Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Memoriam: Tony Curtis


Tony Curtis, 1925-2010

I first became aware of Tony Curtis in 1997, when I became obsessed with his 1957 movie, Sweet Smell of Success. It had everything going for it, and Tony Curtis-as-Sidney Falco was a wonderful performance. Why he wasn't nominated for a Best Actor Oscar is beyond my ability to comprehend. As I mentioned in a previous post, I watched Sweet Smell of Success every Friday night for fifteen consecutive weeks. Curtis became a hero to my pal and I, and we would quote Sidney Falco and Burt Lancaster's J.J. Hunsecker's lines constantly. Curtis became an icon of cool with us and anything he did on screen, regardless of quality, was fine with us. Curtis had made his reputaion in Sweet Smell of Success and he would always be press agent Sidney Falco to us. "A cookie full of arsenic", indeed.

I had seen Tony's breakthrough--at least as a serious actor and not mere teen idol--in The Defiant Ones, where his bigoted character John "Joker" Jackson was thrust into "equal" terms with Sidney Poitier's character, Noah Cullen. The immortal scene of Curtis and Poitier reaching out to one another while trying to escape is one of the greatest moments in cinematic history.

In 1998, I stumbled upon the 1971-72 British TV show, The Persuaders!, which I'd never heard of before. It had the future James Bond, Roger Moore, and Curtis partnered up as international playboys solving crimes in the French Riviera and throughout England. It became my all-time favorite TV show--it still is. It was a shock seeing him in middle age, though his boundless, acrobatic energy made that program the great fun it is.

Tony Curtis, 1925-2010

8 comments:

  1. I watched Sweet Smell of Success every Friday night for fifteen consecutive weeks. Curtis became a hero to my pal and I, and we would quote Sidney Falco and Burt Lancaster's J.J. Hunsecker's lines constantly. Curtis became an icon of cool with us and anything he did on screen, regardless of quality, was fine with us.

    I like to think somewhere, Tony and Burt are smiling. RIP, Mr. Curtis.

    Incidentally, I've read that when Lancaster began casting for "Sweet Smell Of Success" -- his production company owned the rights -- he initially didn't want to play Hunsecker, but briefly considered Orson Welles in the part. I'm a Welles fan, and while I can't imagine him being better than Lancaster was, he might have made a fascinating, slightly different Hunsecker.

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  2. Sad to hear of his passing - it seems as if we are losing a lot of cinema greats at the moment, with his death coming on top of Arthur Penn's and Gloria Stuart's. I especially love his performance in 'Some Like It Hot' - one of the greatest.
    Judy

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  3. Curtis-as-Falco is one of the classic film roles, period. I was aware of him even in the 50s, when I was a kid going to movies like The Long Ships and The Black Shield of Falworth. Later on, he became a 'sharpie', a character with the angles and charm. The Pretenders was one of those.

    Actually, the 80s movie Diner had a character in it -- not true? -- who did NOTHING BUT quote dialogue from The Sweet Smell Of Success.

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  4. I was so sorry to hear of Tony Curtis's death...he made so many enjoyable films, and I loved The Persuaders series too!

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  5. Tell your wife to watch this tutorial by Fleur de Guerre, this is exactly how I do my faux bangs and how I learnt to do it in the first place. It takes a little practise but once she gets it it's so easy to do, I can do it now in less than 5 mins!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfhhXW_iDn0

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  6. i'll always remember him as Josephine in "Some Like It Hot". One of the funniest movies ever! RIP Tony!

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  7. Sweet Smell is a masterpiece and to think I was there when you discovered it. He will be missed. Of all the recent deaths in Hollywood his struck me the hardest. Goodbye Sydney...

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  8. What a great post,
    Sweet Smell of Success is one of my all time favorites (top ten) Tony Curtis and Lancaster both deserved some kind of an award!!

    "Match me, Sidney"

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