Tony Curtis Biography

Tony Curtis, an iconic actor of the 1900s, is known for his path-breaking performances and overcoming a scarred childhood. With the help of a generous neighbor, he completed his education and embarked on a successful career in Hollywood. Tony’s breakthrough role in the film ‘Some Like it Hot’ not only allowed him to work with Marilyn Monroe but also earned him an Academy Award nomination. Throughout his career, he starred in numerous movies and television series, and was also recognized for his philanthropic activities. His autobiography, released before his death, provided valuable insights into the world of cinema and became a favorite among readers.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Bernard Schwartz
  • Died At Age: 85
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Andrea Savio, Christine Kaufmann, Janet Leigh, Jill Vandenberg Curtis, Leslie Allen, Lisa Deutsch
    • Father: Emanuel Schwartz
    • Mother: Helen Schwartz
    • Siblings: Julius Schwartz, Robert Schwartz
    • Children: Alexandra Curtis, Allegra Curtis, Ben Curtis, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kelly Curtis, Nicholas Curtis
  • Born Country: United States
  • Jewish Actors
  • Height: 5’9″ (175 cm), 5’9″ Males
  • Died on: September 29, 2010
  • Place of death: Henderson, Nevada, United States
  • Ancestry: Slovak American, Hungarian American
  • Notable Alumni: The New School, City College Of New York
  • Cause of Death: Cardiac Arrest
  • Ideology: Democrats
  • City: New York City
  • U.S. State: New Yorkers
  • More Facts
  • Education: City College Of New York, The New School

Childhood & Early Life

Tony Curtis was born on June 3rd, 1925, to Emanual Schwartz and Helen. He was the eldest of their three children. Originally named Bernard Schwartz, Tony’s father, who was of Hungarian descent, ran a tailor shop to make ends meet. Tony’s mother often punished him harshly, and due to financial constraints, his parents left him and his siblings at an orphanage for a month. They were eventually rescued by a neighbor who got Tony admitted to Seward Park High School. It was at this school that Tony had his first acting experience, participating in a play. Inspired by movies like “Crash Dive” and “Destination Tokyo,” Tony joined the Pacific Submarine Force division of the American Navy. After his time in the defense force, he continued his education at City College of New York and honed his acting skills at The New School under the mentorship of playwright Erwin Piscator. During his student days, Tony caught the attention of casting director Joyce Selznick, who believed he had potential for important film roles.


At the age of 23, Tony Curtis got his first opportunity to work with Universal Pictures. He received training in sports like riding and fencing during his early days with the studio. Tony made his debut in the 1949 film “Criss Cross” in a small role as a rumba dancer. That same year, he appeared in “City Across the River” under the name Anthony Curtis. However, it was his role as Sidney Felco in the 1957 film “Sweet Smell of Success” that helped him establish himself in the film industry. His next film, “The Defiant Ones” in 1958, was a huge success, and Tony’s portrayal of Sidney Polter earned him an Academy Award nomination. In 1959, he starred alongside Marilyn Monroe in the comedy “Some Like it Hot.” Tony is also well-known for his role in Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 film “Spartacus.” Throughout the 1960s, he appeared in several successful films, including “The Outsider,” “Taras Bulba,” “Sex and the Single Girl,” “The Great Race,” and “The Boston Strangler.” In 1971, Tony ventured into television with the series “The Persuaders,” co-starring Roger Moore.

Later Career and Major Works

During the 1970s, Tony Curtis starred in films such as “The Last Tycoon,” “Casanova & Co,” “Sextette,” “London Conspiracy,” and “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Although his popularity declined in the 1980s, he continued to work in films, including the documentary “The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pals” in 1985. His notable works in the 1980s also include “Where is Parsifal,” “Murder in Three Acts,” and the German film “The Passenger- Welcome to Germany.” His last acting role was in the 2008 documentary “The Jill & Tony Curtis Story.”

Awards and Achievements

Tony Curtis was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the 1958 film “The Defiant Ones.” He also received two Henrietta Awards in the World Film Favorite category. In 1969, he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actor. He won the Bambi Awards four times, with two of those awards for his roles in “Some Like it Hot” and “The Defiant Ones.” In 2006, he received the Sony Ericsson Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to film.

Personal Life & Legacy

Tony Curtis was married multiple times throughout his life. His first wife was actress Janet Leigh, with whom he had two daughters, Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly. After his divorce from Janet, he married Christine Kaufmann, Leslie Allen, Andrea Savio, Lisa Deustch, and Jill Vandenburg Curtis. In the early 1990s, Tony and his daughter Jamie Lee Curtis attempted to revamp the historic Great Synagogue monument. In 2004, he was honored by the University of Nevada, Texas, and in 2008, he released his autobiography titled “American Prince: A Memoir.” Tony Curtis was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) in 2010 and passed away later that year from a cardiac arrest at the age of 85.

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