Tony Curtis 1925--2010


Bye-bye, Sidney Falco. Ta-ta Josephine. Ciao, Antoninus. Tony Curtis, born Bernie Schwartz in the Bronx 85 years ago, has passed, leaving a museum-quality rogue's gallery of film portraits. The pretty boy nailed characters capable of ugly things ( press agent Sidney Falco in Sweet Smell of Success), was a gifted farceur (Joe, in drag as Josephine in Some Like it Hot ) and a consummate team player who supported bigger stars (Antoninus to Kirk Douglas Spartacus).

Tony Curtis, the boy with the ice cream face, in 1953

Straight out of the navy, the son of a Bronx tailor visited his childhood friend Shelley Winters in Hollywood and was groomed by studios to be a teen idol, making his debut as a gigolo in Criss Cross (1948). The camera loved him and he loved it back. He was a quick study, like his character in The Black Shield of Falworth (1954), rising quickly through the ranks to become a Hollywood prince, if never a king. (Was it in Falworth or the Son of Ali Baba where he famously intoned in that Bronx accent he shed so quickly, "Yondah lies the castle of my faddah"?

I have a lot more to say about Curtis and will do so in an obit. UPDATE: Here it is. Meanwhile, tell me which performances of his you treasure. Apart from the three I mentioned in the first paragraph, I liked him as the naval officer in  Operation: Petticoat. co-starring with Cary Grant, who he had so amusingly impersonated in Some Like it Hot.

UPDATE: Turner Classic Movies will celebrate Tony Curtis on October 10 with the following lineup:

The following is a complete schedule for TCM’s Sunday, Oct. 10, tribute to Curtis (all times shown are Eastern):
6 a.m.              Beachhead (1954) – with Frank Lovejoy and Mary Murphy
7:45 a.m.         Kings Go Forth (1958) – with Frank Sinatra and Natalie Wood
9:45 a.m.         The Vikings (1958) – with Kirk Douglas, Ernest Borgnine and Janet Leigh
11:45 a.m.       Operation Petticoat (1959) – with Cary Grant and Dina Merrill
2 p.m.              Who Was That Lady? (1960) – with Janet Leigh and Dean Martin
4:15 p.m.         Sex and the Single Girl (1964) – with Natalie Wood, Lauren Bacall and Henry Fonda
6:15 p.m.         You Can’t Win ‘Em All (1970) – with Charles Bronson and Michèle Mercier
8 p.m.              Sweet Smell of Success (1957) – with Burt Lancaster and Martin Milner
9:45 p.m.         The Defiant Ones (1958) – with Sidney Poitier and Theodore Bikel
11:30 p.m.       Trapeze (1956) – with Burt Lancaster and Gina Lollobrigida
1:30 a.m.         The Great Race (1965) – with Jack Lemmon and Natalie Wood
4:15 a.m.         Don’t Make Waves (1967) –with Claudia Cardinale and Sharon Tate