He died on Wednesday, which provides us the occasion to look back on the notable, unforgettable performances he produced and introduce younger folks who may not be familiar with him to one of the more charismatic stars in the history of Hollywood (stardom is fleeting, eh?).
In a sense, Tony Curtis was the precursor of guys like Johnny Depp or… well, really, there isn’t anyone else of equal style and versatility on the contemporary scene to whom you can compare him. Few actors have more effectively combined matinee-idol looks with acting chops that expanded and became more revelatory as their careers progressed (he received a Best Actor nomination for his kinetic yet vulnerable performance in The Defiant Ones — also nominated that year were Paul Newman, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and David Niven, quite rareified company; Niven won for Separate Tables). Better-looking than Cruise or Pitt, with a more wide-ranging acting palette than Clooney or Harrison Ford or Will Smith. As a kid, I remember watching Tony Curtis in Operation Petticoat and wanting to be like him. When an actor makes you feel that way, he’s a star.
After his worldwide popularity in movies began to wane, he pursued painting, where he achieved some not inconsiderable success — something that meant more to him than acting. He was a guy who was always looking to be creative.
Along the way he fathered Jamie Lee Curtis, so the stardom is perpetuated in that way, too.
Below are links to movies (click the images) that he helped to make classics. If you like films and aren’t familiar with Curtis, you owe it to yourself to check him out. And for those who already know, re-experience the style, the charisma…