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Tony Curtis - American Prince
The first time I became aware of Tony Curtis was when I watched the movie "Houdini" and to be frank I watched because I've always been fascinated by Harry Houdini and not because it starred Curtis. Since then I've seen many of Curtis's more notable movies such as "Some Like It Hot" and "Trapeze" but I can't say that I've seen a huge amount from his extensive list of movies because quite frankly for every "Some Like it Hot" there are 5 or 6 like "Title Shot" a less than stunning movie. But despite this there is something about Tony Curtis, that larger than life persona that makes him interesting which lead me to read is biography "American Prince".
Tony Curtis like so many actors who end up delving into their lives in an autobiography started life poor, brought up in New York to immigrant parents he often reminisces of his hard life as a child and the arguments which he often over heard between his parents. In fact things were so tough that at one point his parents could afford to feed the family and he ended up in an orphanage with his brother for a while.
Moving on from this reflection of his childhood Curtis also reminisces about when he realised he was handsome, and to be honest in his prime Curtis did have those brooding matinee idol looks which would make women swoon, although the way Curtis describes things he does come across as quite conceited when it comes to how powerful his looks were. Following on from this and a spell in the Navy we get to his love of acting and his career in movies. It's quite staggering when you realise how many movies Curtis made and as already mentioned there are many less than spectacular ones for every great one. But like so many stars from the bygone years of Hollywood Curtis's rises to stardom was never easy often taking movies just because they were offered.
Of course there is also the other side to Tony Curtis and that is his personal life, his marriages, affairs, trouble with drug addiction and so on. This is where "American Prince" is at its most interesting because whilst reading about his own account of movies is entertaining his troubled relationships and what lead to them is surprisingly open. Whilst Curtis readily admits to affairs whilst married he does show an insecure side when it comes to his romances and goes someway to explain why he got married so many times and to various women, often much younger than him.
But the thing about "American Prince" is that three things come across and the first of which is that despite no longer making movies and getting on in years he still has quite an ego. When he recounts the various bad movies he made he never takes the blame saying that he gave it 100% every time. Maybe he did, maybe he wasn't at fault for these poor movies but it does come across as being to be frank a little big headed. The same can be said about the various affairs and relationships he mentions and there is a sort of look at me element to all the names he mentions. In fact "American Prince" starts with him discussing a relationship he had with Marilyn Monroe when they were both struggling stars looking for their big breaks.
This leads to the second point and that is that Curtis almost has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to his movie career. There is not so much a jealousy when he mentions how other stars such as Brando were getting big roles when he wasn't but he questions why he didn't get those big breaks, those big starring roles. It's a valid point because in those more notable movies like "Some Like it Hot" Curtis is as good as any other big name star yet he seemed to struggle to get offered those big roles. You do wonder if this annoyance is down to people’s dislike of him personally or down to other reasons.
Which leads me to the final of these three things and that is being a Jew Curtis often brings up that he felt that he was sometimes unduly treated because of this. In fact he feels so strongly about this that every few pages he brings it up. Again maybe he was treated unfairly because of this but because he brings it up so many times it starts to grate a little as if he just couldn't let go of it.
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The things is that "American Prince" left me divided because whilst Tony Curtis certainly has lead an interesting life full of ups and downs, troubles, affairs and so on the way he comes across in his own words is a little bit big headed. Even the way he recounts his sexual conquests and romances makes him sound like an old fashioned womaniser with an eye for a pretty woman, he even admits it. But in a way it's his brutal honesty later on in the book when he does admit to mistakes bringing up his children when you do get a sense of who the real Tony Curtis is, a man with insecurities just like everyone and it's then that he comes across as being charming.