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EDITIONS
Monday, 14 October, 2002, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Curtis still going strong
Tony Curtis
Tony Curtis is on stage in Some Like it Hot

It is an undeniable fact that as you get older, you become more intimate with death.

That is certainly the experience of 77-year- old Hollywood legend Tony Curtis who says that over the years he has seen scores of his showbiz buddies pass to the other side.

"I have a telephone book at home, maybe 15 years old.


The saliva of a beautiful woman will keep you on your tiptoes for the rest of your life

Tony Curtis

"It's got everybody's name in it and nobody is alive today with the exception of one or two.

"We don't understand that when we are kids," explains the actor.

"These people were close to me and I was close to them.

"Cary Grant and I used to hang out. Jack (Lemmon) and I. Burt (Lancaster) and I. Marilyn (Monroe) and I.

"Gregory (Peck) and I were good friends, and you have to be when you are making a movie. There's no way you can avoid it, such a close proximity.

Some Like it Hot
Curtis said filming was a bittersweet experience
"Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, all worked out to be wonderful relationships. But why not, I'm a nice guy," he says in his deep baritone voice and with a mischievous sparkle in his eye.

Despite a dwindling telephone book, and cracking on in age himself, Tony Curtis is enjoying life too much to think about one of life's inevitabilities.

"All these guys are gone. All these women are gone.

"I don't know what I have done to deserve to live, but I'm happy living.

"It's the best revenge," he quips, looking every inch the movie star in his chic black suit and perfectly coiffed hair.

Tony Curtis
He still enjoys acting
But rather than resting on his laurels, the actor is treading the boards eight times a week with a musical production of Some Like It Hot.

Speaking during the tour's San Francisco engagement, he explains his motivation.

"I'm doing it because I don't have to do it. I'm doing it because I can be me.

"I get a chance to play me, Tony Curtis.

"Wealthy, handsome, clever, still falling in love with anything that falls in front of his eyes.

"It's very nostalgic for me to spend a couple of hours transported into another era of time.

Monroe problems

The Billy Wilder classic is among Curtis's finest moments on the silver screen.

Acting alongside Jack Lemmon, they played the role of two musicians on the run from some gangsters after witnessing the St Valentine's Day Massacre.


She was ill and everybody was picking on her and saying things about her

Curtis about Marilyn Monroe

Their only safe ticket out of town is to hook up with an all girl band starring Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Cane.

But in order to secure the gig Curtis and Lemmon dress in drag.

The movie was ranked the funniest American film ever made by no less an august organisation than the American Film Institute.

For Curtis it was a bittersweet experience.

Difficult

"Jack and I were good friends. Marilyn and I were lovers 10 years earlier.

"She was ill and everybody was picking on her and saying things about her.

"The studio created things to say about her because she was being so difficult, not difficult, but she couldn't work you know.

"So the only way they could get her to was to bum rap her in the papers and threaten to sue her.

"It wasn't an easy thing for her.

And when we finished it, I didn't think she would make another movie. I was out by two pictures."

'Smile'

Movies have been Curtis's life.

His career spans more than 50 years, with 106 films, and takes in other memorable productions like Trapeze, The Boston Strangler, Spartacus, The Great Race, Sweet Smell of Success and The Defiant Ones.

He is one of the best-known faces from the time and admits he is addicted to the adulation that the public heaps on him.

"It means so much to me to be recognised.

"To see people smile at me and embrace me, and it happens all over the world.

Fifth wife

"Some 50 odd years of movies have pregnated every city, everywhere through Africa, Asia, the Middle East. Everywhere.

"So that's kinda nice," he adds in an understated way.

As well as his movies, Curtis is just as famous for his love life and his propensity to walk down the aisle regularly.

His current wife, who is number five, is 32-year-old Jill Ann VandenBerg.

"In this play I have a song I sing which is called I Fall In Love Too Easily which is somewhat indicative of the character but also myself.

Young

"And that has had its affect on me and the kind of person I am."

He agrees that love has kept him young at heart.

He rather saucily adds: "The saliva of a beautiful woman will keep you on your tiptoes for the rest of your life."

If ever proof were needed that this is a guy whose name will not be crossed out of friends' telephone books for a while, this is it.

See also:

10 Oct 02 | Entertainment
09 Oct 00 | Entertainment
14 Jan 00 | Entertainment
30 Apr 02 | Entertainment
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