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After serving in the Pacific during World War II and being wounded at Guam, he returned to New York and studied acting under the G.I. Bill. He appeared in summer stock theater and on the Borscht Circuit in the Catskills. Then an agent lined up an audition with a Universal-International talent scout. In 1948, at 23, he signed a seven-year contract with the studio, starting at $100 a week.

Bernie Schwartz sounded too Jewish for a movie actor, so the studio gave him a new name: Anthony Curtis, taken from his favorite novel, “Anthony Adverse,” and the Anglicized name of a favorite uncle. After his eighth film, he became Tony Curtis.

The studio helped smooth the rough edges off the ambitious young actor. The last to go was his street-tinged Bronx accent, which had become a Hollywood joke.

Curtis pursued another career as an artist, creating Matisse-like still lifes with astonishing speed. “I’m a recovering alcoholic,” he said in 1990 as he concluded a painting in 40 minutes in the garden of the Bel-Air Hotel. “Painting has given me such a great pleasure in life, helped me to recover.”

He also turned to writing, producing a 1977 novel, “Kid Cody and Julie Sparrow.” In 1993, he wrote “Tony Curtis: The Autobiography.”

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Associated Press Writers Bob Thomas in Los Angeles, Oskar Garcia in Henderson, Nev., and AP video producer Nicole Evatt in New York contributed to this report.