Tony Curtis Passed Away at 85

A PR shot for  "Some Like it Hot" with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon Attribution: Creative Commons
A PR shot for "Some Like it Hot" with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon Attribution: Creative Commons

Tony Curtis, nee Bernard Schwartz, an actor who lived through the golden age of cinema, has passed away Wednesday, September 29, 2010 from the effects of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was 85 years old.

The most well-known movies that he appeared in were "Some Like it Hot" (1959), "Houdini" (1953), "Operation Petticoat" (1959), "Spartacus" (1960), and "The Great Race" (1865). His first appearance was in a bit part in "Criss Cross" (1949). His first billing under his stage name was as a supporting actor in "Kansas Raiders" (1950). In 1951 he became the lead actor in "The Prince who was a Thief", a film based on an Arabian Nights story. In 1957 he co-starred with Burt Lancaster in "Sweet Smell of Success" where Curtis's great skill as an actor was recognized. He received an Oscar nomination in his role for "The Defiant Ones" (1958); it was his only nomination. He formed a production company with Kirk Douglas, Curtleigh Productions, and put together "The Vikings" (1958) as an independent feature film. His final role in a big picture was "The Boston Strangler" (1968). He made unsuccessful attempts in two television series but continued to work in guest appearances in numerous television shows.

A Memorable Scene from "Some Like it Hot"

He co-wrote two autobiograpies: Tony Curtis, The Autobiography (1994), and American Prince: A Memoir (2008).

Curtis started life as Bernard Schwartz on June 3, 1925, the son of Jewish Hungarian immigrants, and grew up in the Bronx with two brothers in a rough neighborhood. He joined the Navy and served on the USS Proteus during World War II. His ship was present at Tokyo Bay on September 2 1945, during the signing of the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri and he watched the event through binoculars. He took acting lessons on the GI Bill when he attended the New School for Social Research.

Curtis is known less for his acting ability and more for his good looks and dramatic personal life that made for great fodder in the gossip columns. He married six times. His most well-known wife was the equally beautiful Janet Leigh who he married in 1951 and divorced in 1962. Curtis then married in 1963, a German actress Christine Kaufmann who was 17 when he first started an affair with her while he was married. In 1968 he divorced Kaufmann and married 23-year old model, Leslie Allen; they divorced in 1982. He has battled his alcoholism through the years and had treatment at the Betty Ford Clinic after his 1982 divorce. In 1984 he married actress, Andrea Savio and they divorced in 1992. He was briefly married to lawyer, Lisa Deutsch (1993-1994). He is survived by his current wife, Jill VandenBerg, who he married in 1998, two children Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis by his wife Janet Leigh; Alexandra Curtis and Allegra Curtis, his two children by Christine Kauffman; Benjamin Curtis, his son by Leslie Allen. He had a second son with Allen, Nicholas Curtis, who died in 1994 from a drug overdose.

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Comments 6 comments

mtsi1098 6 years ago

thanks for a great summary on this actor...I was trying to remember the names of some of the movies as I was reading but you provided a great list...thanks


Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast Author

Hi mtsi1098, I know his work in Some Lik it Hot, such a a classic!


Sweetsusieg profile image

Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

Tony Curtis - Wow, what a wonderful way to bring him back again! He was a hunky-guy! I loved watching his movies in the afternoon as a teenager!

Thank You for this.


Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast Author

Hi Sweetsusie, the first time I saw him was on a rerun of Spartacus. He was a beautiful young man.


Powerful Pierre profile image

Powerful Pierre 6 years ago from Abbotsford BC

I posted this exact question reference to Tony on Answers thank you for this. R.I.P. Bernard


Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast Author

Your welcome Powerful Pierre, I'm glad I was able to help.

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