Tony Curtis seems to be forever associated with debonair cool - a suave womaniser both on and off screen, famous for wooing Marilyn Monroe in 'Some Like it Hot' regardless of whether the cameras were rolling. The AFI voted Billy Wilder's classic the funniest film of all time and he shared the glory with Jack Lemmon and Monroe. But as a serious actor, he never really gained the recognition that he deserved.
There was a decade that strived to prove otherwise. In 'The Defiant Ones', 'The Sweet Smell of Success' and 'Spartacus' he held his own against screen titans Sidney Poitier, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas with ferocity and an assured depiction of a character far removed from his own highly publicised carefree attitude.
It was ten years on from his first flirtation with dramatic acting alongside Lancaster in 'The Sweet Smell of Success' that his about face became apparent. 1968's 'The Boston Strangler' should've shattered his smooth image for good and to an array of latter day dramatic parts but it didn't. It stands alone as not only his last great performance, but also arguably his best.
He played real life serial killer Albert de Salvo, bulking up and having his nose altered before he even stepped foot in front of the camera. Like Orson Welles in 'The Third Man' it isn't until an hour into the film until he appears. He was worth the wait.
This is a film that uses the real names of the victims and depicts the murders as they apparently happened, but director Richard Fleischer turns the realism in on itself with the use of split screen and, arguably, the casting of Curtis as the brutal killer of 13 women. Tony Curtis; the same actor who appeared as Stony Curtis a few years prior on 'The Flintsones'.
'The Boston Strangler' plays with us, taunts us and defies conventions. It's a deliberately uneasy film centred around (but not focussed on) a notoriously easy-going star appearing off-kilter, and it's testament to Curtis' skill that he can breathlessly appear out of nowhere and within a second make the audience sense the fear building around him. It's one of cinema's most overlooked performances by one of it's most overlooked talents.
Tony Curtis was born in the Bronx in 1925. His first (of six) wife was 'Psycho' actress Janet Leigh. They had two children together, one of whom went on to be a star in her own right - Jamie Lee Curtis. Tony Curtis was a prolific painter in his spare time. He leaves behind six children. He died in 2010 following a heart attack.
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