Name at birth: Bernard Schwartz
Tony Curtis was a Hollywood icon in the mid-20th century, when he was the darkly handsome star of movies including The Sweet Smell of Success (1957, with Burt Lancaster) and the raucous cross-dressing comedy Some Like it Hot (1959, with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe). Tony Curtis was the son of Hungarian immigrants -- his father, Manny Schwartz, was a tailor -- and he grew up in the Bronx and served in the Navy in World War II before becoming an actor. He earned a seven-year contract at Universal-International studios and appeared in dramas and costumers until capturing a lead role in 1951's The Prince Who Was a Thief. Curtis turned in reliable performances throughout the '50s (including a star turn as magician Harry Houdini in 1953's Houdini), building an onscreen persona that was part charming rogue and part earnest, sensitive hunk. Meanwhile, his marriage to actress Janet Leigh (1951-62) made him a favorite of fan magazines and gossip columns. In 1959 he earned his only Oscar nomination for The Defiant Ones (1958, with Curtis handcuffed to Sidney Poitier), and in 1960 he co-starred with Kirk Douglas in the Roman Empire epic Spartacus. Curtis specialized in light comedies during the 1960s, including The Great Race (1965) and Arrivederci, Baby (1968, with Nancy Kwan), but his memorable turn as the killer in The Boston Strangler (1968, with Henry Fonda) reaffirmed his dramatic skills. After the 1960s, Curtis worked only sporadically in the movies and on television, including the feature films The Last Tycoon (1976) and Sextette (1978, with Mae West), and in the TV cult favorite The Persuaders (1971, with Roger Moore). In later years he became a prolific painter, and published the novel Kid Cody and Julie Sparrow (1977), Tony Curtis: An Autobiography (1993) and American Prince: A Memoir (2008).
Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh were the parents of actresses Kelly Curtis (b. 1956) and Jamie Lee Curtis… Curtis was married six times in all. He married his sixth wife, Jill Vanden Berg, in 1998, and they remained married until his death… Curtis was in the U.S. Navy from 1942-45, mainly in the South Pacific.
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