Years ago, I begged the then-head of the Film Society of Lincoln Center to mount a retrospective series of the works of Tony Curtis. (Don’t laugh–though SHE almost did.) Yes, Curtis had been forced into a lot of old-time Hollywood crap, but when given half a chance, he shone in gems like Some Like It Hot, The Defiant Ones, and Sweet Smell of Success. He even managed to provide the one moment of real satiric wit in a stinker called Paris When It Sizzles, aping Marlon Brando’s biker mode with his customary brio.
Well, the tribute to the Bronx-born Jew never happened, but I’m not giving up my campaigning for the guy. I feel the Oscars should reward him with an honorary trophy while he’s still around–and he deserves even more accolades for his new memoir, American Psycho, I mean American Prince. It’s a lively, dishy read that, whether it’s all true or not, is worthy of such an entertaining movie star. Among the revelations:
*Curtis boned Natalie Wood–only once, and they never spoke about it again. He also wanted to do it with Debbie Reynolds, but she was too self protective and professional to cave in to the sparks between them.
*Billy Wilder actually wanted Mitzi Gaynor to star in Some Like It Hot. But then Marilyn Monroe became magically available! Wilder also wanted Frank Sinatra for the Jack Lemmon role until realizing Frank wouldn’t be comfortable in drag every day and as a result would cause serious problems. He had male issues.
*Curtis’s Goodbye, Charlie director, Vincente Minnelli, “was rumored to be gay. Big fucking deal. Who gave a shit? …Every once in a while someone would try to demean him by calling him a ‘faggot’ (not to his face), and I’d make a point of not letting that pass.”
*He felt wife Janet Leigh was cheating on him with Bob Fosse. (Of course HE cheated like crazy, but hey.) What’s worse, when drunk, Leigh went into fits of rage and was pissed that she could never be as major as Liz Taylor. Who could?
*And finally: Ballsy Curtis called Joan Collins a cunt! To her face!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 5, 2008