Friday, October 1, 2010

Rant #345: Rest In Peace, Bernie

Now, back to Tony Curtis ...

Tony Curtis was an icon in the 1950s. For me, a kid born in 1957, when I look back at the decade where I made my debut, there are some iconic figures from that era that literally are the 1950s. Like other decades, they could not have existed in any other 10-year period.

The list includes Marlon Brando, James Dean, Victor Mature, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Rock Hudson ...

And one Bernard Schwartz, from the Bronx.

Young Bernie was taunted about being Jewish, and the legend has it that one of the only places that he could find refuge from these attacks was the local movie theater. Continuing the legend, when he saw screen icons like Cary Grant doing their thing, he decided that he wanted to do it too, and become a movie star himself.

And by the 1950s, this well-chiseled, incredibly good-looking hunk had made the big time.

He starred in a number of high-profile, often controversial films during the 1950s, including "The Defiant Ones," where he earned his only Oscar nomination, "Operation Petticoat," and in his most famous role, as the guy who had to cross-dress to become a member of the band to get close to Monroe in "Some Like It Hot."

He was married to one of the screen's great beauties (and great bodies) at the time, Janet Leigh, and he became a dad during this period, fathering Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis, the latter kid later becoming quite a big movie star herself.

In the early 1960s, he starred in a number of standouts, especially "Spartacus," but to me, his greatest starring role was as Stony Curtis on "The Flintstones," where he did a parody of himself. This performance still stands up all these years later.

As he got older, good roles came few and far between, although he did star in "The Boston Strangler" and gave maybe his best performance in that film.

But the 1950s icon fell to 1960s vices--wine, women, song, drinking, drugs--and he never returned to prominence on the big screen.

But he was a holdover from another time period, the last surviving member of that group I mentioned earlier.

R.I.P., Bernie, you've earned it.

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