Tony Curtis has a name and a face that people can place. One of the greatest of the postwar movie stars, the New York-born Curtis was as famous for his thick black hair –– Elvis readily admitted copying his style –– and New York accent as he was for his talent and natural screen charisma. Curtis has starred in dozens of enduring crowd pleasers, including George Marshall’s Houdini (1953), So This Is Paris (1955), Carol Reed’s Trapeze (1956), David Miller’s Captain Newman M.D. (1963) and a pair of comedies directed by Blake Edwards: Operation Petticoat (1959) and The Great Race (1965). At the height of his celebrity in 1965, Curtis even voiced a character on The Flintstones TV series, Stony Curtis, a thinly disguised caricature of himself.
Besides the popcorn movies, Curtis’ résumé also includes some of his generation’s defining films: Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Stanley Kramer’s The Defiant Ones (1958, for which he received a Best Actor Oscar nomination) and Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960). In June 2000, the American Film Institute ranked Billy Wilder’s 1959 Some Like it Hot, in which Curtis co-starred with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon, as No. 1 on its list of “100 funniest American movies of all time.” In October 2008, Curtis published his second autobiography, American Prince: A Memoir (Harmony House, $25.95), written with Peter Golenbock. His new book, The Making of Some Like It Hot: My Memories of Marilyn Monroe and the Classic American Movie, is due out this year.