Fans of actor Tony Curtis represent several generations. Known for roles in dozens of films, in his senior years, the entertainer made appearances on a variety of television shows. His fans will want to remember his birthday on June 3.
Tony Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in 1925 in the Bronx to parents who were Hungarian immigrants, according to biography.com. He and his two brothers shared a room in the space his family occupied behind his father’s tailor shop.
During the Great Depression, the children’s parents were unable to financially support the boys. The young Bernard and his brother Julius were placed in a state institution. Julius was killed at age 12 when hit by a truck in 1938. The loss inspired Bernard to attend Seward Park High School in Manhattan and to enlist in the Navy after graduation.
The Acting Bug
After his discharge, he took acting lessons at New York’s New School for Social Research. His good looks caused him to be noticed by Universal Pictures, where he signed a contract in 1948 as Anthony Curtis.
Curtis’s career skyrocketed after he married actress Janet Leigh in 1951. Among films in which he held successful starring roles that decade were Houdini, Operation Petticoat, Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe, and Spartacus.
After he divorced Janet Lee and was linked to German actress Christine Kaufmann in 1962, Tony Curtis’s career stalled. In addition to his six marriages, he had several romances with well-known actresses such as Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe.
Plagued by problems with alcohol and drugs, Curtis entered rehab in 1982. He basically reinvented himself as a painter and published two autobiographies. Tony Curtis: The Autobiography came out in 1994. American Prince: A Memoir followed. His last film, produced while he was experiencing health problems, was David & Fatima in 2008. In 1994, he underwent heart bypass surgery. He passed away at age 85 on September 30, 2010.
In 1998, Curtis married his last wife, Jill Vandenberg. The two of them founded Shiloh Horse Rescue, a Nevada facility that attempts to give all horses that need it a second chance at life. Although I never met Tony or Jill personally, thanks to the Web, I quickly learned that we participated in trying to rescue some of the same horses.
I did not follow much of Tony Curtis’s film career. To me, based on his support for helpless animals, he had the heart of a giant.
Happy birthday, Tony.