Tony Curtis died yesterday. I grew up watching his lightweight comedies ("Boeing, Boeing!" and "Operation Petticoat," for example), but they haven't aged well. Here's what I think are the 13 essential Tony Curtis films to see (he made about 100). Though he was a leading man, he was not the main star of most of these.
The Boston Strangler *** - Unquestionably his best acting performance. It was such an obvious attempt at getting an Oscar, however, that he got snubbed. The true story of the (then) most famous serial killer.
Brainwaves **1/2 - A rare foray into science fiction in which he plays a mad scientist. A woman ends up getting the memories of another who's been killed and these memories are used to track down the killer.
Chamber of Horrors ** - Tony only makes a cameo appearance, but I love this film. It was meant as a pilot for a TV series, but was too gimmicky and violent.
The Defiant Ones ***1/2 - Tony plays one of two escaped convicts shackled together. One's white, one's black and it's the 1950's, so you can guess the complications. Nifty film, anyway.
Insignificance ** - Several famous people of different backgrounds were actually in the same place at the same time in real life. This film contemplates a "what if they met" scenario. The scene of Marilyn Monroe explaining (correctly) the theory of relativity to Einstein is priceless.
The Last Tycoon *** - F. Scott Fitzgerald's last (unfinished) novel about Hollywood gets the Hollywood treatment. Would make a good second feature to "Sweet Smell of Success."
The Manitou 0* - One of those so terrible you have to see it movies. An Indian spirit grows out of a woman's neck. Really. That's the plot.
Sextette 1/2* - Another stinker. This was Mae West's attempt to make the same kind of movie at age 80 that she made at age 30. How did no one say this was a terrible idea?
Some Like It Hot **** - That rarest of comedies: one that's still fresh 50 years after it was made and still funny on repeated viewings.
Spartacus *** 1/2 - Who doesn't enjoy this movie? I'm Spartacus!
Sweet Smell of Success *** - A very dark look at the business of making movies. If you think the character of Ari in the TV show "Entourage" is the ultimate agent, it's only a shadow of Tony's character here.
Trapeze **1/2 - A minor film, but an interesting one. It's a love triangle under the big top (I'm tempted to make a Gina Lollobrigida joke here). All the actors do their own stunts.
Winchester '73 *** - A rousing western, a type of film one doesn't usually associate with Tony.
5 hours ago