WHEN A BOY FROM THE BRONX
Sad to say, Tony Curtis, who died on September 29,2010 at the age of 85, never got the Oscar he fantasized about in Guy Flatley's 1977 interview for
The New York Times. Nevertheless, he delivered many unforgettable performances both on and off screen.
"Do you want to know my fantasy?" whispers Tony Curtis, his blue
eyes gleaming boyishly. "I dreamed I would get the book published,
it would make the best-seller list, and a producer would buy it
and ask me to write and direct the movie."
In Hollywood such dreams have been known to come true, though it
is doubtful that "Kid Cody & Julie Sparrow" will nab
a Pulitzer. Still, Curtis is pleased to take a bow as the surprise
author of this just-published novel extolling the virtues and vices
of a raunchy western-movie star and an engagingly thuggish Las Vegas
gambler who turn out to be the offspring of the same frolicsome
Perhaps the ecstasies of authorship will eradicate Curtis
grief over not having been nominated for an Oscar as the sexually
impotent matinee idol in "The Last Tycoon." "I used to fantasize about the Oscar," says Curtis, lean
and youthful looking at 51. "There I would be, at age 26, the
youngest and handsomest actor ever to win the Academy Award. But
Hollywood never gave me that chance. When Jack Lemmon got nominated
for 'Some Like It Hot,' and I didnt, I took it personally,
man. At a time when I needed the accolades of my peers, they turned
their backs on me. Maybe it was because of my two marriages and
of the ramifications to all the people involved.
"The Oscars have been turned into a big business, and they
can be bought. You tell me, what the hell was O.J. Simpson doing
up there on that stage? Or Muhammad Ali? What do they have to do
with movies? Where was Barbara Stanwyck, baby?"
in fact, was Tony Curtis? Its been nearly three decades since
Bernie Schwartz, The Bronxs gift to Hollywood, blossomed into
Tony Curtis, the curly-top wonder of such Universal quick-epics
as "The Prince Who Was a Thief" and "Son of Ali Baba."
Although he later matured into an actor of impressive substance
in "The Defiant Ones," "The Sweet Smell of Success,"
"Some Like It Hot" and "The Boston Strangler,"
his stature has been diminished in recent years because of personal
pressures-such as alimony payments-that have frequently
forced him to grab at the first role dangled before his eyes. Nor
is it likely that he will rebound to glory with "Sextette,"
in which he plays one of a legion of lovestruck men in Mae Wests
life, or "The Manitou," an occult thriller in which he
shares tremors with Stella Stevens, Burgess Meredith and Ann Sothern.
In the coming months, a sizeable portion of Mr. Curtiss artistic
passion will be spent at the typewriter, pounding out his second
novel, "Starstruck," about a handful of Hollywood hopefuls
in the late 1940s, one of whom commits suicide, thereby reminding
alert readers of Marilyn Monroe.
"Marilyn and I met each other
in 1948 at Universal, where she was trying to get herself put under
contract," Curtis recalls. "The guys used to fall off
buildings when shed walk by wearing a see-through blouse before
anyone ever heard of a see-through blouse. I had a Buick convertible
and asked her if she wanted a ride back to town. After that we developed
a genuine bond of affection.
later, when I finally got to work with Marilyn in Some Like
It Hot, it seemed to me that she took unfair advantage of
everyone, making them adjust to her pace. And it was not necessary.
She was not as vulnerable and frightened as she led people to believe.
That business of always being late, of building up tension by being
the last one to arrive at a party, was carefully staged. Marilyn
got off on that sort of thing-that was her real movie. Like
Barbra Streisand, Marilyn always knew precisely what she was doing."