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Tony Curtis Movies

Wednesday, August 27, highlights on Turner Classic Movies:

TCM will be showing several goodies on Tony Curtis Day, including Richard Fleischer's rousing adventure epic The Vikings (1958), in which Curtis plays opposite his then-wife Janet Leigh; the highly enjoyable Blake Edwards comedy Operation Petticoat (1959), with Curtis, his idol Cary Grant, and a bunch of (female) army nurses huddled aboard a pink submarine; and Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959), considered by some the greatest comedy ever made.

Well, in my view there are many funnier comedies out there; nevertheless, Some Like It Hot is a hoot, what with Curtis and Jack Lemmon playing jazzed-out babes (right), Curtis (when not in drag) impersonating (his idol) Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe doing her usual kind-hearted but ditzy blonde bit, and Joe E. Brown demonstrating that if you truly love someone you don't mind his little imperfections.

Some also consider Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success (1957) one of the best films of the 1950s. Personally, I find this tale of ambition, powerlust, and the American Nightmare both great and mediocre: many of Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets' situations (from one of Lehman's novellas) and dialogue are excellent, James Wong Howe's cinematography is marvelously moody, and Burt Lancaster, as a Walter Winchell-like gossip writer, has a few good moments. Unfortunately, Mackendrick's melodramatic touch detracts from what should have been a no-holds-barred, hard-hitting drama.

Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier in The Defiant OnesThe same problem – in-your-face melodrama – exacerbated by well-meaning but poor acting, well-meaning but poor direction, and well-meaning but poor writing totally destroy the well-meaning but poor The Defiant Ones (1958), the tale of two escaped convicts – one black, one white – who, oops!, are chained to one another and must thus learn to get along together as one so they can evade their pursuers. While watching this, I kept hearing in my mind, “Eboneee and Ivoreeee live together in perfect harmoneee” and, worse yet, “We are the World, We are the People, We are the Ones…”

Many Academy members clearly didn't hear any syrupy songs in their heads while watching The Defiant Ones, for the social melodrama earned nine Oscar nominations, including best picture, best direction (Stanley Kramer), best actor (Curtis, Sidney Poitier), best supporting actress (Cara Williams), and best supporting actor (Theodore Bikel). Additionally, The Defiant Ones won that year's Oscar for best original screenplay (Harold Jacob Smith and Nedrick Young, who was blacklisted at the time; Young used the pseudonym Nathan E. Douglas) and best black-and-white cinematography (Sam Leavitt).

I haven't seen George Sidney's Who's That Lady? (1960), about cheating husbands and alleged spies, but it's supposed to be an enjoyable light comedy.

Schedule (Pacific Time) and synopses from the TCM website:

27 Wednesday

3:00 AM Private Screenings: Tony Curtis (1999)
TCM host Robert Osborne interviews Tony Curtis on his life and career. Curtis appears in interviews and film clips. Black and white. 54 min.

4:00 AM Beachhead (1954)
U.S. soldiers invade a Pacific Island during World War II to catch an informer. Cast: Tony Curtis, Frank Lovejoy, Mary Murphy. Dir.: Stuart Heisler. Color. 90 min.

5:45 AM Vikings, The (1958)
Viking half-brothers fight over a throne and a beautiful captive. Cast: Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh. Dir.: Richard Fleischer. Color. 116 mins. Letterbox Format

7:45 AM Who Was That Lady? (1960)
A cheating husband convinces his wife his flirtations are actually spy missions. Cast: Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Dean Martin. Dir.: George Sidney. Black and white. 114 mins. Letterbox Format

Operation Petticoat by Blake Edwards9:45 AM Operation Petticoat (1959)
During World War II, the crew of a decrepit submarine takes on a team of Navy nurses. Cast: Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Dina Merrill. Dir.: Blake Edwards. Color. 121 mins. Letterbox Format

12:00 PM Rat Race, The (1960)
A musician newly arrived in New York takes in a taxi dancer. Cast: Debbie Reynolds, Tony Curtis, Don Rickles. Dir.: Robert Mulligan. Color. 105 min.

2:00 PM Boeing Boeing (1965)
A playboy uses airline schedules to maintain “exclusive” relationships with three flight attendants at the same time. Cast: Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, Thelma Ritter. Dir.: John Rich. Color. 103 mins. Letterbox Format

4:00 PM Private Screenings: Tony Curtis (1999)
TCM host Robert Osborne interviews Tony Curtis on his life and career. Curtis appears in interviews and film clips. Black and white. 54 min.

5:00 PM Some Like It Hot (1959)
Two musicians on the run from gangsters masquerade as members of an all-girl band. Cast: Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis. Dir.: Billy Wilder. Black and white. 121 mins. Letterbox Format

7:15 PM Sweet Smell Of Success (1957)
A crooked press agent stoops to new depths to help an egotistical columnist break up his sister's romance. Cast: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Martin Milner. Dir.: Alexander Mackendrick. Black and white. 96 mins. Letterbox Format

9:00 PM The Defiant Ones (1958)
Two convicts, a white racist and an angry black, escape while chained to each other. Cast: Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier, Theodore Bikel. Dir.: Stanley Kramer. Black and white. 96 mins. Letterbox Format

11:00 PM Trapeze (1956)
An aging trapeze star and his protégé fall for the same woman. Cast: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Gina Lollobrigida. Dir.: Carol Reed. Color. 106 mins. Letterbox Format

1:00 AM Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
A Hollywood producer hires a beautiful secretary to keep his drunken screenwriter on track. Cast: Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Noel Coward. Dir.: Richard Quine. Color. 110 mins. Letterbox Format


         
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2 Comments to Tony Curtis Movies

  1. Tammy Tru

    Oh, Tony Curtis is fun in “Some Like It Hot.”

  2. Tony Curtis: Lips don't lie, by Kirby Sommers

    Hey, more than anything else, I'm an Upper West Sider. In New York City, this is staking a claim in an area known to be less uptight about anything. So while shopping at the local Barnes & Noble this past Sunday, I discover to my delight that Tony Curtis…yes he's still alive…is going to premier his new book at the giant bookstore Tuesday night.

    Now, you have to know the reading room at Barnes & Noble at their 66th Street location is small. So, I figure, okay I'll go. I'll sit. I'll listen. And, maybe I'll even meet the legendary actor. After all Elvis Presley dyed his hair jet-black because he wanted to look more like Tony Curtis. Anyone deserving of the King's obsession is okay with me.

    “American Prince: A Memoir” has been in the works for two years and is a collaboration with best-selling author Peter Golenbock - one of the better-known sports writers. It is debuting on October 14, which I did not know when I trekked over to B&G.

    As I walk toward the bookstore, I see a limousine and a crowd of overly dressed folks piling out of the car and forming a small crowd in front of the revolving doors. Among them is a man sporting a white cowboy hat. I decide to ignore them and as only New Yorkers do, everyone elbows their way into the store at the same time. It occurs to me this group may just be Curtis's entourage and as I step onto the escalator I look back to take a closer look. It is.

    I realize the old guy being scurried into the elevator who seems to be hiding under an enormous white cowboy hat is Tony Curtis. Everything looks different. His eyes, his face, his body, and hell, even his size. Okay he's put on a little weight, but he's also taller than I would have guessed. The only thing I truly recognize are his lips. Those lips are his, they don't lie.

    As I step off the escalator a stern looking woman who looks like a librarian in a bad mood is standing there with arms crossed, pursed lips, and one foot tapping the floor. It is clear to me he's late. Her eyes look past me as she skims the crowd. I want to tell her he's in the elevator, but decide to let someone who is part of his group give her this bit of good news.

    I approach the computer department, which is just outside the reading room, and to my dismay see the entrance has been roped off. At least 5 employees and one burly New York Police Officer named Melendez armed with a really large gun are standing guard.

    “Hi, I'm here for the book reading.” I am poised, well dressed and anticipate a warm greeting with someone flinging open the red velvet rope allowing me access to my evening.

    “Sorry, we're not letting anyone else in. You'll have to go stand on line.” A small man wrapped in an ill-fitting burgundy uniform tells me as he points to an invisible line.

    “I'll stand, really I just want to go in.” I can see the room, plenty of people are seated and having made the trip standing suddenly doesn't seem like a bad idea.

    “No, you'll have to stand on line,” he repeats and once again points to a place where I see no line. The others around him begin to glare at me.

    With everyone giving me the evil eye, I decide to go find the line the invisible line. So, I trudge off and make my way down the main aisle determined to find it. The tall white cowboy hat is coming towards me and before I know what's happening Tony Curtis grabs my hands (both of them), says hello, and smiles. If only this were 30, 40 years ago when he was beautiful and young and stunning I would have let my hands stay snugly in his. But my reflexes got the better of me and I pull away from the grasp of the old man with the Tony Curtis lips.

    My bad. I am now left to my own devices and although I have managed to meet Mr. Curtis I am mortified to see the line does exist. It is behind a wall and wraps around several book aisles. I regret not following him into the room, but vow not to let the B&N gatekeepers from stealing my evening. I go back to the front of the velvet rope and once again ask to be let in.

    This time I am bold. I tell them to ask Mr. Curtis to let me in. One of them sneers at me and says no. I meet a few people who, like me, had no idea this was going to be a big event. As it turned out some people got there at 4pm and of those a few got lucky and were in the room.

    People begin to complain. “Barnes and Noble should have done a better job, I can't hear a thing,” a woman named Carol moaned as she tried to focus at the small TV sized screen aimed at the ceiling leaving us to conclude that the only reason Tony Curtis wore a tall white hat was so he could be seen at the bottom of the screen.

    Other than having actually met the man, the evening was horrible. The staff at B&G was rude — I mean obnoxiously rude. At one point Melendez hand poised over that really big gun came over to me (I found an unobtrusive place where I could at least see the goings on in the room, not really hear them) and threatened to “escort me out.” (!!)

    “Are you threatening me Menendez, is that what you are doing? I come to a book reading and you are telling me that you are going to escort me out?” He must have realized I wasn't the type to go silently anywhere so he backed off. But, really, everyone was nasty. Everyone was offensive; no one at the B&G staff was even remotely polite.

    The coolest cat there was the man with the Tony Curtis lips. And I for one am happy to have made his acquaintance.

    2008 Copyright