He wasn’t considered the greatest of actors, although his role in “The Defiant Ones” was highly praised in its time. He had a lot of tragedy in his life. Hungarian was his only language until the age of six. He was married six times. And in recent years, it sometimes seems as though he’s been most well-known for being the father of actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
Now Tony Curtis has died at the age of 85. His most lasting legacy will probably be his brilliant comic turn as the cross-dressing saxophone player who romances Marilyn Monroe in Billy Wilder’s 1959 masterpiece “Some Like It Hot.”
I loved it when I first saw it as a child in the movie theater, and I have loved it every time I’ve seen it since then—which is many. And I am hardly alone.
Co-star Jack Lemmon may be more flamboyant and wildly manic in his obvious delight in his role. Marilyn Monroe is—well, Marilyn Monroe. But Curtis’s more understated genius is equally important, and equally wonderful. Watch him in his maiden scene, as he goes back and forth between his masculine self and his new feminine persona:
His Wiki bio says that Curtis was inspired to join the Navy in WWII after watching Cary Grant in “Destination Tokyo.” But that wasn’t the only inspiration he drew from Grant: