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).
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: