Some facts (and observations) about Tony Curtis, who died Wednesday at the age of 85.*
-- Curtis began his movie-start life as a $75-a-week contract player at Universal International Studios.
-- He grew up in the Bronx; his real name was Bernie Schwartz.
-- At times in his life, things went a little too well, and he had a little too much fun. When I met Curtis in 1996 (at the Denver International Film Festival), he said he'd been clean and sober for more than 15 years.
-- Sure he made the Defiant Ones, The Sweet Smell of Success, Some Like It Hot and Spartacus, but he also appeared in a movie called The Continued Adventures of Reptile Man.
-- He had a sense of humor about himself.
-- Curtis told me he based the character of Josephine (the musician in drag in Some Like It Hot) on his mother and Grace Kelly. He originally wanted to be a blonde in the movie, but Marilyn Monroe insisted that no one be as blonde as she was.
-- He told me that it annoyed him that the aristocratic parts in costume dramas always went to Englishmen.
-- He spoke fluent Hungarian.
-- The Sidney Falco character he played in Sweet Smell of Success, a rabid New York press agent, came from a variety of street types he'd known in New York.
-- He told me that Cary Grant once told him that you could tell a great bottle of white wine because when it was properly chilled, it tasted like cool water. The remark helped him to master movie acting.
-- He pointed that, despite the myth, he never said "Yonda lies da castle of my foddah" in 1952's Son of Ali Baba. The real line: "Yonder is the valley of the sun and my father's castle."
-- His real father was a tailor and never had a castle, but it's nice to think that Tony Curtis ultimately found his valley of the sun. RIP, Tony.
*All this from back in the Pleistocene days when there was still a Rocky Mountain News, and I worked there.