He recovered in the early ‘80s after a 30-day treatment at the Betty Ford Center.
“Mine was a textbook case,” he said in a 1985 interview. “My life had become unmanageable because of booze and dope. Work became a strain and a struggle. Because I didn’t want to face the challenge, I simply made myself unavailable.”
One role during that era of struggle did bring him an Emmy nomination: his portrayal of David O. Selznick in the TV movie “The Scarlett O’Hara War,” in 1980.
He remained vigorous following heart bypass surgery in 1994, although his health had declined in recent years.
“Definitely, I still watch his movies,” said Roxanne Shannon, a neighbor of Curtis in the suburban golf course development about 11 miles southeast of the Las Vegas Strip. “What a handsome man, oh my God, and a great actor.”
Jill Curtis, his sixth wife, said Curtis had been hospitalized several times in recent weeks for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung problems she blamed on smoking 30 years ago. She said he recently returned home, where died in his sleep.
“His heart survived things that Tony would always say would kill an ordinary man,” she said. “This time, his heart was ready to go and ready to be at peace.”
Curtis took a fatherly pride in daughter Jamie’s success. They were estranged for a long period, then reconciled. “I understand him better now,” she said, “perhaps not as a father but as a man.”
He also had five other children. Daughters Kelly, also with Leigh, and Allegra, with second wife Christine Kaufmann, also became actresses. His other wives were Leslie Allen, Andrea Savio, Lisa Deutsch and Jill VandenBerg, whom he married in 1998.
Jill Curtis, 40, operates Shiloh Horse Rescue, a nonprofit refuge for abused and neglected horses. She said she planned to make arrangements for a public memorial.
Tony Curtis married Janet Leigh in 1951, when they were both rising young stars. They divorced in 1963.
“Tony and I had a wonderful time together; it was an exciting, glamorous period in Hollywood,” Leigh, who died in 2004, once said. “A lot of great things happened, most of all, two beautiful children.”
Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx in 1925, the son of Hungarian Jews who had emigrated to the United States after World War I. His father, Manny Schwartz, had yearned to be an actor, but work was hard to find with his heavy accent. He settled for tailoring jobs, moving the family repeatedly as he sought work.
“I was always the new kid on the block, so I got beat up by the other kids,” Curtis recalled in 1959. “I had to figure a way to avoid getting my nose broken. So I became the crazy new kid on the block.”
His sidewalk histrionics helped avoid beatings and led to acting in plays at a settlement house. He also grew to love movies. “My whole culture as a boy was movies,” he said. “For 11 cents, you could sit in the front row of a theater for 10 hours, which I did constantly.”View Entire Story
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