Friday, October 1, 2010

In Memoriam: Tony Curtis (June 3, 1925-September 29, 2010)

Another Hollywood legend has passed away.

It made me realize how many of the classic actors of the 1950s and 1960s are slowly disappearing. The death of Curtis, at the age of 85, is much like the loss of Paul Newman last year: it reminds us that the "golden days" of Hollywood are rapidly disappearing with the deaths of its legends. Their old film stories and anecdotes are going with them.

Curtis was famous for openly sharing his experiences as an actor and a celebrity. Whether you believed his stories or not (and there are many who accuse him of being an outright liar), he acted as though he were an open book. Curtis wrote books on the subject of celebrity and filmmaking (most recently, 2009's The Making of Some Like It Hot: My Memories of Marilyn Monroe and the Classic American Movie, something I can't wait to read once it comes out in paperback). He fanned the flames of gossip when he claimed that Monroe miscarried their child (the product of a brief fling) soon after filming wrapped on the 1959 film. He was famously married to Janet Leigh and is father to actress Jamie Lee Curtis. He essentially put all his cards on the table, regardless of whether you liked him or not. He was a classy actor, even when sharing the most explicit details of his life in Hollywood.

I'm kind of ashamed to admit I've only seen three films in his extensive resume. The Defiant Ones, which I saw on TCM a good five years ago (I'm due for a re-watch), Spartacus and one of my all-time favourite films, Some Like It Hot. I saw the latter film for the first time only last year, when I bought it on a whim. It really lives up to its honour of the Best American Comedy (bestowed by the American Film Institute). As Joe/Josephine, Curtis is paired with two wonderful co-stars in Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. When I first bought the film, I watched it twice in one week (no lie!) and a total of three times in that first month. While every aspect of the film is wonderful, Curtis' performance is one of the highlights.

Curtis was also a talented painter and was technologically savvy. He knew how to communicate with fans in the age of the Internet. You can check out his official website (run by Curtis Enterprises). He still offered to mail autographs to fans (a snail mail address is included on his website) and all of his most recent paintings were displayed in his online art gallery. Curtis was also the founder of Shiloh Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, a non-profit organization (started in 2003) which rehabilitates homeless and abused horses. His website claims that it has saved the lives or more than 500 horses.

His memorial service (according to his blog, run by Shiloh Horse Rescue and Sanctuary) is on October 4th and will be open to the public to allow both family and fans to pay their respects. I was really surprised by this's so rare for an open memorial service for a celebrity).

Regardless of your opinion of Curtis, he was a charismatic screen legend and, up until now, one of the few who were left from an era long gone. Hollywood is now short one more star.


  1. Lovely tribute. Curtis always seemed a little self-opinionated but that didn't distract from the fact that he was a charismatic Hollywood legend as well. Like you said, he was one of the "golden days" and he wouldn't be as famous nowadays if it wasn't for his special character.

    I haven't seen that many of his films either, but Some Like It Hot will always remain one of my all time favourites.

    Goodbye, Josephine!
    RIP, Tony Curtis.

  2. Thanks Rina!

    You should visit his blog that I linked, his wife has made a couple of great entries, including posting the speech she gave at his funeral.