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Tony Curtis dead at 85

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Hollywood legend Tony Curtis died yesterday at 85. His remarkable good looks often led producers to underestimate him in his early career; the Brooklyn native was often cast as a token hunk in sword-and-sandals epics, leading to numerous parodies ("Yonder lies the castle of my fadduh!" etc). Curtis lobbied hard for the role of a desperate press agent in Alexander Mackendrick's classic noir Sweet Smell of Success, and made the most of it when he got it, impressing critics with a performance that's still totally fucking awesome (seriously — go rent that movie right now).

Sweet Smell of Success was not a hit, but Curtis went on to star in Billy Wilder's cross-dressing classic Some Like it Hot, one of several Curtis films to play off the actor's almost feminine beauty. Curtis was notoriously heterosexual — his affair with Marilyn Monroe on the set of Some Like it Hot was only the most remarkable of probably hundreds of assignations — but (perhaps feeling that his sexual threat level was a matter of record) was often willing to subvert gender. In a 2002 interview with Metro Weekly, he discussed the making of Some Like it Hot:

MW: How did it feel to acknowledge your feminine side?

CURTIS: I'd always felt it but had never articulated it. What made it difficult for me, as a kid, was to see how people mistreated boys who acted like girls or girls who acted like boys. I always found it to be an aversion that they would pick on someone because of an attitude toward their sex.

MW: It sounds as though you were very progressive for the time.

CURTIS: I was. There were so many wonderful people I knew and I wasn't interested in their sexual orientation as much as I was their gentleness, their friendship, their loyalty. And those qualities come in all of us.

A classy guy, Tony Curtis, and a real talent. If you've never seen Sweet Smell of Success or Some Like it Hot, today's a good day to correct that.