For some reason Tony Curtis is regarded today as something of a lesser light relative to his Hollywood post-World War II peers despite his nearly 60-year career covering nearly 130 movie and tv credits. He shouldn’t be.
Born in the Bronx (nee Bernard Schwartz) of Hungarian Jewish immigrants, he had a horrendous childhood — spending time in an orphanage — before service in the Navy during World War II. A streetwise good looker, who learned at an early age to take care of himself, Curtis found himself in Hollywood in 1948 signing a seven-year-contract with Universal Pictures.
Offscreen, Curtis worked his way through six marriages (including his famous 11-year union with Janet Leigh), a cocaine addiction, multiple affairs and a number of other indiscretions. He also took up painting among several side talents, and was a pretty good raconteur-writer.
Today’s blog is based largely on his American Prince: A Memoir, published two years before his death in 2010 at age 85. (The book is well worth a read.) Ok, on to the answers to our Tony Curtis Quiz. To review the questions, just scroll down a bit to yesterday’s blog.
1) Answer: c) Elvis Presley, who was 14 when he first saw Curtis onscreen, was said to be entranced by the actor’s haircut: twirled on the forehead with a “duck’s ass” in the back. Wrote Curtis: “My haircut was more famous than I was.”
2) Answer: d) None of the above. Curtis writes that what he actually said in 1952’s Son of Ali Baba was: “Yonder in the valley of the sun is my father’s castle.” After the movie came out Debbie Reynolds went on tv and mocked Curtis’ delivery of “yonder lies the castle of my fodda.” Bronx accent and all. The Reynolds version stuck, and dogged Curtis throughout his career.
3) Answer: d) Yvonne DeCarlo, who costarred with Burt Lancaster in Criss Cross. She and Curtis wound up having a brief fling.
4) Answer: c) Howard Hughes, who had (unfulfilled) designs on Janet Leigh at the time Curtis starting dating the actress. Hughes was an immensely powerful figure in Hollywood at the time, and also was a bit creepy. The combination intimidated the young actor.
5) Answer: c) Curtis reports that he enjoyed living with Brando. “If we were the Odd Couple, I was Felix and Marlon was Oscar.”
6) Answer: b) False. Curtis writes that his affair with Marilyn Monroe “was truly something unforgettable. No other woman I’ve known made me feel that way until I met my (sixth and final) wife (Jill Ann Curtis) almost fifty years later.”
7) Answer: d) As Curtis recalled: “Lou Costello…liked to take props from the sets and them home…it was a ticklish situation ; no one wanted to blow the whistle on Lou because he was such a big star.”
8) Answer: d) Danny Kaye. Curtis found the music-comedy star “a very mean and bitter man” who used to regularly belittle him. After one encounter, Curtis writes that he leaned into Kaye, and said: “Fuck you, Danny.”
9) Answer: b) Shelley Winters, “a real yenta, a big-mouthed busy body.”
10) Answer: b) Anita Ekberg.