Tony Curtis, dead at the age of 85.
Tony Curtis went from a 1950’s movie heartthrob to a respected actor, showing talent that served him well in such films as “Sweet Smell of Success,” “The Defiant Ones” and “Some Like It Hot.” The Oscar-nominated actor died at age 85 Wednesday evening of cardiac arrest at his home in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson.
Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx in 1925, the son of Hungarian Jews who had emigrated to the United States after World War I. After serving in the Pacific during World War II and being wounded at Guam, he returned to New York and studied acting under the G.I. Bill. He appeared in summer stock theater and on the Borscht Circuit in the Catskills. Then an agent lined up an audition with a Universal-International talent scout. In 1948, at 23, he signed a seven-year contract with the studio, starting at $100 a week.
Curtis began acting in movies that exploited his handsome physique and appealing personality, but then steadily moved to more substantial roles. Many critics felt that with his good looks and easy charm, that he would become the next Cary Grant. He also went on to star in films like “Spartacus,” “Captain Newman, M.D.,” “The Vikings,” “Kings Go Forth,” “Operation Petticoat” and “Some Like It Hot.” He received his only Oscar nomination for “The Defiant Ones”. Curtis struggled with drug and alcohol abuse as starring roles became fewer, but then bounced back in film and television as a well respected character actor.
He had married actress Janet Leigh in 1951, when they were both rising young stars; they divorced in 1963. Their daughter Jamie Lee Curtis continued the acting family tradition. He also had five other children. Daughters Kelly, also with Leigh, and Allegra, with second wife Christine Kaufmann, also became actresses. His other wives were Leslie Allen, Lisa Deutsch and Jill VandenBerg, whom he married in 1998.