Tony Curtis Poster


Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (3)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (53)  | Personal Quotes (60)  | Salary (19)

Overview (5)

Born in Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Died in Henderson, Nevada, USA  (cardiopulmonary arrest)
Birth NameBernard Herschel Schwartz
Nickname Boinie
Height 5' 9" (1.75 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Tony Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz, the eldest of three children of Helen (Klein) and Emanuel Schwartz, Jewish immigrants from Hungary. Curtis himself admits that while he had almost no formal education, he was a student of the "school of hard knocks" and learned from a young age that the only person who ever had his back was himself, so he learned how to take care of both himself and younger brother, Julius. Curtis grew up in poverty, as his father, Emanuel, who worked as a tailor, had the sole responsibility of providing for his entire family on his meager income. This led to constant bickering between Curtis's parents over money, and Curtis began to go to movies as a way of briefly escaping the constant worries of poverty and other family problems. The financial strain of raising two children on a meager income became so tough that in 1935, Curtis's parents decided that their children would have a better life under the care of the state and briefly had Tony and his brother admitted to an orphanage. During this lonely time, the only companion Curtis had was his brother, Julius, and the two became inseparable as they struggled to get used to this new way of life. Weeks later, Curtis's parents came back to reclaim custody of Tony and his brother, but by then Curtis had learned one of life's toughest lessons: the only person you can count on is yourself.

In 1938, shortly before Tony's Bar Mitzvah, tragedy struck when Tony lost the person most important to him when his brother, Julius, was hit by a truck and killed. After that tragedy, Curtis's parents became convinced that a formal education was the best way Tony could avoid the same never-knowing-where-your-next-meal-is-coming-from life that they had known. However, Tony rejected this because he felt that learning about literary classics and algebra wasn't going to advance him in life as much as some real hands-on life experience would. He was to find that real-life experience a few years later, when he enlisted in the navy in 1942. Tony spent over two years getting that life experience doing everything from working as a crewman on a submarine tender, the USS Proteus (AS-19), to honing his future craft as an actor performing as a sailor in a stage play at the Navy Signalman School in Illinois.

In 1945, Curtis was honorably discharged from the navy, and when he realized that the GI Bill would allow him to go to acting school without paying for it, he now saw that his lifelong pipe dream of being an actor might actually be achievable. Curtis auditioned for the New York Dramatic Workshop, and after being accepted on the strength of his audition piece (a scene from "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" in pantomime), Curtis enrolled in early 1947. He then began to pay his dues by appearing in a slew of stage productions, including "Twelfth Night" and "Golden Boy". He then connected with a small theatrical agent named Joyce Selznick, who was the niece of film producer David O. Selznick. After seeing his potential, Selznick arranged an interview for Curtis to see David O. Selznick at Universal Studios, where Curtis was offered a seven-year contract. After changing his name to what he saw as an elegant, mysterious moniker--"Tony Curtis" (named after the novel Anthony Adverse (1936) by Hervey Allen and a cousin of his named Janush Kertiz)--Curtis began making a name for himself by appearing in small, offbeat roles in small-budget productions. His first notable performance was a two-minute role in Criss Cross (1949), with Burt Lancaster, in which he makes Lancaster jealous by dancing with Yvonne De Carlo. This offbeat role resulted in Curtis's being typecast as a heavy for the next few years, such as playing a gang member in City Across the River (1949).

Curtis continued to build up a show reel by accepting any paying job, acting in a number of bit-part roles for the next few years. It wasn't until late 1949 that he finally got the chance to demonstrate his acting flair, when he was cast in an important role in an action western, Sierra (1950). On the strength of his performance in that movie, Curtis was finally cast in a big-budget movie, Winchester '73 (1950). While he appears in that movie only very briefly, it was a chance for him to act alongside a Hollywood legend, James Stewart.

As his career developed, Curtis wanted to act in movies that had social relevance, ones that would challenge audiences, so he began to appear in such movies as Spartacus (1960) and The Defiant Ones (1958). He was advised against appearing as the subordinate sidekick in Spartacus (1960), playing second fiddle to the equally famous Kirk Douglas. However, Curtis saw no problem with this because the two had recently acted together in dual leading roles in The Vikings (1958).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: James Briggs.

Family (3)

Spouse Jill Vandenberg Curtis (6 November 1998 - 29 September 2010)  (his death)
Lisa Deutsch (28 February 1993 - 26 August 1994)  (divorced)
Andria Savio (1984 - 1992)  (divorced)
Leslie Curtis (20 April 1968 - 1 February 1982)  (divorced)  (2 children)
Christine Kaufmann (8 February 1963 - 16 April 1968)  (divorced)  (2 children)
Janet Leigh (4 June 1951 - 14 September 1962)  (divorced)  (2 children)
Children Jamie Lee Curtis
Parents Emanuel Schwartz
Helen Klein

Trade Mark (4)

Distinctive Bronx accent
Pretty-boy looks
Thick, black hair, with curly forelock
Crooning voice.

Trivia (53)

Father of Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis (with Janet Leigh).
His son, Nicholas Curtis, died of seizures due to an overdose of heroin (2 July 1994).
Born to Emanuel Schwartz, a Hungarian tailor who emigrated to the United States, and his wife Helen, he grew up with two brothers, Julius and Robert.
Enjoys painting and creating shadow boxes. In late 2005 New York City's Museum of Modern Art acquired one of his canvasses for its permanent collection.
Settled in Henderson, NV, where he eventually died.
Suffers from fear of flying.
He made a literary cameo in Matt Whyman's debut romantic comedy novel, 'Man or Mouse', in which the main character, Ren, e-mails Curtis with his love-life problems, and finally meets him briefly.
He has two adopted sons.
Was the inspiration for and voiced the character Stoney Curtis on an episode of The Flintstones (1960), along with Ann-Margret as Ann Marg-rock.
Since re-dubbing the bath scene in Spartacus (1960) in which he starred with Laurence Olivier, Curtis has said that whenever he encounters Anthony Hopkins (who did the voiceover for Olivier in the re-dubbed version following Olivier's death), he hollers, "Oh Tony . . . it's Antoninus".
Appeared in "Sugar", a stage musical based on Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) . He appeared as millionaire Osgood Fielding III, the character played by Joe E. Brown in the film.
He was a militant anti-smoker, having been a heavy smoker himself for about 30 years. Both Sir Michael Caine and Sir Roger Moore credited Curtis with helping them quit smoking cigarettes in the early 1970s, though not cigars.
Serving with F Troop (1965)'s Larry Storch in the U.S. Navy from 1942-45 aboard a submarine tender, he witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay from a vantage point 300 yards away. He and Storch have had a lifelong friendship. They appeared together in The Great Race (1965). Storch also co-starred as his roommate/assistant in 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962).
Nearly died in hospital from pneumonia at Christmas 2006.
Was originally considered for one of the leading roles of Lady L (1965).
Has appeared in tourism advertisements for his ancestral homeland Hungary.
His favorite movie star was Cary Grant.
Elvis Presley copied his duck-tail hairstyle after seeing it on screen.
His brother Julius died after being hit by a truck (1938).
He enjoys playing the flute for pleasure and relaxation. He is a very accomplished player.
In his 80s he spent most of his time painting. Some of his works are a part of a permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Claims that his mother was physically abusive and that his father was impassive.
Recovered from cocaine addiction in the 1980s.
His sixth wife, Jill Vandenberg Curtis (since 1998), who is 46 years younger than he, runs a wild-horse refuge.
Claims he probably had a sexual addiction. Among his female conquests boasted of in his 2008 memoir was a pre-star Marilyn Monroe who was a very young, pony-tailed redhead during their teenage affair.
Broke a Hollywood taboo in the 1950s by insisting that an African-American actor, Sidney Poitier, have co-starring billing next to him in the movie The Defiant Ones (1958).
Like many before and after, he changed his name--from Bernard Schwartz--partly in response to the anti-Semitism that was prevalent in the country and in Hollywood when he was first starting out.
Admits that he is largely estranged from all six of his children, including Jamie Lee Curtis, one of his children by first wife Janet Leigh.
According to his autobiography, he really desired the lead male role of Paul Varjack in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). Director Blake Edwards considered the idea, but the role eventually went to George Peppard.
Suffered from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in his last years.
He was buried with some of his favorite possessions--a Stetson hat, an Armani scarf, driving gloves, an iPhone and a copy of his favorite novel, "Anthony Adverse," a book that inspired his celebrity name.
He disinherited all of his children from his will and left the bulk of his estate to his wife Jill Vandenberg Curtis.
Father of two sons, with Leslie Curtis: Nicholas Curtis (deceased) and Benjamin Curtis.
From the top of his submarine in Tokyo Bay, using a pair of binoculars, he was able to witness the Japanese surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri, about a mile away. He considered this experience to be one of the highlights of his life.
Was a liberal Democrat and attended several of the Democratic National Conventions until his death. He was even a frequent White House guest during the Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy Administrations.
Has stated that Gunga Din (1939) is his favorite film.
Met Julie Adams and Piper Laurie, when the three were all under contract with Universal in 1949.
Although he played Ernest Borgnine's son in The Vikings (1958), he was only eight years his junior in real life.
In his 2008 autobiography "American Prince: A Memoir" he accused many people he worked with of holding anti-Semitic views.
Although his effort might have been lost on audiences that could not tell his native Bronx accent from a Boston accent, when he played the title role in The Boston Strangler (1968), he labored to achieve an authentic local accent.
Got the part in The Great Race (1965) when Charlton Heston had to turn it down due to production delays on The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965).
Joined the Pacific Submarine Force during World War II after watching his favorite film star, Cary Grant, in Destination Tokyo (1943). Curtis would later team up with Grant to play naval officers serving together on a WW2 submarine in Operation Petticoat (1959).
He has appeared in five films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Winchester '73 (1950), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Some Like It Hot (1959), Spartacus (1960) and Rosemary's Baby (1968).
In late 1970 it was announced that the production of 'The man Born to be Queen' in which he, Lionel Jeffries, Judy Geeson and Wilfred Hyde White were to star had been delayed until Spring '71 due to Tony being involved in filming a television series for Lew Grade. In the finish it was never made.
In July 2020, he was honored as Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month.
Got the part in The Great Race when Charlton Heston had to turn it down due to production delays on The Agony and the Ecstasy.
At 14 he was a soprano in a choir.
Grandfather of Raphael Curtis via his daughter Allegra. His daughter Alexandra has three daughters.
Started a new career as an artist and had his first solo exhibition in Hawaii in mid 1987 earning him over a million dollars.
Had a daughter Kelly born in 1957 with Janet Leigh, daughter Alexandra born 1965 with Christine Kaufman.
Had 3 years of treatment at the Betty Ford clinic for drink and drugs.

Personal Quotes (60)

They gave me away as a prize once--a Win Tony Curtis For A Weekend competition. The woman who won was disappointed. She'd hoped for second prize--a new stove.
I ran around with a lump in my pants, chased all the girls. This is what I reflected on the screen. There wasn't anything deeper or less deep than that.
What's the secret to a long and happy life? Young women's saliva!
[asked who the most attractive person he ever worked with was] I am.
I wouldn't be seen dead with a woman old enough to be my wife.
I had to be careful where I went because I was a Jew, because I was young and because I was handsome. It made me wiry and erratic and paranoid, which is what I still am. Always on guard.
Hollywood . . . the most sensational merry-go-around ever built.
Comedy is the most honest way for an actor to earn his living. People would rather laugh than cry. The quickest way to change drama into comedy is simply to speed up the film.
Fame is another profession. I feel that I have two professions, I have the profession of being an actor and I have the profession of being famous.
I was 22 when I arrived in Hollywood in 1948. I had more action than Mount Vesuvius--men, women, animals! I loved it too. I participated where I wanted to and didn't where I didn't. I've always been open about it.
My father was a tailor. I used to deliver for him. I'd have to hold the clothes up high to keep them from dragging on the ground.
[on Marilyn Monroe] I'm in love with her now. I've loved her all these years.
[on Marilyn Monroe on the set of Some Like It Hot (1959)] I knew there was something disturbing her. For some inexplicable reason, she was going down the wrong path and no one knew it.
[about Spartacus (1960)] Kirk Douglas is tough, but Stanley Kubrick was tougher!
Well, on the one hand you could say I was tremendously blessed, on the other I was definitely cursed.
Look. I'm so privileged to be alive in this studio that happens to be mine. I'm 83 years old and I'm still a factor in this world, I still contribute wherever I go. It's astounding. I could have been a politician or a brain surgeon. But I didn't have an education, so there wasn't anything I could do but get into the movies. And, boy, did I ever. To burst into the movies like I did. Isn't that neat?
Early on I decided I didn't want to be known as a mere actor. I wanted to feel like a star. I wanted to get my footprints in Hollywood on the sidewalk, which I got. I wanted to be on the cover of all the magazines and go to parties in a limousine with a beautiful girl. I did all of that--and more. And I appreciate it. Every day I'm reminded of who I am. People stop me in the street all the time. Women love to see me--and I love to see them. I have an affinity for women, you know.
[about his many sexual dalliances] It was love. I was falling in love every day. I am completely in love with women. Every woman. I loved their company and there was always a chance you could kiss them. I found kissing a very appealing experience. I was just always hoping for that conquest, hoping for that physical affection . . . that ejaculation.
[about his schizophrenic mother's influence on his childhood] Yes, yes, that had a lot to do with it. I got nothing from her. I got slapped around is what I got. But I liked to be with women. I never did it with dogs or elephants or men. Only with women.
[about the starlet system of 1950s Hollywood] These girls of 18 or 20 were fodder. All the guys at the studios, including myself, would feast on them, taking their sweetness. There were a lot of them. I don't remember their names. Then they would go home and get married. Poor darlings. They came and went.
[about first meeting Marilyn Monroe] She was 19 and didn't look anything like what she became. She had reddish-brown hair and her figure was not distinguished yet. Her bosoms weren't what they were later and her legs were a little scrawny, but she was putting it all together. Don't you see? Once she accepted she was a woman, then, look out, world. There was no guy that was safe. If she liked you, there was no man who could resist.
I was the best-looking kid in town. It's not what you have but what you do with it that counts.
I became great friends with all my co-stars. With Gregory Peck, Burt Lancaster, Jack Lemmon and Cary Grant . . . Cary Grant . . . Cary Grant. He could have picked anyone, but he allowed me the privilege to be in the movie with him. Jesus. To be in a movie with Cary Grant. Meeting him was the best thing that ever happened to me. He was the reason why I wanted to get into the movies--and that is all I ever wanted.
A lot of things that would have meant a lot to me were denied me by Hollywood. I didn't speak properly. I spoke with a thick New York accent. Everyone knew my name was Schwartz--and Jews were not welcome. [I suffered resentment from the Hollywood establishment for marrying a "shiksa goddess" in Janet Leigh.] Debbie Reynolds was the center of gravity for a glitzy Caucasian crowd, and I could tell they didn't appreciate me. They didn't pick on you, they just ignored you. I couldn't understand it.
[about Some Like It Hot (1959)] It was perfect. Great dialogue. Crisp acting. Billy Wilder was brilliant, and Jack Lemmon and I always had a great time together; even though we were from different backgrounds--he was Harvard-educated, very intelligent and urbane. We balanced each other out.
It's rather nice not to be waiting for a script to come through the door, and even if it did, I would turn it down.
[about his sixth wife Jillie] She's the only one who didn't want me to change after I married her.
[on finally forgiving his mother long after she died] We could have all turned out like her. She cleaned houses in Hungary from when she was six or seven. She had no opportunities.
[on what he misses] I miss a pale-green Buick convertible with Dynaflow drive. I miss a little beach house in Malibu with the waves lapping on the beach. [This was during his first months in Hollywood, when he would bring then-unknown Marilyn Monroe back to his beach house]
[on living in the present] So far so good, and I'm ready for more. My art will give me more. There'll be more shows, and this book will open things up for me again. There's still so much to discover. So I have to take good care of myself so you don't find me in the gutter.
I realized if I could [have sex with] a girl . . . a woman has accepted me. The main force in me was to be accepted by others. Not education, not money in my pocket, nothing except to be accepted by a girl.
[in 2008] I'm just wondering how many more years I have. I don't have 20. I don't have 15. How many years do I have? I don't know, but I plan to reinvent myself as an 84-year-old, as an 85-year-old man who can do anything and everything.
[on Brokeback Mountain (2005)] This picture is not as important as we make it. It's nothing unique. The only thing unique about it is they put it on the screen. And they make 'em gay cowboys. Howard Hughes (I) and John Wayne wouldn't like it.
[on his troubled relationship with daughter Jamie Lee Curtis] I have a feeling she wanted to teach me a lesson for abandoning her mother and her. But I couldn't be with Janet Leigh anymore. She was disappearing into her own madnesses.
[on dying] I may have them take my ashes and spread them all over Las Vegas!
[on his 1951 marriage to first wife Janet Leigh] I even married Janet for my career. I could see the two of us could get more attention together. We had the paparazzi wherever we went, we were on the cover of all the movie magazines. It wasn't enough for a man to be cute, he had to be connected to the right woman . . . What better way to get famous?
[on the long-running feud with daughter Jamie Lee Curtis] What am I going to do? God bless her, I wish her the best. If she can't forgive me, then get another father.
I just wanted to be treated like anybody else. There was a lot of opposition to me during the early years of movies. It had an effect on me. I don't feel like I got the movies I should've gotten. I felt I deserved more than that the industry had given me. I felt I should have been considered more, with a little more respect from the Screen Actors Guild and the Academy. I don't feel like I contributed what I wanted to contribute in the movies.
[on Marilyn Monroe] You could tell she'd already been battered by life, and I found that she'd been in an orphanage, as I had, and that her mother was also schizophrenic. I loved her. And she loved me, but we both wanted to be in the movies, and that meant everything.
[on Cary Grant] The greatest movie actor of all time.
[on today's actors, starting with Brad Pitt] That Pitt fellow--what's his name? He hasn't got it. Now, Robert Downey Jr.--I think he might have something.
One of the big reasons I started using cocaine was that I was told it was great for sex. It didn't make me superhuman in the longevity department, but it certainly did make my sexual experiences more intense.
[on Marlon Brando] He was an interesting man, different, a genius in the way he thought.
When I made Sweet Smell of Success (1957), The Defiant Ones (1958), I should have continued in that milieu. It was my own stupidity that I didn't. I just went on blithely from one picture to the next, letting other people guide my destiny, instead of taking hold of it myself. But that's not bad either, because I find now that there's no period in my life that I regret. Each had a reason and a purpose. The thing is to learn to accept it and not spend your present and your future looking back and thinking, "Oh shit, I wish I hadn't done that".
[on his love for the ladies] Listen, we all do. I tell ya, there isn't a guy I met that wouldn't love to jump on a beautiful woman without knowing her name. And if that's what you call womanizing, then call me the King.
They are all dead now; Cary Grant, Jack Lemmon, Frank Sinatra, all my Hollywood friends. Sometimes I feel so lonely. Actors today achieve nothing nor do they have any glamour. They seem more interested in adopting babies than films. All the films are terrible, too, because the scripts are so bad and there are no decent filmmakers.
I was resented and hated because I was so good-looking and Jewish. It's true. This is not paranoia. I think that because of the Iraq war, anti-Semitism is on the increase again.
[advice to George Michael after his 1998 arrest for lewd conduct] Keep smiling.
Don't listen to them when they say don't drink, or drink very little, don't smoke, don't eat too much, don't eat badly, don't get fat, don't get ugly, and pissed off that life is passing you by. There's no such animal, my friend.
Here in America, you have to die before they say something nice about you.
[on Some Like It Hot (1959)] It's one of the most outstanding movies I've made. It was a very complicated role. I played a straight man, I played a comic, I played a woman, I played a saxophone player, I played a millionaire, I played a little bit of Cary Grant as well. When the picture was over, Billy Wilder ran the picture for Cary, and said, 'Well, how did you like Tony's impression?' and Cary said (doing Cary Grant imitation) 'I don't talk like that!'
I enjoy being Tony. I was the only one who ever knocked Burt Lancaster on his ass in Trapeze (1956), and I took Kirk Douglas' eye out in The Vikings (1958), and I took two girls away from Jack Lemmon. I also took away Cary Grant's submarine, so I've got these nice moments in my movies.
I have met every President of the United States from [John F. Kennedy] on, except [Richard Nixon].
Painting is more meaningful to me than any performance I've ever given.
I got a lot of girls while I was at the peak. If I didn't get them, I got their stand-ins.
God is great, he won't hurt us, 'cause he looks like Tony Curtis.
[on working with Laurence Olivier on Spartacus (1960)] Olivier taught me a lot about acting. He said to me, "Tony, clothes maketh the man." He taught me that you choose your clothes and you put them on and you finally become that character. He didn't just put on any costume that was given to him. He chose what was best for the character he was playing and he showed me how that helps to take the character into another dimension. I learned that from him and always used it. So he gave me tips on acting and I gave him tips on body-building. I took him behind the set and said, "On your face." Then I showed him how to do press-ups properly and it helped to get him into good shape.
[on his love scene with Marilyn Monroe on the yacht in Some Like It Hot (1959)] It was like kissing Hitler. She'd gone funny, her mind was all over the place. It was awful. She nearly choked me to death by deliberately sticking her tongue down my throat into my windpipe.
[on Don't Make Waves (1967)] The plot was utterly ridiculous, but I agreed to appear in the film because I got a percentage of the gross.
[on his second wife, Christine Kaufmann] I should have never let her go.

Salary (19)

Criss Cross (1949) $75 /week
Winchester '73 (1950) $225 /week
Kansas Raiders (1950) $225 /week
Flesh and Fury (1952) $700 /week
Houdini (1953) $1,500 /week
All American (1953) $1,500 /week
Forbidden (1953) $1,500 /week
Proibito (1955) $1,750 /week
Trapeze (1956) $150,000
The Vikings (1958) $25,000 /week
Operation Petticoat (1959) $700,000
Sex and the Single Girl (1964) $400,000
The Great Race (1965) $125,000
The Boston Strangler (1968) $30,000 /week
Casanova & Co. (1977) $300,000
Sextette (1977) $150,000
The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (1978) $150,000
Otelo (Comando negro) (1982) $300,000
Lobster Man from Mars (1989) $100,000

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