Tony Curtis (born Bernard Schwartz; June 3, 1925 – September 29, 2010) was an American film actor whose career spanned six decades but who achieved the height of his popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. He acted in more than 100 films in roles covering a wide range of genres, from light comedy to serious drama. In his later years, Curtis made numerous television appearances.
Although his early film roles mainly took advantage of his good looks, by the latter half of the 1950s he had demonstrated range and depth in numerous dramatic and comedy roles. In his earliest parts he acted in a string of mediocre films, including swashbucklers, westerns, light comedies, sports films and a musical. However, by the time he starred in Houdini (1953) with his wife Janet Leigh, his first clear success, notes critic David Thomson, his acting had progressed immensely.He achieved his first serious recognition as a dramatic actor in Sweet Smell of Success (1957) with co-star Burt Lancaster. The following year he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in The Defiant Ones (1958) alongside Sidney Poitier (who was also nominated in the same category). Curtis then gave what could arguably be called his best performance: three interrelated roles in the comedy Some Like It Hot (1959). Thomson called it an outrageous film, and an American Film Institute survey voted it the funniest American film ever made. The film co-starred Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, and was directed by Billy Wilder. That was followed by Blake Edwards’s Operation Petticoat (1959) with Cary Grant. They were both frantic comedies, and displayed his impeccable comic timing. He often collaborated with Edwards on later films. In 1960, Curtis played a supporting role in Spartacus, which became another major hit for him.
His stardom and film career declined considerably after 1960. His most significant dramatic part came in 1968 when he starred in the true-life drama The Boston Strangler, which some consider his last major film role. The part reinforced his reputation as a serious actor with his chilling portrayal of serial killer Albert DeSalvo.
He later starred alongside Roger Moore in the ITC TV series The Persuaders!, with Curtis playing American millionaire Danny Wilde. The series ran twenty-four episodes.
Curtis is the father of actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis by his first wife, actress Janet Leigh.