Tag Archives: The Defiant Ones

Tony Curtis, dead at 85


If you’re on the cover of The Beatle’s album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” then you’re bigger than Jesus.

Tony Curtis is nestled into the second row along with 19th century British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, Sigmund Freud, Marilyn Monroe, H. G. Wells and Karl Marx.

Curtis died Thursday at the age of 85, leaving behind a legendary career and personal life.

Famous for his thick Bronx accent and good looks, Tony Curtis’ career is the stuff of legend. He had more than 130 films on his resume, including classics like Stanley Kubrick’s “Spartacus,” his crossdressing role in “Some Like it Hot,” and his Oscar-nominated performance in 1958’s “The Defiant Ones.”

One of my favorite interviews with Tony Curtis was a very honest and candid look at the actor by Roger Ebert in 1985 at Cannes Film Festival, where even in his 50s he shouts to a girl below passing his hotel room on the street to come up, and she does.

Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in New York to poor Hungarian immigrants on June 3, 1925. He quit school to join the navy during World War II, serving on a submarine tender, and pursued acting after his discharge. He was a notorious lady’s man, and was married six times. His first wife was actress Janet Leigh, famous for the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic “Psycho.” They had two children, actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis.

He was an alcoholic and drug user, and had two stints at the Betty Ford Clinic. While fighting his various addictions throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Curtis still managed to work, mostly in television. He’s one of the few remaining from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and his films will live on. We’ll remember him more for his fantastic films that his wild life.