September 30, 2010

Tony Curtis, RIP.

He was 85.
As a performer, Mr. Curtis drew first and foremost on his startlingly good looks. With his dark, curly hair, worn in a sculptural style later imitated by Elvis Presley, and plucked eyebrows framing pale blue eyes and wide, full lips, Mr. Curtis embodied a new kind of feminized male beauty that came into vogue in the early 1950s. A vigorous heterosexual in his widely publicized (not least by himself) private life, he was often cast in roles that drew on a perceived ambiguity: his full-drag impersonation of a female jazz musician in “Some Like It Hot,” a slave who attracts the interest of a Roman senator (Laurence Olivier) in Stanley Kubrick’s “Spartacus” (1960), a man attracted to a mysterious blond (Debbie Reynolds) who turns out to be the reincarnation of his male best friend in Vincente Minnelli’s “Goodbye Charlie” (1964).

Tony Curtis was great. I recently watched the second-rate movie "Sex and the Single Girl" and noticed how funny Curtis made lines that were really not very good. But "Some Like It Hot" is as good as a movie can be and Tony Curtis is part of what makes it fabulous. Here's one of my favorites scenes, where Tony sets up an encounter with Marilyn in which he's not dressed in women's clothes, he's pretending to be a millionaire:

43 comments:

Lem said...

Mr. Curtis embodied a new kind of feminized male beauty that came into vogue in the early 1950s.

"I have never quite got over the fact that I thought, and I'm afraid I still do think, that 'acting' for a man — a really proper man — is sissified and faintly ridiculous."

Tom said...

His best? Not even close. For that, you need to look at Sweet Smell of Success:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Smell_of_Success

Sixty Grit said...
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k*thy said...

Eddie Fisher, Tony Curtis...who's still around to be next?

bwebster said...

Great clip -- sounds as though he's channeling Cary Grant.

edutcher said...

Lem's quote was a very common attitude at the time. William Holden remembered he and The Duke mused about the same thing as they shot, "The Horse Soldiers".

Curtis' comedy chops, though, were never better than in, "Who Was That Lady?". He and Dean Martin are in the basement of a Manhattan building, but think they're on a Russian submarine - and decide to sink it. A scream!

PS He was, bwebster.

The Crack Emcee said...

I like women a lot better when they're scripted.

RIP Tony. "Proper men" gave you a pass a long time ago.

Quayle said...

The Sheboygan Conservatory.

I'll bet Obama used to go up there to have fun.

joewxman said...

agree with Tom. When i first saw SS OF S i wanted to be cleaned with a powerwasher. The slimy characters in that movie were so dispicable. Tony Curtis was magnificent in that movie.

Christopher said...

OK, I'll out myself as a total heathen - I got through about 2 1/2 minutes of that clip before I gave up. I've always resisted "Hot," since I don't like being told that such-and-such is the greatest, funniest, most wonderful or whatever movie. I'm sure Curtis and Lemmon and Monroe and everyone else was wonderful, but Curtis' Cary Grant is actively aggravating. Now I really have no desire to see the movie.

That being said - RIP Tony. They don't make them like you (or Marilyn) any more. Hell, they don't even make hotels like the Del Coronado (in the background) anymore.

victoria said...

My favorite Tony Curtis has to be "Captain Newman M.D. and "The Wackiest Ship in the Army." Sweet, funny, that is how I will remember him.


Vicki from Pasadena

former law student said...

"Goodbye Charlie" was what they once called a sex comedy. I recommend it, even though Tony Curtis plays a rather diffident guy who must wrest his reincarnated best friend Debbie Reynolds -- in his former life a rake and roue until shot in the ass by the jealous husband Walter Matthau -- from the cad Pat Boone.

Nick Thomas said...

I got to meet him a few years ago, and blogged about it just a few weeks ago. Lovely man.

http://getnickt.blogspot.com/2010/07/tony-curtis-meeting-in-desert.html

Kev said...

(the other kev)

Loved his swordfight with Ross Martin in 'The Great Race,' a perfect parody of 'The Prisoner of Zenda.'

Curtis had the disadvantage of arriving at about the time the Actor's Studio performers were making their mark in films. Critics tended to see him as a lesser product, but he could deliver as well as anyone when given a good script and director.

RIP.

Schorsch said...

My I one day be described as a "vigorous heterosexual."

Sheepman said...

Eddie Fisher, Tony Curtis...who's still around to be next?

Someone with a daughter who is a famous actress.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Artie Lange relayed a great story about Tony Curtis:

Curtis and Walter Matthau studied acting together in New York when they were young. Curtis broke into movies while Matthau still struggled in New York. One rainy, cold day Matthau was walking alone in Manhattan, hunched over in an overcoat an looking miserable.

Suddenly an expensive sedan pulled over next to Matthau. The passenger door opened and Tony Curtis leaned out and yelled:

"Hey Walter! I f***ed Yvonne De Carlo!"

Tony pulled the door shut and they car took off leaving Matthau behind in the rain.

blake said...

Tom--

Yes, exactly! Sweet Smell of Success is an often overlooked classic. Probably Burt Lancaster's best, too.

Gedaliya said...

The NY Times reported that the cause of death was "heart failure."

My wife, a physician, remarked: "You mean he died when his heart stopped? How unusual."

Maguro said...

Gotta put a good word in for The Vikings. Tony Curtis was a slave in that one, too, but Kirk Douglas didn't try to hit on him or anything.

Trooper York said...

Yonder lies the castle of my fadda.

Old RPM Daddy said...

And let us not forget Taras Bulba, with Yul Brynner.

Patrick said...

Sorry. I just cannot muster any sarrow. The man was a morally depraved faggot. He is in hell, where he belongs.

Just another dead liberal queer. and the world is better for it too.

David said...

k*thy said...
"Eddie Fisher, Tony Curtis...who's still around to be next?"

Bill Clinton.

When he goes, we will all remember Bubba's Greatest Hits.

Sixty Grit said...
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Alex said...

I never found him particularly interesting, but RIP.

Ann Althouse said...

"Eddie Fisher, Tony Curtis...who's still around to be next? Someone with a daughter who is a famous actress."

Jon Voight.

But he's too young. Who are the actors in their 80s?

Now, Tony Curtis was so gorgeous. Eddie Fisher looked a lot like him. Who else looks like him? Tom Hanks!

Ann Althouse said...

"Eddie Fisher, Tony Curtis...who's still around to be next? Someone with a daughter who is a famous actress."

Jon Voight.

But he's too young. Who are the actors in their 80s?

Now, Tony Curtis was so gorgeous. Eddie Fisher looked a lot like him. Who else looks like him? Tom Hanks!

former law student said...

The radio reminded me: Tony Curtis played the stage magician/escape artist Houdini, in the romanticized biopic of 1953. His then-wife Janet Leigh costarred. A good family movie.

Beth said...

I like how Althouse says this: Some Like it Hot is as good as a movie can be.

That's just right.

Menley said...

I think that Christopher Plummer wants to get out of Oprah's Sound of Music reunion, and his daughter is an actress. Maybe he's next.

As a matter of good blog layout, shouldn't Althouse's picture be flipped so that she's looking towards the center of the screen?

Big Mike said...

I was going to write something about him finally making it to the "castle of his faddah," but (1) he really was a fine actor, and (2) unlike many actors in Hollywood today, I never saw a film where I thought he was just phoning it in.

But Tom Hanks looking like Tony Curtis? I'm afraid I don't see that.

Sixty Grit said...
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Menley said...

I meant the picture on the home page of the blog. Sorry.

The comparison with Tom Hanks seems off, but I can't think of a younger Tony Curtis type.

Deb said...

He was pretty amazing, if memory serves me, in The Boston Strangler

maninthemiddle said...

Gosh. I'm be scared. My first thought watching Marilyn dig out after the beachball was - wow (normal) - nice turnover - she looks like a jock. (oops)

Maybe the high school Marilyn of today would be looking at a soccer scholarship instead of a bus to Hollywood... or not.

Irene said...

"Good Evening, Mrs. Flintstone. I'm Stony Curtis your slave boy."

virgil xenophon said...

He starred with Cary Grant in one of my favorite movies, the lite comedy "Operation Petticoat" as the perfectly cast schmoozing, scheming, finagling WWII submarine supply officer. A former social-climbing Admiral's aide with no experience in submarines, he is pressed into service by sub CO Grant and proves the perfect irreverent Milo Minderbinder-type scrounger before there WAS a Milo. Although considered a "B" movie, Operation Petticoat showcases lite comedy at its' finest by perhaps two of the best who ever played the game. People here should rent the movie. Curtis gives a superb performance in a movie deserving of a much wider audience.

Joe said...

Actors getting up there in age (I thought about a third of these were already dead. Some may be):

Harry Morgan - 95
Eli Wallach - 94
Barbara Billingsley - 94
Olivia De Havilland - 94
Ernest Borgnine - 93
Kirk Douglas - 93
Herbert Lom - 93
Phyllis Diller - 93
Zsa Zsa Gabor - 93
Joan Fontaine - 92
Al Molinaro - 91
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. - 91
Mickey Rooney - 90
Maureen O'Hara - 90
Abe Vigoda - 89
Jane Russell - 89
Carl Reiner - 88
Jackie Cooper - 88
Betty White - 88
Christopher Lee - 88
Sid Caesar - 88
Jack Klugman - 88
Barbara Hale - 88
Jean Stapleton - 87
Carol Channing - 87
Lauren Bacall - 86
Doris Day - 86
Eva Marie Saint - 86
June Lockhart - 85
Mike Connors - 85
Hal Holbrook - 85
George Kennedy - 85
Cliff Robertson - 85
Andy Griffith - 84
Ann B. Davis - 84
Dick Van Dyke - 84
Cloris Leachman - 84
Angela Lansbury - 84
Charlotte Rae - 84
Jerry Lewis - 84
Leslie Nielsen - 84
Don Rickles - 84
Jonathan Winters - 84
Peter Falk - 83
Sidney Poitier - 83
James Garner - 82
Robert Guillaume - 82
Tom Bosley - 82
Roger Moore - 82
Shirley Temple - 82
Bob Newhart - 81
Marion Ross - 81
Dick Van Patten - 81
Sean Connery - 80
Clint Eastwood - 80
Gene Hackman - 80
Anne Francis - 80
Joanne Woodward - 80
Robert Loggia - 80
Robert Wagner - 80

Joe said...

Oh, and I agree with Virgil. Not a big fan of Tony Curtis, but he was very good in Operation Petticoat. Cary Grant was, well, there's never been any better.

Joe said...

Almost forgot:

Lillian Krockenberger - 105
George H. W. Bush - 86
Jimmy Carter - 85
Hugh Hefner - 84
Margaret Thatcher - 84
Fidel Castro - 84
Walter Mondale - 82
My Dad - 82
Stephen Sondheim - 80

jgm said...

I liked Curtis, and agree that he was very good in SSoS, but sometimes his acting could be, shall we say, subpar. Remember when he reads his character's "poetry" in Spartacus? Worst scene in the movie, tho not just because of him.

Then there's SLiH. Some hilarious scenes, of course, and MM never looked better (remember the sheer tit dress?), but it's always ruined for me because there is no way anyone sane (or even just dumb like Monroe was supposed to be) would think either of those guys were women.

Willing suspension of disbelief and all, but I just can't do it. Joe E. Brown, of course, steals the movie.

jgm said...

Oops, italics OD.