Bernie Schwartz (from the Bronx, no less) was the only one of this week’s quartet to change his name. Wouldn’t you?
Tony Curtis sounds much sexier.
But the name shift got him grief, especially from Danny Kaye, a big star at the time Curtis first arose through Universal Pictures.
Kaye was by no means universally beloved. Onscreen, he played the genial, benign comedian. Offstage, he behaved differently.
In his 2008 American Prince: A Memoir, Curtis wrote:
To my way of thinking, Danny was a very mean and bitter man, and almost everybody seemed to agree with me…he would belittle me all the time. He once asked me, ‘Where did you learn how to fence –the Bronx?’
I don’t know why Danny had it in for me. Maybe it was because we both came from New York. Maybe it was because we were both Jewish, and he struggled with that in himself. Or it might have been some complicated sexual feeling.
Kaye was rumored to be bi-sexual, and was said to have had a “relationship” with Sir Laurence Olivier. In any case, his talents so prized back then have not aged well. There was always at look-at-me, show-offy aspect to Kaye’s performing, which doesn’t hold up over time.
We believe that guy born Bernie Schwartz has held up much better over time.