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Screen Legend Tony Curtis Passes Away at 85

30 September 2010 11:06 AM, PDT | TV.com | See recent TV.com news »

... A melancholy farewell to actor Tony Curtis who passed away at the age of 85 after suffering cardiac arrest on Wednesday. Curtis starred in films such as Some Like It Hot, The Great Race, and The Defiant Ones, and switched over to television later in his career, appearing on The Persuaders and McCoy (neither of which were deemed successes). [NY Times]

... Another sad goodbye to comedian Greg Giraldo, who died yesterday, five days after an accidental...  More >> »

- Tim Surette

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Tony Curtis, the American Prince of Hollywood, is Dead at 85

30 September 2010 9:10 AM, PDT | HollywoodChicago.com | See recent HollywoodChicago.com news »

Chicago – Tony Curtis was the Prince of Hollywood, he was the original Fantastic Mr. Fox. He took his pretty boy good looks and carved a career that included the classic films “Some Like it Hot,” “Sweet Smell of Success” and “The Defiant Ones.” Tony Curtis died at his Las Vegas home yesterday at the age of 85.

I had the privilege of interviewing Tony Curtis twice for HollywoodChicago.com in the last couple of years. We spoke of his early days as an actor, his relationship with director Billy Wilder and the various ups and downs in his adventurous life. Between the outline of that life I will add some direct quotes given to me by the man.

Tony Curtis poses for HollywoodChicago.com on Dec. 3, 2009.

Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx, New York, in 1925, Curtis grew up poor as the son of immigrant parents. »

- adam@hollywoodchicago.com (Adam Fendelman)

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Tony Curtis: 1925 - 2010

30 September 2010 6:24 AM, PDT | IMDb News

Tony Curtis, who channeled a rough childhood marked by tragedy into a polished and sustained career on the large and small screen for over sixty years, died yesterday of a cardiac arrest at his home in Las Vegas, his daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, reported to Entertainment Tonight. He was 85.

Born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx in 1925, Curtis grew up in poverty. The eldest child of immigrant parents, he had almost no formal education and began to sneak into the movies with his younger brother Julius as a means of escape. When he was 10 years old, however, the financial strain on the family became too much to bear and Tony and his brother briefly became wards of the state, admitted to an orphanage for a number of weeks before being reclaimed by his parents. This experience helped shape a strong sense of independence in the boy as Curtis was prematurely forced to learn one of life's toughest lessons; namely, that the only person you can count on is yourself.

In 1938, shortly before Curtis’s bar mitzvah, his brother and constant companion Julius was tragically killed in a traffic accident. Devastated, Tony pulled further away from the conventional life that his parents had always hoped for in the belief that life was to be experienced head-on and hands-on and a few years later joined the Navy. He was honorably discharged after three years of service and with no other plans for a career, auditioned for the New York Dramatic Workshop when he realized the GI Bill would pay for acting school. As is so often the case, fate stepped in for Curtis, as he caught the eye of a theatrical agent during one of his many small stage appearances. Joyce Selznick just happened to be the niece of film producer David Selznick, who ended up offering Curtis a seven-year contract with Universal Studios.

Arriving in Hollywood in 1948 at age 23, he changed his name to Tony Curtis and quickly made an impression with a two-minute role in 'Criss Cross' (1949), in which he makes Burt Lancaster jealous by dancing with Yvonne De Carlo. Based on the strength of that role, Curtis finally got the chance to demonstrate his acting flair, as he was cast in a small, but important role in Sierra (1950). This led to his first big-budget movie, Winchester '73 (1950), which allowed the ambitious, yet still raw talent the chance to act alongside Jimmy Stewart.

Curtis worked steadily throughout the early ‘50’s, consciously working in various genres while actively seeking roles in movies that had some kind of social relevance. His breakout performance as the scheming press agent Sidney Falco in Sweet Smell of Success (1957) was the beginning of a great run for the versatile Curtis, who followed an Oscar-nominated performance as a bigoted, escaped convict chained to Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones (1958) and with a broadly comic turn opposite Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot (1959).

He was drawn to roles and films that would challenge audiences. Curtis was advised against appearing as the subordinate sidekick Antoninus in the epic Spartacus (1960), playing second fiddle to Kirk Douglas, but he was taken with the part and the chance to work with the director Stanley Kubrick. He garnered a significant amount of controversy (and critical acclaim) by playing against type the self-confessed murderer Albert DeSalvo in The Boston Strangler (1968). It was around this time that Curtis ventured into television where he co-starred with Roger Moore in the series “The Persuaders!” (1971) and later, created memorable supporting characters in “McCoy” (1975) and “Vega$” (1978).

On the personal front, Curtis was an avid painter throughout his life and one of his surrealist works went on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2007. More famously, as he detailed in his autobiography “American Prince: A Memoir”, Curtis had relationships with a number of famous actresses, including Natalie Wood and a brief, but widely publicized affair with Marilyn Monroe. He was married five times, most notably to Janet Leigh, with whom he had two daughters, Jamie Lee and Kelly Curtis. His last marriage, to Jill Vandenberg, who was 42 years his junior, was in 1998 and lasted until his death. Curtis had six children, five which survive him: two with Leigh, two from his second wife Christine Kaufmann, and two from his third, Leslie Allen. »

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Hollywood Legend Curtis Dead

30 September 2010 5:06 AM, PDT | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Hollywood legend Tony Curtis has died at the age of 85.

Jamie Lee Curtis' actor father passed away on Wednesday after suffering a cardiac arrest in bed at his Las Vegas home.

No further details were available as WENN went to press.

Born Bernard Schwartz to Jewish immigrants from Hungary, the star endured a tough upbringing in the Bronx borough of New York, which saw him spend a year in an orphanage with his younger brother Julius because his parents were too poor to feed them.

He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before deciding to pursue his love of acting and enrolling in the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with German director Erwin Piscator.

He moved to Hollywood in 1948 when he was 23 and landed a contract with Universal Pictures. It was then that Schwartz changed his name to Tony Curtis, adopting his first name from the book Anthony Adverse and his last name from Kurtz, from his mother's family.

Curtis made his film debut with an uncredited appearance in 1949's Criss Cross, but it was only in the mid-1950s that he emerged as a breakout star with roles in movies including 1957's Sweet Smell of Success and alongside Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones (1958), a performance which landed him a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

He also starred in dramas The Outsider and The Boston Strangler, but he will perhaps be best remembered for his performance in Some Like It Hot (1959) with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon. In 2000, the American Film Institute named the movie classic the greatest American comedy film of all time.

Curtis also embarked on a variety of TV projects and was immortalised as 'Stony Curtis' on popular cartoon The Flintstones in the early 1960s. In the '70s, he co-starred with former James Bond actor Roger Moore in The Persuaders! series, and went on to land roles in U.S. TV shows McCoy and Vega$.

The actor scaled down the number of films he made in the 1980s and embarked on a career as a surrealist painter. His works became such a hit in the art world, he was able to command more than $25,000 (£16,700) a piece and his painting The Red Table went on display at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007.

Curtis was later awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was presented with the prestigious French honour, the Order of Arts and Letters, in 1995. He was also an Emmy nominated star and collected two Golden Globes, in 1958 and 1961.

His final role as an actor was in 2008 romantic war drama David & Fatima, in which he starred with Oscar winner Martin Landau, although he expressed a desire to return to the screen earlier this year.

Outside Hollywood, Curtis was also known for his high-profile personal life - he was married to actress Janet Leigh for 11 years and they had two children together, Jamie Lee and Kelly Curtis, who both followed their parents into showbusiness.

He openly admitted to cheating on Leigh during their union and divorced her in 1962 to wed Christine Kaufmann, his then-17-year-old German co-star in Taras Bulba. He fathered two kids with her but his second marriage lasted just four years.

He was married a further three times and had two more children with third wife Leslie Allen, although their son Nicholas died from a heroin overdose in 1994, aged 23.

Renowned womaniser Curtis later revealed he had had a brief fling with Marilyn Monroe in 1949, and detailed their love affair in his autobiography American Prince: A Memoir.

Curtis was dogged by ill health in his later years and came close to death when he was struck down by pneumonia and fell into a coma in December 2006. He regained consciousness several days later but the virus left him weak and he was resigned to using a wheelchair to get around as he could only walk short distances.

He was hospitalised in August last year when he suffered an asthma-like attack and was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Copd), a condition which sent him to seek medical attention again in New York in early 2010.

In July, Curtis was admitted to hospital in Las Vegas after another Copd attack after being taken ill at an exhibition of his artwork.

He is survived by his fifth wife Jill Vandenberg Curtis, who he wed in 1998 despite their 42-year age difference, and his five children. »

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4 items from 2010


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