While you’re doing it, you don’t really know what you’re doing
Born Bernard Schwartz to a Hungarian-Jewish family in New York’s Bronx district, Some Like It Hot star Tony Curtis grew up in extreme hardship, but became Hollywood royalty.
Serving as a submariner in World War Two was his passage out of the Bronx. After he was discharged, he attended drama school – and had found his way to Hollywood by the age of 23, where Bernie became Tony.
By the early 1950s, he was an established star, marrying fellow actor Janet Leigh -their daughter Jamie Lee would eventually become a star in her own right. Famed for films including comedy Some Like It Hot with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, he also delivered one of cinema’s most famous lines – “I’m Spartacus!” – in the 1960 gladiator epic. The sixties also saw him co-star with Roger Moore on TV in action series The Persuaders.
Famed for his colourful and hedonistic personal life, Curtis married six times, once quipping: “I wouldn’t be caught dead marrying a woman old enough to be my wife.” His sixth wife, Jill Vandenburg, was 45 years his junior.
Curtis took great pleasure in art, with painting becoming a second career for the star. His canvas Red Table was acquired by New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
The actor also focused on his family’s roots to establish a philanthropic legacy. Together with daughter Jamie Lee, he helped finance the rebuilding of the Great Synagogue in Budapest and also founded a charity with a focus on the preservation of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Hungary.