Tony Curtis, Oscar Nominee and Former Hollywood Heartthrob, Dies at 85
Tony Curtis, the Oscar-nominated heartthrob and father of Jamie Lee Curtis best known for such hits as Sweet Smell of Success and Some Like It Hot, has died. He was 85.
Curtis died Wednesday night at his Las Vegas home of cardiac arrest, the Clark County coroner told The Associated Press.
In memoriam: See who else died in 2010
Curtis, who had heart bypass surgery in 1994, suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was hospitalized in July after he had trouble breathing. The actor almost died in 2006, when he contracted pneumonia and was in a coma for several days.
Born Bernard Schwartz, Curtis, who joined the Navy during World War II, signed a contract with Universal Pictures in 1948 at age 23 and made his film debut a year later in Criss Cross.
Handsome and athletic, Curtis admitted that he banked on his looks early in his career, but he became a respected actor with a trio of acclaimed hits: 1957's Sweet Smell of Success, in which he played a conniving press agent; 1958's The Defiant Ones, in which he was a bigoted convict opposite Sidney Poitier; and 1959's slapstick hit Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon. Curtis and Poiter both earned best actor Oscar nominations for The Defiant Ones, but they both lost to Separate Tables' David Niven.
Curtis continued to act well into the 2000s, extending his career to seven decades. Other credits include the historical epic Spartacus, Houdini and a voice role in Rosemary's Baby. His last film was the 2008 drama David & Fatima.
Watch clips of Tony Curtis
His personal life was filled with turmoil. Once arrested on a marijuana possession charge, he did a stint at the Betty Ford Clinic. He was married six times. His first and most famous union was with Janet Leigh, a marriage that produced actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis. The couple divorced in 1962 after 11 years. Curtis had four more children, including son Nicholas, who died in 1994 at age 23 of a heroin overdose. Curtis had difficult relationships with all of his kids and was notoriously estranged from Jamie Lee until about 30 years ago.
"I understand him better now," she told People in 1980, "perhaps not as a father but as a man."
Curtis is survived by his wife, equestrian Jill Vandenburg, whom he wed in 1998, and his five children.