My most recent memory of Tony Curtis comes from reading his second autobiography-- there's Tony Curtis: The Autobiography (
Both Curtis books do a bang up job of providing information on his poignant background as a Jewish kid born Bernie Schwartz in the Bronx in 1925 to Hungarian immigrants, and some interesting insights into his working relationships with Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant, Laurence Olivier, and Jack Lemmon. With regard to Janet Leigh, the first book was cordial...the second was weirdly frank and retroactively uncomplimentary towards his first wife, all the while touting affairs with various Hollywood leading ladies', from Yvonne de Carlo in his first movie role in Criss Cross, to Marilyn Monroe during the making of Billy Wilder's classic Some Like It Hot. Less openly obnoxious than the male posturing that went on in Songs My Mother Taught Me (to this day I don't forgive him for spending a two pages on a Hollywood romp with a prostitute, and LESS THAN ONE SENTENCE on the making of one of my favorite of his fifties' movies, Desirée), but still a mixed bag from a very complicated person. His promoting the book in this hat also didn't help his case for me.
However! Flipping through Google Books entries on his early and classic days of stardom made me forget his mean-spirited memoir meanderings and re-appreciate the DROP DEAD GORGEOUSNESS of his middle to late twenties'. I also think it's hilarious he did so many commercial-tie-ins in his early stardom days. Take a look!
This 1955 clipping from Life was in an article exploring the new craze for ruffled shirts (meaning Danny Zuko's pink ruffled number in Grease is not necessarily a 70's-only-phenomenon in an otherwise 50's movie!). The first, full page picture of the article shows a banker in a white ruffled, polka dotted shirt with matching string tie and velvet jacket...the ensemble really does look straight out of the a riverboat gambler's wardrobe circa 1855. Curtis fairs a little better in this shot, as he's handsome, and I love that this shirt is also pink. Dude wore a lot of pink in the early fifties'! He was a trailblazer.
I was surprised to find this 1954 clipping from Billboard talk about a possible jazz record Curtis had been in talks to record. He was "the singer of songs" in Spartacus, and also did one musical in 1955 (check out this great montage of the On the Town-esque servicemen movie...his stage presence/likeability is really suited for musical comedy, but his voice isn't really anything to write home about), but the record with the Page Cavanaugh trio never came to fruition. Too bad, right? It might have been something! It couldn't have possibly been worse than any singing recordings the esteemed Clint Eastwood has made in his career. And I still love him.
Here's the really kookala part of my diggings though... this is from 1953, when he was still trying to establish himself around the Universal lot:
It's like, "TONY CURTIS! JACKET MODEL!" The jacket isn't too bad, but the expression...well, you make your own conclusions.
These clips are from Jet magazine in 1955 and 1952, respectively. How cool is it to see Curtis hanging out with Joe Louis and Scatman Crothers (a fabulous old character actor, and Mr. Halloran from The Shining)?!
Here, a bit of cheesecake from a Camels ad in 1953. I love how it's like "People thought I smoked Camels, so then I started to! They are so cool!" Also LOOK. HOW BRIEF. THOSE SWIMMING TRUNKS ARE. Early publicity on future stars knows no decency.
I mercilessly cropped Rock Hudson and Robert Wagner out of this Life magazine item from 1954, but I only miss Rock Hudson (also, you can see the full photo here). What a cute idea to have them hanging off the ladder! Also, while I don't know how tall his circus strong man grandfather really was, there is no living WAY that Tony Curtis is taller than 5'9''. Just sayin.
See you guys tomorrow!