Actor Tony Curtis dies in his Las Vegas home at 85

Best known for "Some Like it Hot," actor was son of Hungarian Jewish immigrants, father to Jamie Lee Curtis, WWII veteran.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
September 30, 2010 19:13
2 minute read.
Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS — Tony Curtis molded himself from a 1950s movie heartthrob to a respected actor, showing a determined streak that served him well with such films as Sweet Smell of Success, The Defiant Ones and Some Like It Hot.

The Oscar-nominated actor died at age 85 Wednesday evening of cardiac arrest at his home in the Las Vegas-area city of Henderson, Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy said Thursday.

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Curtis began in acting with frivolous movies that exploited his handsome physique and appealing personality but then steadily moved to more substantial roles, starting in 1957 with Sweet Smell of Success.

In 1958, The Defiant Ones brought him an Academy Award nomination as best actor. The following year, he sparred with Marilyn Monroe in one of the most acclaimed film comedies ever, Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot.

His first wife was actress Janet Leigh of "Psycho" fame; actress Jamie Lee Curtis is their daughter.

"My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages," Jamie Lee Curtis said in a statement Thursday. "He leaves behind children and their families who loved him and respected him and a wife and in-laws who were devoted to him. He also leaves behind fans all over the world."

Some of Curtis' most prestigious films were: Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus, Captain Newman, M.D., The Vikings, Kings Go Forth, Operation Petticoat and Some Like It Hot.

After his star faded in the late 1960s and jobs became harder to find, he fell into drug and alcohol addiction. Curtis later recovered from his addiction in the 1980's.

Curtis took a fatherly pride in daughter Jamie's success. They were estranged for a long period, then reconciled. "I understand him better now," she said, "perhaps not as a father, but as a man."

He also had five other children and was married four more times.

Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx in 1925, the son of Hungarian Jews who had emigrated to the United States after World War I.

After serving in the Pacific during World War II and being wounded at Guam, he returned to New York and studied acting under the G.I. Bill.

When Schwartz signed a seven-year contract with Universal-International, the studio gave him a new name: Anthony Curtis, taken from his favorite novel, Anthony Adverse, and the Anglicized name of a favorite uncle. After his eighth film, he became Tony Curtis.


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