Tony Curtis, whose good looks made him a Hollywood star well before he became an accomplished actor in hits such as "Some Like It Hot" and "The Sweet Smell of Success," died at his home in Nevada, ABC News reported Thursday. He was 85.
Curtis appeared in more than 140 major motion pictures. An American icon, he not only appeared on the cover of The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club" but also was the inspiration for, and the voice of, the character "Stony Curtis" in the cartoon “The Flintstones.”
Here are some details about his career and life:
- Curtis first earned top billing rights in "The Prince Who Was a Thief" (1951), which co-starred Piper Laurie. Although under contract with Universal, Paramount cast Tony in the role of "Houdini" (1953), which cast him opposite Janet Leigh, his first wife.
- His next pictures included "Beachhead" and "Johnny Dark" (both 1954) and "The Black Shield of Falworth" (1955), which were all by-the-numbers productions. His next big film, "Trapeze," was by United Artists in 1956.
- Curtis sought work in a variety of genres to avoid being typecast.
- His first major success was "The Sweet Smell of Success" (1957).
- He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in "The Defiant Ones" (1958), in which he played a racist escaped con chained to Sidney Poitier.
- He demonstrated his comedic talent in Billy Wilder's classic "Some Like It Hot" (1959), in which he and Jack Lemmon played cross-dressers. The film also starred Marilyn Monroe.
- Other major films included "The Vikings" (1958), in which a Norseman had a New York accent; "Spartacus" (1960); "The Great Imposter" (1961); and "The Boston Strangler" (1968).
- Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in New York to poor Hungarian immigrants on June 3, 1925. He quit school to join the Navy in World War Two, serving on a submarine tender, and pursued acting after his discharge.
- Two stints at the Betty Ford Clinic helped him get over his struggles with drugs. While fighting his various addictions throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Curtis still managed to work, mostly in television.
- Curtis was married six times. His first wife was actress Janet Leigh in 1951, and the couple had two daughters, Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis. He divorced Leigh in 1962.
- He then married Christine Kaufmann, the 17-year-old German co-star of his latest film, "Taras Bulba." Leslie Allen, Andria Savio, Lisa Deutsch and finally Jill Vanderburg — the longest-lasting and most successful relationship.
- As Curtis’ acting career waned, he concentrated on painting, and in 1989, he sold more than $1 million worth of his art in the first day of a Los Angeles exhibition.
- In 1987, Curtis started the Emanuel Foundation for Hungarian Culture in honor of his father. The organization has since donated funds to help refurbish Budapest's Dohany Synagogue, the largest in Europe.
- In 2003, Curtis shot two commercials in Budapest, which Hungary hoped would help rebrand it as a center of spa and "wellness" tourism, ditching the traditional image of paprika and gypsy music.
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.