Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tony Curtis died yesterday at age 85.

Here's the New York Times obituary.

I had no idea he had such a rough childhood:

Tony Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz on June 3, 1925, to Helen and Emanuel Schwartz, Jewish immigrants from Hungary. Emanuel operated a tailor shop in a poor neighborhood [in the Bronx], and the family occupied cramped quarters behind the store, the parents in one room and little Bernard sharing another with his two brothers, Julius and Robert. Helen Schwartz suffered from schizophrenia and frequently beat the three boys. (Robert was later found to have the same disease.)

In 1933, at the height of the Depression, his parents found they could not properly provide for their children, and Bernard and Julius were placed in a state institution. Returning to his old neighborhood, Bernard frequently found himself caught up in gang warfare and the target of anti-Semitic hostility; as he recalled in many interviews, he learned to dodge the stones and fists to protect his face, which he realized even then would be his ticket to greater things.
Skipping ahead to the end of his life:
His final screen appearance was in 2008, when he played a small role in “David & Fatima,” an independent budget film about a romance between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim. His character’s name was Mr. Schwartz.
I admit I've seen only one Tony Curtis movie, but it's one of my favorites:
Under Billy Wilder’s direction in “Some Like It Hot,” another 1959 release, Mr. Curtis employed a spot-on imitation of [Cary] Grant’s mid-Atlantic accent when his character, posing as an oil heir, attempts to seduce a voluptuous singer (Marilyn Monroe). His role in that film — as a Chicago musician who, with his best friend (Jack Lemmon), witnesses the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and flees to Florida in women’s clothing as a member of an all-girl dance band — remains Mr. Curtis’s best-known performance.
Everyone should watch this movie!


Splunge said...

I would recommend The Great Race. You'll either love it or hate it, but if you don't mind a bit of slapstick (okay, a lot of slapstick) you might enjoy it.

It's a classic 1960s ensemble movie and I think it's wonderful.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Thanks for the suggestion -- I can stream this on Netflix, so I'll try to get around to watching it soon. I'll watch pretty much anything with Jack Lemmon in it.

Incidentally, I didn't realize Natalie Wood died so young. (Not that I would have heard about it, since I was 2 years old at the time.) Much, much sadder than the death of Tony Curtis.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Correction: I was actually zero at the time. I must have had some temporary dyslexia.