Tony Curtis: 1925 - 2010

Tony Curtis: 1925 - 2010

Tony Curtis, who appeared in over 140 movies in a career that spanned decades, has died at the age of eighty five.

He died at his home in Las Vegas yesterday from a cardiac arrest.

The actor was at the height of his power during the fifties and sixties and was part of a golden age of cinema and stars.

Curtis joined the Navy in 1943, serving on submarine USS Proteus, and was discharged after the second world war.

After leaving the navy he studied at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York as he looked to forge a career on the big screen.

Curtis was discovered by casting director and talent agent Joyce Selznick and he headed to Hollywood at the end of the forties.

Signing with Universal it was bit parts and supporting roles that came his way as he tried to make a name for himself on the big screen, he made his debut in 1949 in an uncredited role in Criss Cross.

He married Janet Leigh in 1951 and together Curtis enjoyed his first hit as a leading man as they starred in Houdini in 1953.

Throughout the fifties he continued to work on movies such as Forbidden, Trapeze, The Purple Mask and The Square Jungle. But it was to be Sweet Smell of Success in 1957 that was his major breakthrough role.

Sweet Smell of Success reunited Curtis with Burt Lancaster and the movie was met well by the critics, who were made to sit up and take notice of the young actor.

From there his career soared as he became one of Hollywood's most versatile and popular leading men. He followed up Sweet Smell of Success with The Vikings and The MIdnight Story but it was The Defiant Ones that earnt him an Oscar nomination.

The movie saw him star alongside Sidney Poitier was adapted by Harold Jacob Smith from the story by Nedrick Young.

The movie followed two convicts, Curtis and Poitier, who escape from their chain gang in the South, and, through their whole ordeal together, learn to cooperate  and put aside all their racial animosities as they try to evade the police.

The next couple of years brought him some of his most famous roles as he starred alongside Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in comedy Some Like It Hot, which is the role he is perhaps best known for.

But he left comedy behind a year later when he starred alongside Kirk Douglas in Stanley Kubrick's sword and sandal epic Spartacus

The movie may have received mixed reviews upon it's release but the movie has gone on to become a cinema classic, the 'I am Spartacus' scene becoming iconic.

Throughout the sixties Curtis mixed and matched his roles as he moved from dramatic roles in the likes of The Outside and The Great Imposter to comedy such as The Great Race, which has gone on to become a cult hit.

He may not have been the box office draw that he had been at h is peak when the seventies rolled in but the work continued to flow in for the actor as he moved into TV with Roger Moore to star in The Persuaders before going onto McCoy.

Despite not winning an OScar it was later in his career that he was recognised for his work when he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame before picking up a Sony Ericsson Empire Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Curtis was last seen on the  big screen in 2008 when he played a small role in David & Fatima.

In recent years his health began to deteriorate, nearly dying from pneumonia back in 2006. He is survived by his wife Jill Vandenberg Curtis, whom he wed in 1998, and five children.

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

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