Tony Curtis was one of the white hottest stars of the 1950’s; and got his start very early, working side by side with other Hollywood heavy weights of the decade. He was under the same wing, and management company with Universal,who also brought us Rock Hudson, and Tab Hunter. Tony Curtis had roles in films in Jimmy Stewart’s 1950 classic Winchester ’73, and by 1953 he was starring in his own the technicolor Houdini. Tony Curtis would co star with Burt Lancaster in two films in the 50’s, Trapeze 1956; and The Sweet Smell Of Success from 1957; His star was even brighter towards the end of the 50’s; plus he was close pals to all the rat packers, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and close friends with Sammy Davis Jr, and Jerry Lewis. Tony Curtis was especially close to Sammy Davis Jr. He knew everyone in the business, and was well liked. A true matinee idol, with the beautiful movie star wife Janet Leigh.
Tony Curtis brother Julius was hit by a truck, and killed in 1938
By the late 50’s Tony Curtis was co-starring with Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones 1958, and with Jack Lemmon, and Mariyln Monroe in Some Like It Hot 1959; The last really good film of Tony Curtis career in my opinion was The Rat Race 1960, with Debbie Reynolds, and Don Rickles. I saw this movie on network TV maybe in the late 1970’s; This is one of my Favorite films, and one of Curtis best, but for some odd reason like a lot of actors, and actress, things started to go down hill for him fast by the mid 60’s
Tony Curtis was nominated for an Academy Award for the Defiant Ones in 1959
I have a theory why his career sputtered, and actors like Sean Connery, Steve McQueen, Sidney Poitier,Paul Newman, Richard Burton,and Jack Lemmon who were all close in age to Curtis flourished in the 60’s. Tony Curtis being the same age as Paul Newman, and Jack Lemmon, 5 years older than, Connery, and McQueen, and a few years older than Poitier. I would put Rock Hudson in the same boat as Curtis, but Hudson we will leave him to another article. Tony Curtis had all the matinee idol looks, but simply didn’t have the talent to be offered the real meaty roles of the 60’s, that Newman, McQueen, Lemmon, and even Walter Matthau were getting, or lets put Clint Eastwood, and Robert Redford of the later part of the 60’s in this group too.
I don’t believe Curtis had any real formal acting training which is a down fall of many actors, and actresses, with the method acting becoming the norm by the 60’s. He had a decent run till the mid 1960’s with ending with maybe The Great Race. You can’t say Tony Curtis did try one last hurrah as a serious actor, with The Boston Strangler 1968, but nice try. The film didn’t do well even with Henry Fonda as a co star. Don’t get me wrong great real life story, but just the wrong star . I can see Curtis trying very hard here to be a real big dramatic actor again, and it fail badly. It would have been like Elvis Presley playing Clyde Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde 1967; I would expect Elvis to Break out into song doing the twist with Ann-Margret as Bonnie Parker, rat a tat tat.
Tony Curtis as we know it, his best time in Tinseltown as a leading man in Hollywood was long over by the late 60’s. That ring a ding ding cool, of the rat pack era, was not playing well with the new Easy Rider counter culture period. Tony Curtis had major substance abuse issues, and was an alcoholic. He just bounced from one horrible movie after another, and even more starring in horrible TV shows, that didn’t last more that a half a season, or less. There were shows like The Persuaders 1971 with Roger Moore, and even worse a show called McCoy 1975; I remember it got a lot of press. He went from talk show to talk show promoting it, and Tony was on the cover of TV guide. This show was part of NBC’S Mystery Movie series, part of a rotation of other shows. Which were more successful than his.
Tony Curtis In 1945, Curtis was honorably discharged from the US Navy
Let’s go back to Tony Curtis in the 60’s for a minute. Now Tony Curtis could have been in a lot of great films of that period yes he was Kirk Douglas’s co-star in Spartacus 1960, but he was not the star. He didn’t get Hud, the Hustler, he was not in the Great Escape, or West Side Story, not even the Magnificent Seven. Tony Curtis was passed on in The Days Of Wine And Roses 1962. He didn’t get the lead in The Train 1965, or was not in any Westerns, Bernard Schwartz from the Bronx in a cowboy hat with that accent, not a gamble you want to make. So no The Sons Of Katie Elder, or The Appaloosa 1966
Tony Curtis was not one of the many big stars in The mega 1962 ensemble war film The Longest Day 1962 that starred just about every male actor, and singer of the day. There was no role for Tony Curtis in Judgement At Nuremberg, and he wasn’t Bullitt 1968, or The Thomas Crown Affair 1968, he missed out on Cool Hand Luke 1967. Tony Curtis was not in the big ensemble cast of the Dirty Dozen 1967;He could have gotten Harper 1966. Missed out on The Cincinnati kid 1965. He missed out co starring with Liz Taylor in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf 1966, no role even with friend Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment 1960 or any Hitchcock films.
Tony Curtis was Born Bernard Herschel Schwartz in The Bronx, NY
So is it just Hollywood turning there back on him ,or just like I mentioned he just lacked the acting chops to compete with bigger, and other up, and coming stars of the day. Tony Curtis in the 60’s here are some of the Curtis choices just what he was offered, or he settled for. He opted for Boeing, Boeing 1966 with long time pal Jerry Lewis, Sex and The Single Girl 1965 with Natalie Wood, Arrivederci, Baby! 1966, Don’t Make Waves 1967, all these movies didn’t do well at the box office. The Great Race was the big box office exception of the 60’s, perhaps the last great money maker of the Tony Curtis acting career. This movie did in upwards of $25 million which was a lot in 1965 America, plus movies stayed in the theater much, much longer than they do now. Back then no Netflix, or cable TV.
Maybe for Tony Curtis he was winding down much like the Frank Sinatra rat pack era, by the mid 60’s all of those actors including Frank Sinatra, there acting careers were pretty much done. To be fair acting, and staying on the top of your game no matter who you are is tough. A lot of actors had a few years of making bad choices in there careers as well. Paul Newman not immune. Paul did some god awful films in the mid 60’s, and the late 70’s that almost tanked his career. Paul Newman did Lady L 1965,The Prize 1965,What A Way To Go 1964 will give him a pass on this one it was a cameo. Then we have A New Kind Of Love 1963, and the biggest failure in my option was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Torn Curtain from 1966, but he was able to successfully rebound very well in between these duds, with big successful films like. The Oscar winning Hud 1963, and hugely successful private Eye caper Harper 1965; These films did very well, and kept his career on an even keel. I will say the mid 60’s took a lot of actors by surprise with the Vietnam war in full swing, the, JFK assassination, fashion, Pop Art, and The British Invasion.
This is what happend to a lot of actors that came up in the 50’s, and were still living, and acting in the 60’s, they had the old Hollywood way of making movies, and acting still in place. Old Hollywood of the 50’s, like Gene Kelly, Alan Ladd,Kirk Douglas, Rod Taylor, Charlton Heston,William Holden,and will put Marlon Brando in that mix. They could not come out of that old Hollywood studio system mentality way of making films, and jump full force into the method. The Late 1950’s and early 60’s was an odd time for Old Hollywood. Actors like Marlon Brando, and Tony Curtis should have. I hate to say capitalized on the death of many of Hollywood’s biggest stars in a short 5 1/2 year span. In 1958 we lost Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn died in 1959, The King Clark Gable dies in 1960, Gary Cooper, and Jeff Chandler both in 1961, and Alan Ladd 1964; In this short span you had some major box office stars who died, and this should have blew the door wide open for Tony Curtis.
Tony Curtis was Married 6 times
I will make a small exception with the great Moses, Charlton Heston he had a seesaw up, and down period in the 60’s, and rebounded well like Newman. Tony Curtis was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the Defiant Ones 1958; I strongly believe if he had won for that film. He would have told Hollywood yes I’m bad ass, I can act send beefier roles my way, because this is exactly what happen to Frank Sinatra after his Academy Award winning performance as Maggio in From Here To Eternity 1953; There was no Oscar curse with him. He got the Otto Preminger Man With The Golden Arm 1955, Suddenly 1955, Guys And Dolls 1955, and High Society 1956; Tony Curtis would have been on that level heading into the 60’s with a big Oscar win under his belt, as did his co star Sidney Poitier achieved with Lillies Of The Field 1963; He gets his Oscar in 1964, and the rest is history for him, and Charlton Heston’s 1960 Ben-Hur win.
Tony Curtis had a lot of great films in a short window under his belt, a lot of very good memorable technicolor roles, that I grew up watching as a kid, on late night movies, with my older brother. He was lucky to be part of the great golden era of Hollywood of the Swifty Lazar, Walter Winchell, Bogey and Bacall, James Dean, Stork Club, Rat Pack, and Hedda Hopper era of 1950’s America. Personally I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at one of those big parties during that super cool time.