skip navigation
Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis

Up
Down

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (3)

Recent DVDs

Boston Strangler ... Directed by Richard Fleischer. Starring Henry Fonda, Hurd Hatfield, George... more info $12.95was $17.99 Buy Now

Houdini ... Hollywood's silver screen couple, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, teamed for this... more info $15.95was $19.95 Buy Now

Operation Petticoat ... Screen legends Cary Grant (FATHER GOOSE) and Tony Curtis (SOME LIKE IT HOT) ship... more info $17.25was $29.95 Buy Now

Boeing Boeing ... Fasten your seatbelts! Adapted from the stage to the screen, the film follows... more info $14.45was $24.95 Buy Now

The Third Girl From the Left ... Kim Novak and Tony Curtis make their TV movie debuts in this poignant tale of... more info $14.95was $17.99 Buy Now

Double Feature ... The late Tony Curtis earned his first leading role in 1953's Houdini (opposite... more info $5.95was $14.95 Buy Now

Also Known As: Anthony Curtis, Bernard Schwartz, James Curtis, Anthony Curtis Died: September 29, 2010
Born: June 3, 1925 Cause of Death: cardiac arrest
Birth Place: Bronx, New York, USA Profession: actor, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

ak police procedural "The Boston Stranger" (1968). He was widely praised for his performance as the psychologically damaged De Salvo, and for his efforts, earned a Golden Globe nomination, but the film did not prevent his career from continuing its slow descent from the limelight. In 1968, Curtis married for the third time to Leslie Allen, who later gave him his first sons, Benjamin and Nicholas.Despite the fact that he no longer commanded box office respect as he once did, Curtis was exceptionally busy in the 1970s, starring in the breezy British adventure drama "The Persuaders!" (ITC, 1971-72), which cast him alongside Roger Moore as two roguish millionaires who enjoyed hijinks and expensive fun across Europe. An American attempt to recreate its charm came with "McCoy" (ABC, 1975-76), with Curtis as a good-natured con man, but the series failed to earn a viewership. Curtis was also fairly active in film during the 1970s, most notably in Elia Kazan's "The Last Tycoon" (1976), an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel about 1930s-era Hollywood, which gave him second billing opposite Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson. But for the most part, Curtis floundered in second-rate productions (or worse)...

ak police procedural "The Boston Stranger" (1968). He was widely praised for his performance as the psychologically damaged De Salvo, and for his efforts, earned a Golden Globe nomination, but the film did not prevent his career from continuing its slow descent from the limelight. In 1968, Curtis married for the third time to Leslie Allen, who later gave him his first sons, Benjamin and Nicholas.

Despite the fact that he no longer commanded box office respect as he once did, Curtis was exceptionally busy in the 1970s, starring in the breezy British adventure drama "The Persuaders!" (ITC, 1971-72), which cast him alongside Roger Moore as two roguish millionaires who enjoyed hijinks and expensive fun across Europe. An American attempt to recreate its charm came with "McCoy" (ABC, 1975-76), with Curtis as a good-natured con man, but the series failed to earn a viewership. Curtis was also fairly active in film during the 1970s, most notably in Elia Kazan's "The Last Tycoon" (1976), an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel about 1930s-era Hollywood, which gave him second billing opposite Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson. But for the most part, Curtis floundered in second-rate productions (or worse) like the ill-advised Mae West comeback vehicle "Sextette" (1978) or the unnecessary "Bad News Bears Go to Japan" (1978). In 1977, Curtis published a novel, Kid Andrew Cody and Julie Sparrow.

Curtis launched the 1980s with an Emmy-nominated turn with a touch of nostalgia, in which he played David O. Selznick, whose niece had discovered him some three decades prior, in "The Scarlett O'Hara War" (1980). He also enjoyed a choice role as Kim Novak's producer husband in a camped-up film adaptation of Agatha Christie's "The Mirror Crack'd" (1980), and appeared on stage in a production of Neil Simon's "I Oughta Be in Pictures" that same year. Like many older stars, Curtis remained a regular presence on television as well, most notably in a recurring role as Robert Urich's casino owner boss on "Vega$" (ABC, 1978-1981), and later as real-life mobster Sam Giancana in the Susan Lucci starrer, "Mafia Princess" (1986). But Curtis began to develop interests outside of acting during this decade. After a stint at the Betty Ford Clinic in 1984 for drug and alcohol dependency, he began experimenting with painting, and displayed a particular knack for portraits, including those of his former co-stars, like Marilyn Monroe. Eventually, his artwork began fetching top prices among collectors, and was featured in major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Curtis' personal life remained tumultuous; he divorced Leslie Allen in 1983, and married his fourth wife, Lisa Deutsch, in 1993. The marriage lasted only a year.

Eventually, art replaced movies as Curtis' primary creative outlet, though he remained active in features throughout the 1990s. Few were consequential, and his last projects of any substance came in 1986 as a Joseph McCarthy-esque senator in Nicolas Roeg's experimental comedy-drama "Insignificance," and later in a cameo for the indie-minded romance "Naked in New York" (1993). Otherwise, he could be seen in countless low-budget action and comedy features, as well on television in episodes of "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997) and "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (ABC, 1993-97). He also dished the dirt about many of his famous co-stars on the tawdry documentary series "Hollywood Babylon" (syndicated, 1992). But Curtis was best utilized as the voice of experience in several quality documentaries about the movie business, including "The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal" (1985), "Hugh Hefner: Once Upon a Time" (1992), and "The Celluloid Closet" (1995), which explored homosexuality in Hollywood. Curtis was also the subject of television biographies, including a 1999 retrospective on Turner Classic Movies' "Private Screenings" (TCM, 1996- ), and a 2001 episode of "Biography" (A&E, 1987- ), as well as penning an eponymous autobiography (with Barry Paris) in 1993. Curtis' long and storied career received several significant awards during the late 1990s and early 2000s, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and recognition for lifetime achievement from the Empire Awards UK, but Curtis was vocal about his disappointment at never receiving an Oscar for his efforts.

The peace and success afforded to him by his art career and the celebration of his movie work by the international filmmaking community was shattered by the 1994 death of his son Nicholas from a drug overdose. In interviews, Curtis commented that he had suffered terribly after the loss. In 1998, he married his fifth wife, horse trainer Jill Vanderburg, who was some 42 years younger than him. In 2002, Curtis revisited one of his most enduring features in a musical version of "Some Like It Hot" at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA. In the play, he played eccentric millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown's role in the film), who delivers the picture's memorable closing line: "Nobody's perfect." The actor passed away on Sept. 29, 2010 of cardiac arrest.yn Monroe) to evade Chicago-land gangsters after they witness the fabled Valentine's Day Massacre. Because of the troubles she stirred up on set â¿¿ mainly causing delays for seemingly endless takes â¿¿ Curtis was widely quoted as stating that kissing Monroe was like "kissing Hitler," but refuted the statement in a 2001 interview, possibly realizing it seemed callous in light of what later happened to the troubled star. He was definitely on a roll, and Curtis' string of hits led him to be cast in the small but significant role of Antoninus, slave to Roman general Crassus (Laurence Olivier) and eventual soldier under Kirk Douglas' Spartacus in the Stanley Kubrick epic of the same name (1960). A scene in which Crassus attempts to seduce Antoninus was cut from the original release, but restored for its 1991 reissue. Curtis was enlisted to re-record his dialogue â¿¿ the original track had gone missing â¿¿ and Anthony Hopkins was tapped to provide a note-perfect imitation of Olivier.

After 1960, Curtis divided his time between dramas and light comic fare, both of which yielded a string of solid hits for the actor. Among his better films during this period were "The Outsider" (1961), about Ira Hayes, the Native American who helped to raise the Iwo Jima flag during World War II; "The Great Imposter" (1961), about the real-life imposter Fred De Mara; the Oscar-nominated "Captain Newman, M.D." (1963), as a streetwise officer who makes life difficult for military doctor Gregory Peck); and Blake Edwards' Oscar-winning slapstick comedy "The Great Race" (1965), which later became a cult hit, thanks to repeated TV airings. There was also the surreal sight of an animated, Stone Age version of Curtis â¿¿ named, naturally enough, Stony Curtis â¿¿ in a 1965 episode of "The Flintstones" (ABC, 1960-66). But by the mid-sixties, Curtis' career was beginning to show signs of a slowdown. Now entering his forties, Curtis' matinee idol looks were changing â¿¿ most notably, his lush head of hair â¿¿ and he was losing ground as a leading man to younger actors. His personal life was undergoing changes as well; after carrying on an affair with 17-year-old German actress Christina Kauffman, his co-star in the costume drama "Taras Bulba" (1962), he split from Leigh and married Kauffman in 1963. The union produced two daughters, Alexandra (born 1966) and Allegra (born 1968) before they divorced in 1968.

Curtis fell back on his comic chops to essay middle-aged cads and the like in lightweight comedies like "Don't Make Waves" (1967) with Sharon Tate and "Not with My Wife, You Don't" (1966). He also began turning up in European features â¿¿ mostly forgettable fare like "Monte Carlo or Bust" (1969) â¿¿ and even on episodic television. Curtis did, however, manage to remind moviegoers of his talent with a chilling performance as real-life killer Albert De Salvo in Richard Fleischer's ble

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 David & Fatima (2008)
2.
 Funny Money (2006)
3.
 Play it to the Bone (1999) Himself--Ringside Fan
4.
 Star Games (1998)
5.
 Hardball (1998) Wald
6.
 Louis and Frank (1997) Lenny Star Springer
7.
 Elvis Meets Nixon (1997) Himself
9.
 Immortals, The (1995) Dominic
10.
 Celluloid Closet, The (1995) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Served in the Navy during WWII; was wounded while serving in Guam
:
First professional stage work with the Stanley Woolf Players
1949:
First film appearance, had a bit part dancing with Yvonne De Carlo in "Criss Cross"
1949:
Made film acting debut in "City Across the River"
:
Signed to a contract by Universal Studios in the early 1950s
1953:
First major success, playing the title role of "Houdini"; co-starred with then-wife Janet Leigh
:
Formed first of three production companies, Curtleigh Productions
1957:
Made his TV acting debut in "Cornada," an episode of "General Electric Theater" (CBS)
1957:
Surprised critics with his performance in Alexander Mackendrick's "Sweet Smell of Success"; film produced through Curtleigh Productions
1958:
Co-starred with Sidney Poitier in "The Defiant Ones"; film produced through Curtleigh Productions; earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination
1959:
Most memorable role was in Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot," co-starring Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon
1959:
Teamed with Cary Grant in Blake Edwards' "Operation Petticoat"
1960:
Portrayed chronically flexible Ferdinand Demara in Robert Mulligan's "The Great Imposter"
1960:
Starred with Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier in the swashbuckling "Spartacus"; directed by Stanley Kubrick
1962:
Met second wife Christine Kaufmann on the set of "Taras Bulba"
:
Formed Curtis Enterprises in the 1960s
1963:
Played a neurotic orderly in "Captain Newman, M.D."
1965:
Cast as the white-suited daredevil in "The Great Race"
1968:
Played title role in "The Boston Strangler"
:
Formed Reynard Productions
1971:
TV series debut, co-starring with Roger Moore in "The Persuaders" (ABC)
1976:
Co-starred with Robert De Niro in "The Last Tycoon"
1977:
Published first novel, <i>Kid Andrew Cody & Julie Sparrow</i>
1980:
Played David O. Selznick in the NBC miniseries, "Moviola"
1980:
Performed onstage in a production of Neil Simon's "I Ought to Be in Pictures"
:
Developed skills as an artist; paintings, especially portraits of Marilyn Monroe portraits, fetched considerable sums
1991:
Appeared in a restored version of Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" (1960); included additional footage of the notorious bath scene with Laurence Olivier
1992:
Hosted the short-lived syndicated series "Hollywood Babylon"
1993:
Co-starred in the ensemble romantic comedy "Naked in New York"
1993:
Published <i>Tony Curtis: The Autobiography</i>
1995:
Appeared as himself in "The Celluloid Closet," a documentary based on Vito Russo's groundbreaking book about Hollywood's portrayal of homosexuality
1996:
Played a ballroom dance instructor in an episode of "Roseanne" (ABC)
1999:
Had a cameo role in "Play It to the Bone," starring Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson
2007:
His painting "The Red Table" was on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
2008:
Featured with wife in the documentary "The Jill & Tony Curtis Story," about their efforts to rescue horses from slaughterhouses
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Seward Park High School: New York , New York -
City College of New York: New York , New York -
Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research: New York , New York -

Notes

In his autobiography, Curtis wrote of a brief affair with Marilyn Monroe before she had become a star. They would later co-star together in "Some Like It Hot".

"I was the handsomest kid in town," he says, of his early days as a star. "But I happened to be Jewish and I was portrayed as a homosexual when it was something not to be talked about.

"The pain of being ostracised, vilified, denied, not having a relationship, all those feelings we romp through as young people, have subsided. But I don't forget anything. I was driving along in the car the other day and I remembered some girl, Rita, was despicable to me and I got angry and then I wonder what I'm angry about. They're dead. Forget about it." --Curtis on his treatment by Hollywood in the days before he achieved stardom, quoted in London's The Daily Telegraph, March 20, 2001.

On his relationships with his children, Tony Curtis told London's The Daily Telegraph (March 20, 2001): "I did the best job I could; I had to work just to give the money so they could go to fancy schools, but their mothers hated me and that hate permeated through them. When they came for weekends, I could feel their animosity. ... every one of them is realising I did the best I could do when I did it. All I could give them was affection. I never slapped them. I was always on best behavior."

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Janet Leigh. Actor. Married in 1951; divorced in 1962.
wife:
Christine Kaufman. Actor. Married in 1963; divorced in 1967.
wife:
Lisa Allen. Married in 1968; divorced.
wife:
Lisa Deutsch. Lawyer. Married in February 1993; filed for divorce after 17 months of marriage; born c. 1962.
wife:
Jill Vanden Berg. Horse trainer. Born in 1970; announced engagement in summer 1998; married on November 6, 1998 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Emmanuel Schwartz. Tailor. Hungarian immigrant; came to USA in 1921; amateur actor; died at age 58; married Curtis' mother on May 22, 1924.
mother:
Helen Schwartz. Hungarian immigrant; married Curtis' father on May 22, 1924; diagnosed as schizophrenic; died on March 19, 1974 at age 71.
brother:
Julius Schwartz. Born in July 1929; died c. 1938 from injuries sustatined when he was hit by a truck.
brother:
Robert Schwartz. Born in 1940; died on August 22, 1992; diagnosed as schizophrenic.
daughter:
Kelley Lee Curtis. Actor. Born c. 1956; mother, Janet Leigh.
daughter:
Jamie Lee Curtis. Actor, author. Born on November 22, 1958; mother, Janet Leigh; married to Christopher Guest.
daughter:
Alexandra Curtis. Mother, Christine Kaufman.
daughter:
Allegra Curtis. Mother, Christine Kaufman.
son:
Nicholas Curtis. Musician. Mother, Leslie Allen; born c. 1971; died on July 2, 1994 at age 23 after suffering a seizure related to heroin use.
son:
Benjamin Curtis. Mother, Leslie Allen.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Kid Andrew Cody & Julie Sparrow" Doubleday
"Tony Curtis: The Autobiography" William Morrow

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute