Sunday, April 21, 2024

Tony Curtis, 85, Had the Sweet Smell of Success


Reports this morning that Tony Curtis, the great actor and father of Jamie Lee, has died at age 85.

It seems funny that Tony’s died in the same week pretty much as Eddie Fisher. They were the hottest stars circa 1960. None was bigger. The partying, the girlfriends and wives, all of it. What a time they had.

When Tony Curtis married Janet Leigh, it was like when Madonna married Sean Penn. Chaos. My friend, the late John Springer, was their publicist. He used to tell us how he created diversions that day for the press so they wouldn’t catch on, and John managed to get the couple hitched in the suburbs.

The couple was married from 1951 to 1962, during which Leigh made “Psycho” and became a superstar. Curtis made his best films during that time–“Some Like it Hot,” “Sweet Smell of Success,” and “The Defiant Ones.” He also, he admitted, cheated on Leigh a lot. He wrote recently that he had a fling with Marilyn Monroe. But from the Curtis-Leigh marriage came actress Jamie Lee and her sister Kelly.

In recent years, Curtis had been a regular at Spago for lunch, where he sat in the table next to Sidney Poitier, his “Defiant Ones” co-star. They were real Hollywood.

Curtis made lots of other films over the years, but my favorite–and so many people’s–is “Sweet Smell.” As Sidney Falco, he was indelible. There are few performances this good on film. May he rest in peace.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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