© 2024. Randolph Hub. All Rights Reserved.


Mr. Movie: Looking back at Tony Curtis

He was so incredibly good-looking that he kept having to reinvent himself to get work. And work he got! 


Tony Curtis, still handsome when he died at 85, made more than 100 movies. He even appears (by film clip) in Blonde (2022), a biopic about Marilyn Monroe. 


Okay, probably 75 of the Curtis films are pretty bad. And yet, he made his mark in some rather good movies.


Perhaps his best-known role was when he was paired with Jack Lemmon as one of two guys in drag fleeing from the mob, and hiding out with an all-girl band featuring vocalist Marilyn Monroe. Some Like It Hot (1959) is ranked No. 1 on the American Film Institute list of comedies and it is certainly a classic.


Curtis’ first noteworthy appearance was as the legendary escape artist Houdini (1953). This film is a lot of fun. You can learn how some (but not all) of the escapes were done, and have a good time doing it.


Spartacus (1960) is a famous Hollywood epic, featuring some of the handsomest Roman slaves ever seen. When the Roman soldiers confront the rabble of slaves and demand to know which of them is Spartacus (no doubt to do him in), Curtis is the first one to famously shout “I am Spartacus,” soon followed by dozens of others. This saves Kirk Douglas, if not the movie.


Playing completely against type, Curtis gleefully accepted the lead role in The Boston Strangler (1968). This is the kind of challenge he loved — the really good-looking serial killer! And his looks got him in all those doors to murder all those too credible women. Why the strangler would want to (kill them) remains a mystery, but getting there is all the fun here.


Paired (actually handcuffed) with Sidney Poitier, Tony Curtis was nominated for an Oscar for his role as the white escaped convict in The Defiant Ones (1958). This film is a little tattered after 60+ years but the performances are still good and the underlying moral holds up pretty well. By the way, he lost the Oscar to David Niven for Separate Tables.


One of my favorite Tony Curtis parts is as the unscrupulous agent-hustler Sidney Falco in The Sweet Smell Of Success (1957)  Burt Lancaster, as the smarmy gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker, convinces Falco to do underhanded shenanigans in order to get a favorable mention in the newspaper. Both these actors are quite good and utterly drip sleaze.


All of the movies in this column are available on DVD. All are really for grown-ups.