Tony Curtis dies at 85

Tony-CurtisImage Credit: Pace Gregory/CorbisThe rare Hollywood star whose off-screen character was often more colorful than his on-screen ones, Tony Curtis has died at the age of 85. He passed away at midnight Wednesday night at his home in Nevada. The actor suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was hospitalized in mid-July after he had trouble breathing.

Curtis lived a life that could easily have been made into a movie. Born Bernard Schwartz and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., to Hungarian immigrants, Curtis completed only one year of high school, spent two years in the U.S. Navy, and learned to act on the GI Bill, which led to a contract gig with Universal Studios. Graduating to bigger parts in films like 1952’s Son of Ali Baba and 1953’s Houdini, Curtis made a point of working in several genres.

As a result, his best-known films ranged from historical epics (1960’s Spartacus) to edgy noir dramas (1957’s Sweet Smell of Success) to farces (1959’s Some Like It Hot). But for every classic on his resume, he also appeared in more than his share of flops. He only earned one Oscar nomination in his seven-decade career, for the 1958 crime drama The Defiant Ones.

Curtis’ personal life was filled with great turmoil: He married five times; his first, and most famous, marriage was to actress Janet Leigh, with whom he appeared in Houdini after they had wed. The union lasted 11 years (the two divorced in 1962) and produced two daughters, the actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis (Trading Places). Tony Curtis had a rocky relationship with all of his children, including his eldest son, Nicholas, who died at age 23 of a heroin overdose in 1994. Curtis himself was arrested for marijuana possession in London in 1970, and spent a month at the Betty Ford Clinic in 1984. Even into old age, he never lived quietly. “Eighty f—ing years old. I don’t feel any different now than I did when I was 30,” he told Esquire in 2006. “Dying, I just don’t feel like it.”

More Tony Curtis:
Tony Curtis remembers ‘Some Like It Hot’

Comments (167 total) Add your comment
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  • Cookie

    RIP Tony. Thanks for the memories

  • David Geen

    I remember Tony with a simple fondness for his characters on the screen and off. Not in vain Tony; life’s to be lived.

  • Paul Michaud

    My sympathy to his family.

    Tony was my idol when I was
    younger and still his today, God bless him.

  • Elizabeth

    “Bummer” doesn’t seem respectful enough, but that’s all I can think right now. “Some Like It Hot” is one of my favorite ‘classic’ movies.

  • noel egan

    Some like it hot is the most enduring comedy i have ever seen and now with Tony’s passing i look forward to the repeats

  • Forever Young

    The Golden Years of Hollywood!
    One of the best.

    • ks

      agreed another sad day for hollywood. Thinking of friends and family today RIP Tony, thanks for making us laugh ad smile

  • Annmarie Rogers

    Tony curtis will be greatly missed loved him in the vikings and spartacus RIP


    Farewell Old Friend u will be missed Your paintings were amazing

  • McBride

    Been a tough week on the film community:

    Gloria Stuart, Sally Menke, Greg Giraldo, Eddie Fisher, Arthur Penn, Joe Mantell and now Curtis.

    R.I.P. all.

    • roneida

      Amen. I remember these stars from when I was a kid. We all moved one step closer.

      • Robert Murrow

        I was thinking the same exact thing! Btw, one my favorite Tony curtis movies was Operation Petticoat!

      • ks

        @Robert-I LOVE THAT MOVIE

    • Brian

      You said it!

      • Brian

        I was actually commenting on McBride’s comment.

  • Luc HANOT

    One of the last great actors died. It’s so sad. Rest in peace Tony Curtis.

  • Dian

    Truly one of the great ones. May he live on forever in our hearts. Thanks for the memories. Rest in peace Tony.

  • Megan

    R.I.P Tony Curtis
    may you rest in peace you will never be forgotten.

  • daviddavid

    What a loss. I think out of everything he did, I loved him best in ‘The Persuaders,’ which he did with Roger Moore. Danny Wilde was his character’s name and oh, what a splendid job he did. Great, great, actor and man … terrific! I will miss him terribly – RIP Tony.

    • Philippe Orlando

      So few people remember the Persuaders, I bet you are not in the US, are you? I used to love that series.

      • kahuna

        I remember it. Two of the hottest men ever created starred in that series. No way would I miss THAT! :)

    • JohnB

      “The Persuaders” was the first thing I thought of when I heard Curtis had died. All things considered, he was probably just playing himself — but he did that so well!

      • Matt

        My brother told me that was a great series he co-starred with Roger Moore in. I’m looking forward to it. I thought he was great with Cary Grant in Operation Peticoat.

  • DC

    He originated a host of iconic characters, I’ll give him that. In life though he appeared to be a mean, vain sexist and homophobe.

    • Carlo

      You were so lucky to personally know him!

      You will be remembered as mean, vicious and judgemental..

      • Rita Bolero

        Go Carlo!

      • jodipo

        and how will you be remembered Carlo? I think judgemental and intolerant fall into your camp too.

        RIP Mr.Curtis

    • r.

      That’s because he was a closet case.

    • Sarah

      DC is partly right. TC was a voting member of the Academy but absolutely refused to see Brokeback Mountain. Still didn’t stop him from voting for Best Picture. He lost a lot of respect when that info came out.

      • Anton4177

        So did I, but I’m not a homophobe! I just didn’t want to see a movie about homosexual cowboys. As is my right!

      • @Anton4177

        Read Sarah’s post again, moron. Are you a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences?

  • Cyndi

    If you’ve never seen “The Vikings” with Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas, you’ve missed out on a great movie. One of my favorite movies – Tony will be missed. Rest in peace!

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