Sunday, October 03, 2010

A tribute to Tony Curtis, Shell oil and such

Forgive me for writing this Tony Curtis tribute somewhat belatedly, but to be honest, I struggled with it a little. 

Tony Curtis was a great talent. I greatly enjoyed his work in most every film I've seen of his. But I find myself coming up with caveats for them.

The Sweet Smell of Success? He was very good in that, but he was the straight man there. It's Burt Lancaster you remember.

Spartacus? Some of his Bronx-ish line readings were a little silly. And again, that's mainly Kirk Douglas' show.

The Great Race? Funny, but Natalie Wood was much cuter. 

Some Like It Hot? Unquestionably his best work. But even that has a caveat - his female voice was not his own - it was dubbed by voice-over actor Paul Frees, who was also the voice of The Haunted Mansion's ghost host, and, it should be noted, both John and George in the Beatles Saturday morning cartoons. 

And truthfully, I always felt much closer to Tony's former wife - quite literally so. 

And yet ... and yet ...

That IS Curtis doing the great faux Cary Grant in Some Like It Hot. (I imagine that must make watching Operation Petticoat, which came out the same year, 1959,  rather funny.) There is no question that, in his time, he was a star of the first rank. Perhaps I just haven't seen enough of that star. A little DVR-ing of TCM's Tony Curtis tribute Sunday will help take care of that. I'm especially anxious to see The Defiant Ones, which got him an Oscar nod. But even if I wouldn't rank him among my personal favorites, I can say he was still larger than life, even if he was a lower-tier star in the grand scheme of things.

So, forgive me, Tony. I'm not the best person to pay tribute to you. You are much better served by the writings of others more learned than I, particularly Leonard Maltin. But as a certain film of yours said ... nobody's perfect.

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