Tuesday, February 15, 2022

American Prince--A Tony Curtis Biography

 Geez, where to start.

A couple of weeks ago I watched an old movie made in 1958 called 'The Defiant Ones'.  The stars were Tony Curtis & Sidney Portier.  Sidney had just passed away & I'd heard of the movie but had never seen it.  "Joker" (Curtis) & "Cullen" were convicts in the south (Alabama I think) who escape an overturned prison bus chained together with handcuffs.  Joker is a bigot who treats Cullen like trash but figures out fast that they are in this thing together.  On their journey, they find out they had more in common than either imagined.  They form an at first reluctant tolerance that turns into a true friendship.  I won't way much more because I'd hate to spoil the movie. Both actors did a great job & the movie was very good.

I've obviously seen Tony Curtis over the years.  I can't honestly say he ever made a big impression on me.  I remember seeing 'The Boston Strangler'  & being surprised how good he was.  And I remember him in 'Some Like it Hot' which I never saw as brilliant as others saw it.  Other than that, I'm hot sure I could name another movie, even though I just read a book that listed them all.  But after 'The Defiant Ones' I decided to check his book out of the library & read about his life.  And what a trip.

He was born Bernard Schwartz into poverty in 1925.  His parents were Hungarian Jew immigrants. His dad was a tailor, his mom a homemaker.   He was the oldest of 3 boys.  His mother was apparently violent & schitzophrenic although he mostly skimmed over that last part.  At age 13, (now) Tony's 9 year old brother Julius was killed in a car accident in NYC.   Tony grew up avoiding school & trying to scrape by for money to go to the movies.  He had no high school degree & later joined the Navy in WWII.  After he was discharged, he went to drama school on the GI Bill.  After some stage work, he met some people who offered him some small parts in the movies.  He ended up leaving NY & heading to California to be a "star". 

Along the way, if you believe what you read, he had sex with every other female in America. Apparently women would just see him on the street & think he was the most handsome thing on the planet & have sex with him.  All of the women in the movies wanted him, except Piper Laurie & Shelley Winters.  Ok, maybe there were a couple more but according to him, not many.  He had six wives but had no fault in the demise of any of his marriages, according to him.  He tomcatted around on every wife from day one but when a wife LOOKED somewhere else (maybe more) he was being "cuckolded".  He justified his cheating by saying it never meant anything & he was discreet.  And of course he was "madly in love".  Seriously, what a horndog.  And of course, it doesn't help that as he aged, he married children.  First wife Janet Leigh was 23 when they first married & he was 25.  Then after his divorce from her, he waas 37, 2nd bride was 18.  3 more wives were in 20s & oldest was 33.  So basically, no matter how old he got, when the wife hit about 30, to quote Gemma on 'Sons of Anarchy', his dick went on a cheerleader hunt.

According to him, his career should have been better because, he was, after all, the handsomest & best actor in Hollywood.  And at 60 he was lamenting agism in his business.  Of course, that happens at 40 for the women.  And in his mind the lack of adoration & movie parts & awards was because everyone in Hollywood was an Anti-Semenite.  While I don't doubt one bit that may have been part of it, I tend to believe it was more because he was a tool.  He claimed he was the ultimate professional who knew everything there was to know about movies & no one else knew anythinng.  I can only imagine he was probably more trouble than he was worth. 

To go with the 6 wives, he had 6 kids too that it appears he had a don't-I-know-you-from-somewhere relationships.   And when he died, he named the 5 surviving children by name & publically disowned them.  His last wife walked away with all the money. 

What an American prince.

I can honestly say, after this book, I have gone from apathy for Tony Curtis to a solid dislike. 

The book was enlightening for sure. And not in a good way. 

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