Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tony Curtis 1925--2010

Tony Curtis 1925--2010

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


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:

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
Carrie Rickey Film Critic
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Carrie Rickey Film Critic
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