I was very saddened to hear of the death of Tony Curtis - not because I had any special knowledge of the man (unlike two Vegas pals), my only exposure to the man was through his recent book American Prince: A Memoir.
However, he was one of my favorite actors - pretty much because many of my favorite movies featured him. In a strange way, you could say that I grew up with him.
Ok, that was a little too strange...let's try this again.
Imagine, if you are, a typical child bored on a Sunday afternoon in the 1970s, and you turn on Family Classics on Channel 9. Every year, without a doubt, I could easily catch either a Sherlock Holmes movie with Basil Rathbone...or Houdini, the 1950's era biopic in which Curtis made the classic magician seem charming, almost contemporary.
Granted, it was of its time, but when you're ten years old...it's the greatest movie ever made.
At least, until I was older, when influenced by the Robert Urich/Carl Weathers remake, I caught the original version of The Defiant Ones with Curtis and Sidney Poitier. In his own way, Curtis made a very unpleasant character seem almost likeable...but that seemed to be Curtis' skill. (In fact, I had attempted to watch a few episodes of Curtis in The Persuaders! - he's pretty much, in my opinion, the only thing worth watching in that series).
But flash forward to college, when - as part of a film study class - we looked at the classic Some Like It Hot. First, yes, it is as good as people say it is...but with Curtis managing not only a decent drag routine, but pulling off an almost flawless Cary Grant.
But finally, while living in St. Louis and unemployed, a trip to the library resulted in my checking out Sweet Smell of Success, which...well, another classic Curtis role.
All in all, Tony Curtis is one of my favorite actors...mostly because of the casual, almost offhanded manner of his acting. (At least, that's what it feels like). I've been fortunate to enjoy his work throughout my lifetime...and he will be missed.