday, August 20, 2010


One of the things that made Tony Curtis such a committed film actor was the fact that he was an avid movie fan. From boyhood, he sought escape and enjoyment in the seats of the local movie theater. Everything about Hollywood seemed delicious to him: the artistry, the fame, the money, and-- of course-- the women. Imagine his incredible pleasure when years of dreaming and unshakable determination brought him to Los Angeles via the US Navy on his way to Pearl Harbor (his left pic is a later studio headshot). Setting foot in the Hollywood Canteen that night in the early 1940s must have felt like entering the Garden of Eden! (Or should I say, Allah)? Star struck and agog at his surroundings, Tony was especially taken with Gloria De Haven, the sumptuous actress generously making an appearance at the Canteen for the boys that night. 

The brief encounter would prove to be a mere preview of things to come, for it seems that Ms. De Haven could sense the star power in the handsome young officer. Even decades later, Tony can remember the intense and exciting feeling he had when he and Gloria briefly locked eyes from across the room. It was a memory that would keep him warm during the time he spent cooped up in a submarine headed for Guam. Just as the eternal dreamer was able to take his childhood aspirations for filmdom and make them fact, so too did he take this split second with Gloria and turn it into something a little more substantial. The two would be reunited on the set of So This Is Paris in 1955 after Tony had become a legitimate Hollywood actor. Oh, and they would have a heated affair too. The tryst was brief but well-remembered. Tony still recalls Gloria as one of the two co-stars he ever really fell for. (The other was Suzanne Pleshette).

Tony sure could pick 'em!

Tony wasn't the only actor to be flabbergasted in the presence of a movie starlet. Before Rudolph Valentino (looking dapper, right) became the epitome of male sexuality, he was just a struggling actor trying to get by in NYC. One day, he "got by" Mary Pickford, who was dining with her mother at a Manhattan restaurant. Rudy was stunned to see the world's most famous woman a mere stone's throw away, but instead of being tongue tied, he walked right over. He earned brownie points by introducing himself to Mary's mother Charlotte first, and then politely turned his attention to the screen's first diva. Mary was very gracious in accepting his sincere compliments for her work and then patiently gave him advice on how to advance his own career. He clearly listened, and years later Mary probably struggled to reconcile the screen's hottest heartthrob with the humble young fop from her memory. After Rudy had established himself as an actor, the two began running in the same circles. Rudy was a frequent guest at the illustrious Pickfair, although Doug Fairbanks never took too much of a liking to him. Doug liked to be the center of attention after all, and the handsome Rudy was one Hell of a scene stealer.

Little Mary

Rudy was one actor who could return the favor. Just as Mary had been friendly to him when he was a nobody, so too would Rudy always treat those around him as equals. He would emulate the kindness bestowed upon him by the mega-movie-star by lavishing it upon other hopefuls that he would meet in later life. For example, while filming The Sheik, the newly famous Rudy, riding high off the success of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, took note of the many young extras on the set. Most of them were starting out in the business, nameless and faceless, and probably completely starstruck by his presence. To make them feel at home, he allowed several young ladies to take a turn riding his horse as he led it around the set. Two of his riders? An 8 -year-old Loretta Young and her sister Polly Ann, both dressed head to toe in Arabian garb. It made their day! (The three Young sisters are pictured left: Loretta, Polly Ann, and Elizabeth-- a trio of lookers).  Years later, Loretta would remember fondly watching a jovial Rudy ambling around with his guitar and singing between takes. It was quite an experience for a smitten young girl.

Loretta, age 14, during filming of Laugh, Clown, Laugh

 Not all meetings between stars are quite so pleasant. Some are just downright awkward, such as the next case. For some time, Jean Arthur and Greta Garbo were vying or the title of "Most Elusive Lady in Hollywood." Fittingly, the two had never met. Jean (right) was sympathetic to Garbo's plight, feeling that on some level she understood her need for privacy and personal space. She even respected her for it: "Her belief that only her work is important to her public. I feel that way, too." What Garbo felt about Jean is unknown, (as is pretty much everything else that went on in Garbo's head). Feeling an unspoken camaraderie with her Swedish counterpart, Jean volunteered to deliver a package to Garbo on behalf of a mutual friend. After all, Garbo was renting a house nearby. It seemed neighborly. Jean was nervous to finally come face to face with the Great Garbo but was also honored-- and a bit excited-- at the chance of an introduction. 

In typical Jean fashion, her knees began to shake as she approached Garbo's temporary abode, but she mustered up the courage to ring the doorbell. A servant let her in, and she waiting anxiously in the front hall. She looked up to see the devastatingly beautiful Greta floating cautiously down the stairs. After sputtering out an explanation for her presence, Jean quietly handed over the package and watched as Greta turned away and opened it. Inside was a huge diamond pin! Jean's eyes were as big as saucers! After a few seconds of silence, Greta turned back around, looked at Jean and said, "Vy don't you mind your own bizness." She then turned and made her way back upstairs. Shell-shocked, Jean equally turned on her heels and ran out the door. She never had a meeting with Garbo again!

This less-than-inviting gaze is
probably similar to what Jean encountered that day!

Happy weekend! :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

TAKE ONE, TWO, THREE...: The Three Faces of Ev-il...

When Tony Curtis was released from the US Navy at the end of WWII, the 20-year-old was determined to pursue his dreams of acting. After learning that there were some openings at the Dramatic Workshop, where he would be acting alongside soon-to-be-legends like Walter Matthau, Harry Belafonte, and Bea Arthur, Tony was ready and raring to go. The only problem? He would have to audition to be accepted. Because he was too nervous to perform a scene with dialogue, Tony opted to re-enact the great metamorphosis scene of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This, in addition to the compelling light and dark sides of Mr. Curtis's own nature, served as my inspiration for this week's post.

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The story of and legend of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been retold in many different ways and many different mediums. In cinema alone, the list of films that have been directly adapted from Stevenson's original novel are countless-- from Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. Though the tale being repeated ad nauseum should have expectedly grow cold by now, just as the evolving mythology of the vampire continues to peak our interest, this horror story keeps going strong. The themes of good and evil, human versus animal, and cerebral versus sexual, remain relatable topics. Sex sells, now more than ever. However, it was in the past that it presented itself more seductively, more interestingly, and more violently. In time periods of more strict moral behavior, and more stringent cinematic codes,  filmmakers had to be very crafty to divulge all of the facets and dangers of suppressed human sexuality with honesty and without suffering from the censors' scissors.

Watching the following three adaptations, it is interesting to witness what the audiences of the times must have: the slow unfolding of hidden yearnings, the unleashing of one's inner beast, the acknowledgment of those thoughts, feelings, and compulsions a proper, puritanical society teaches us to suppress. Witnessing the metamorphosis onscreen must have come like a rush; a welcome release and catharsis on a society ready for change, indulgence, and ecstasy. However, the horror too remains. The horror of what it is to look at the baser nature of ourselves and recognize only a monster-- one that lives within all of us, and one that we must constantly seek to control. Heavy duty stuff, but sometimes it is only through the most extravagant means that we see the clearest truths.

Below I briefly discuss the J and H films of 1920, 1931, and 1941. Instead of recapping the varying plot-lines, which are essentially exactly the same, I shall point out the ways each film manages to distinguish itself and the essential factor within each film that makes it unique. All of them are superb, and all should be seen, if only to compare the different interpretations of presentation and performance, but in the three following categories, each movie takes a turn standing above the others and holding its own: The Doc, The Women, and The Film.


It probably comes as no surprise that one of the most lauded thespians in American history should hold the title for one of the greatest performances of all time. Despite the fact that Fredric March took home the Academy Award in 1941 for his performance of the good/bad doctor, it is John Barrymore's interpretation of the scientist-gone-mad that maintains a well-deserved notoriety. Barrymore (left in "Hamlet" in 1922) was the perfect man to cast in the role of the intelligent and innocent doctor who is slowly manipulated onto the path of darkness. For one, his reputation as a great male beauty, aka The Great Profile, made his transformation into a gruesome, egg-headed monster even more horrific. To see John in his prime-- young and fresh, before alcohol and ravaged his mind and body-- gives you a better idea of why the ladies had such great affection for the man who was Beau Brummel. More importantly, the Barrymore legend of acting talent is no overstatement. This guy is good. There is a reason that he, his brother Lionel, and his sister Ethel, were so revered in their time. "Pretty," Johnny may have been, but he wasn't afraid to get ugly, and the self-same torments and demons he possessed within his soul, which plagued him his whole life and drove him to self destruction, he equally wore proudly on any stage. He never failed to rip himself open and martyr himself before movie cameras at his most demented, pathetic, and destroyed. Inside all genius, there is madness, and it is precisely John's gifted madness that made his work on the 1920 film so breathtaking.

To this day, John's initial transformation scene of Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde is a moment that every actor remains enthralled by. The main reason is that no makeup is used. The cameras role without stopping, there are no special effects, it is simply John, clutching his throat, crumpling in agony, disappearing below his counter, and arising a totally different animal. He pulls a Lon Chaney, but without a makeup bag. The effect is astounding, mesmerizing, and terrifying. This one, uninterrupted moment more fully communicates how simple it is for all of us to give in to our own private monster-- how closely he lives beneath our skin. John does not disappoint for the rest of the film in his characterization, though he does have a little help from the makeup department as the story progresses. His Mr. Hyde (right) is diabolically sinister and physically repulsive. Whereas in Rouben Mamoulian's '31 version, Fredric March's Hyde is interpreted as primitive and ape-like-- a throw-back to our inner-caveman-- and the Victor Fleming '41 version gives us a Spencer Tracy with mad, emphasized eyes and teeth, John's Hyde is somewhat of a conundrum. His elongated, egg-domed head protrudes under a greasy mat of gnarled hair, and his hunched walk resembles a slinking, twitching insect. Indeed, when the transition begins to overtake him in a later scene, a tarantula is seen, super-imposed, closing in on his bewitched and transfixed body. The fact that his appearance is so inexplicable makes the terrorizing of his chosen victim Gina, the always superb vixen Nita Naldi, all the more repellent and despicable. 

While Fredric and Spencer both deserve kudos for what they brought to their characterizations, they can't touch Barrymore on this one. So, if it is the performance of the Doc you are most looking for, reach for 1920. You won't be sorry. Just scared!


The casting of the women was a very important part of all three films. In casting the dancing girl/prostitute Ivy (or Gina as she was in the 1920 version), a girl had to be chosen whose overt sexuality could penetrate and disturb even the most self-controlled and moral of men. She had to be the epitome of desire, provoking and drawing forth a lust for which the doctor would purposely concoct a potion to release. But too, the actress needed to evoke sympathy from the audience, for the burden of being an object of insane desire becomes a punishment that eventually kills her. It's the old "hooker with a heart of gold" scenario-- no lady of the night was born on the street. The choice to use the sexy and scintillating Nita Naldi as John's counterpart, Gina, (I'm wondering if the writer cleverly left the va- off the beginning of that one) is no shocker. Nita was the epitome of feminine sexual danger at the time. Miriam Hopkins (left) as Ivy in the '31 version is also something to behold. In fact, her initial meeting with the as yet untainted Dr. Jekyll, when she tries to seduce him in her bedroom, is still quite jaw-dropping. When she raises her skirt and places his hand on her leg, it makes one hot under the collar even decades later. Miriam was a fascinating and truly gifted actress, too often forgotten among her contemporaries. It was just this type of envelope-pushing role, which deviated from the normal expectations of chastity and womanhood, that made her all the rage in the pre-code era. (If you get the chance to see her in The Story of Temple Drake or Design for Living, take it).

However, it is 1941 that wins the award for the superb exploration of the temptations of female sexuality. Not only did he cast the gloriously tragic and inhumanly beautiful Ingrid Bergman as Jekyll's temptation, Ivy, but Fleming also cast hot to trot Ms. Lana Turner as his luscious fiance, Beatrix (both right with Spence). At first, you may think that Fleming got these roles reversed-- that Ingrid would have served the film better in the prim and lovely fiance-next-door role, and the effortlessly sexy Turner should have been the target of Hyde's passion. This too is what I believed at first, but somehow the unexpected decision works. It is precisely Jekyll's repressed desire for his beautiful fiance Lana that fuels his need to make the sensual and vulnerable Ingrid his prey. In fact, the two women resemble each other greatly in the film. Neither of them have ever looked so gorgeous. With long, curly hair, soft lips, and ripe figures, they are practically interchangeable. The naive and youthful innocence of Lana, whom Spencer's Jekyll must be chomping at the bit to wed and bed, bears little difference from Ingrid's interpretation of Ivy-- except the price of sharing Ivy's bed is much cheaper than a wedding ring. In this version, Jekyll gets the girl of his dreams the right way, and Hyde gets the girl of his dreams the wrong way. The fantasy sequence in which Jekyll envisions himself as Hyde, driving a chariot pulled by these two women-- naked nonetheless-- speaks volumes. He sadistically lashes at them with his whip, urging them to go faster and faster in a physical representation of man's ultimate orgasm- the final unity of the Madonna and the Whore.

The Sadistic Dream Sequence

So, if it's the ladies you want to look at, turn your peepers to Victor Fleming's 1941 version. Ingrid Bergman is her usual magnificent, multi-layered self, giving great depth and pathos to her role of the broken woman, and Lana, whom I think is often underrated for her talents, is equally intriguing and sensitive in her portrayal of the suffering fiance.


As you have probably guessed, the final trophy goes to Rouben Mamoulian for his adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1931. Despite the triumphs of both the silent and '41 versions, Mamoulian's direction of the middle film is both technically and narratively the most intriguing. A very smart move on his part, in order to better meld his audience with the protagonist/antagonist he created a series of point-of-view shots. When Jekyll (Fredric March) sits with his fiance Muriel (Rose Hobart) on a bench (left), we get direct to camera close-ups of both faces, which are smoldering with desire. As Muriel looks out at the audience enticingly, we more fully understand the lust churning in Jekyll's loins, which he is obviously struggling to keep suppressed. But she too is a mammalian creature, who yearns for her chaste lover as much as he yearns for her. The countdown to the wedding day thus becomes painfully long and unbearable, and the viewer is totally on Jekyll's side when he decides to indulge in his hidden animal, unleash the beast, and make Miriam Hopkins's sultry Ivy his unwitting prey. These POV shots become equally compelling once Jekyll becomes Hyde, seeing himself for the first time and living as him for the first time. Again, the audience moves with the camera, walking heavily in the shoes of their own dark and devious natures. It makes the film both thrilling and horrifying in that we are forced to personalize the experience.

The makeup used for Fredric is also unique. While at first he seems just plain ridiculous, looking like a goofy monkey and in no way passable as human, his appearance serves a purpose. It seems hard to buy that any woman, prostitute or not, would sleep with a being so obviously ape-like, and we have to use suspension of disbelief when Miriam is raped by the monster much more than we have to with the equally hideous portrayals of Barrymore and Tracy. I mean, this is just plain bestiality! But, that is Mamoulian's point. By tapping into suppressed desires and caged violent tendencies, Jekyll is getting in touch with his most animal, ungoverned, and unevolved self. His primate features recall that of the caveman, or perhaps even the missing link, who did not woo with wine and roses but simply clubbed a female over the head and had his way with her guilt-free. While modern man is sophisticated in ways of the heart, while he can love, feel pity, relate to other creatures, Mamoulian suggests that the baser nature remaining deep at our core can not, or rather will not, do the same. The absence of responsibility and emotion, existence based purely on the instant satisfaction of the "id," is the closest man can get to freedom. But, as the film points out, he must sacrifice his humanity to get it.

What finally makes this version a bit superior to the others is the fact that it was made at the right time. The years 1930-1934 were a very rich and enticing, albeit brief, period of film-making before the production code was enforced and the censors (via Will Hays and Joe Breen) went haywire. Stories were bolder, dialogue was more risque, and it was the last dance of the freewheeling twenties before the depression set in with full force. Thus, the themes of sex and violence are more freely explored, expressed, and enlarged upon than in the other two versions. With a little more wiggle room, Mamoulian was allowed the ability to go further than Fleming and silent director John S. Robertson had. The effects remain impressive as well, with Fredric March's transformation realistically being implied through a compilation of shadowing and the brilliant, twisted elasticity of his face.

Jekyll, regretting his decision!

In the end, it is hard to go wrong with the tried and true story lines of our horror history. Despite their macabre and frightening nature, we still look forward to witnessing new visualizations of old nightmares in every generation... possibly even every other week. It's like meeting an old friend. The beauty of J and H, in addition to other horror flicks, seems to be that it allows us to live vicariously through the malevolence of others, exorcising our own less savory compulsions and even letting go of pent up fears. Any of the previously mentioned versions deserve a gander and will allow you for a while to indulge in your inner Hyde while safely returning to your (I hope) more peaceable Jekyll side afterward. It's nice to know, after all, that when you just can't hide your Hyde anymore, you can always pop in an old video and let him out again.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


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.