The Ministry of Truth (Minitrue)

Resplendent in Newspeak and Doublethink.

Tony Curtis 1925-2010

I guess there’s very little else to say, having read the plethora of passionate and heartfelt obits circulating this evening. Another one of my icons has gone. So, having trawled the expanse of opinions on the man and his career, I’m leaving it to the irrepressible Harry Knowles to enthusiastically detail just how and why Tony Curtis was the legendary movie star he was and will always be. I simply can’t muster words better than his tonight:

“Harry here – and Dr Death can just go straight to the corner for a long sit out, because it seems we’re losing someone every day and in multiples. It seemed to start with the great Gloria Stewart, Claude Rains’ babe in INVISIBLE MAN – but just now as I was getting set for bed, I got the news flash… TONY CURTIS DIES.

Fuck.

How cool was Tony Curtis? He married JANET LEIGH for one, and their kid is the mega-awesome Jamie Leigh Curtis. And that’s amongst the coolest couples and kid in the history of cool couples with cool kids. Now I know we all love these three… but there’s a reason that Tony Curtis was the coolest of their family unit… It’s because… He’s Tony Curtis.

About 6 years ago, Tony Curtis called me. I can’t remember what the initial purpose was, but we wound up chatting for about an hour straight about the world of Hollywood that he came from, and he was so kind being complete game to tell some kid in Texas that shouldn’t ever register on his radar, a bunch of stories that made me wish I was Tony Curtis – moreso than all the obvious reasons.

Let’s admit it guys, the girls were always right about Tony Curtis. And he looked a helluvalot better than Lemmon in a dress. Right? Remember his gigolo in the Film Noir classic, CRISS CROSS? Or his fantastic turn as that boxer in FLESH AND FURY? I assume more of us have enjoyed his fantastically hokey biopic HOUDINI – a film that magically created Jamie Leigh Curtis. He met Janet Leigh then. HOUDINI has always been a mild obsession of mine. For one, I watched this film on WGN in about 1977 – and discovered that ERIC from THE VIKINGS was playing a guy named HARRY – who was the greatest magician of all time – and at that point in my life I had a 8 weekend gig as a Magician’s Apprentice at a Rennaisance Faire – so I wanted to know all about this Harry Houdini fella… my perceived competition. So I have collected a bit of Houdini ephemera – not much, it is an expensive mild obsession. But I love Tony Curtis’ HOUDINI. I loved the way he dressed. I loved his beautiful assistant – and I was absolutely shocked by the death.

Quickly after that, my father showed me TRAPEZE thanks to a friend of his that had a 16mm print. A film that introduced me to Gina Lollabrigida – and Tony was the smooth devil that could bag a Gina Lollabrigida and even at an early stage in my life, I realized just how cool that is. I mean. Really. The athleticism of the role was amazing, I always had a feeling that actors were simply magic. Because just look at everything they seem to be able to do.

I mentioned earlier, that when I saw HOUDINI, I thought of Tony Curtis as ERIC from THE VIKINGS. Well – two years prior my parents had a friend of mine screen THE VIKINGS for us. For one, he had a 16mm Scope print. And watching that film on your backyard porch with a starlit sky above… God, I watched THE VIKINGS constantly throughout my life. When ever I am in a boat and it begins to set sail – I think of THE VIKINGS and my interior soundtrack booms that soaring score. But I’ll never forget Tony Curtis’ viking slave Eric, I’ll never ever forget him putting his hawk onto Kirk Douglas’ face to rip the side of his face and eye out. I also love how he goes from slave to hero – wish Lucas had paid a bit more attention to THE VIKINGS and Tony’s performance. It was classic. Of course everything was classic about that film. And really that’s a defining bit of terminology when talking about Tony Curtis. He was classic. In fact he was classic cool. Oh, and smooth.

Perhaps my favorite performance of Tony Curtis’ since I’ve been a grown up was discovering the brilliant SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS. Tony’s SIDNEY FALCO is one of the best most awesome Press Agent performances I’ve ever seen. And I have seen alot of Press Agents in the last 14 years – and I’ve yet to find a SIDNEY FALCO – thank god. Just a grade A cool sleazy asshole. Tony made it awesome though. There was something purely magical about it all.

But then there’s his Joe/Joesephine performance in SOME LIKE IT HOT! Just. Fuck – who could do that now? And be that cool? That, just flat out cool. Then Tony was so cool that he was in two of the best movies ever made in back to back years. He did SOME LIKE IT HOT in 1959 for Billy Wilder, then turns right around and plays the amazing Antoninus in SPARTACUS for bleeding KUBRICK! And it’s SPARTACUS! A film that has literally become better and better throughout my life. Not just in my own estimation, but thanks to a successful restoration story – the film is actually BETTER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN! Just for the record, SPARTACUS is just amongst the very bests.

Then you see that same guy years and years later being a sexaholic Pilot in the awesome that is BOEING BOEING. Had to have been one of the most fun movies ever made. All us AICN staffers saw that at one of Quentin Tarantino’s QT Fests – and again – he’s just classic cool. And that is in a fashion that I just don’t quite see around today. There’s just a pure sweetness, devil, angel, tough, romantic about Tony Curtis.

Of course – thanks to my DVD column – I got introduced to Tony Curtis’ brilliant role as THE BOSTON STRANGLER directed by Richard Fleischer and co-starring Henry Fonda and the awesome of George Kennedy. This is a whole other side of Tony. He’s just amazing.

Tony Curtis was rumored to have a part in a film currently shooting called MORELLA.

We don’t have a Tony Curtis anymore and we’ll never see his specific classy cool again. He will always be one of my favorite movie stars.”

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September 30, 2010 - Posted by | Film

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