Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tony Curtis R.I.P.

I was never particularly a fan of his, but I do like several of his movies--or maybe I should say "movies in which he appears." His big roles--the roles he no doubt was proudest of--are not among my favorites. His  portrayal of The Boston Strangler is among those "one-off" performances that movie stars sometimes turn in--a role that uniquely manages to make them look like real actors. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Sterling Hayden in Dr. Strangelove. You know what I mean. And I may be the only person I know who doesn't think that Some Like It Hot is a really funny movie. (We all have our blind spots, I guess.)

But I would happily watch Spartacus any time--in spite of Dalton Trumbo's ham-handed and tendentious leftist-allegory screenplay. (Some stories are good enough to survive a bad telling.) And this weekend my 10-year-old sons and I will watch The Vikings--their favorite movie, and one of mine--in tribute to Mr. Curtis. Here's a great scene in which Curtis's character permits Ernest Borgnine's character an honorable Viking death (in a wolf pit). The scene is charged with dramatic irony because neither character knows that they are father and son.

And here is a very different sort of scene, from a movie I would know nothing about were my middle daughter not such a devoted Audrey Hepburn fan--Paris When It Sizzles. Hepburn plays a stenographer hired to help a screenwriter--William Holden--get a script done on time. She imagines each scene as Holden dictates it to her, adding her own suggestions as they go along. Tony Curtis agreed to make this cameo appearance in the movie because Holden--in real life--had had to check into the hospital following a drinking binge and George Axelrod, the producer, needed to keep the rest of the cast and the crew busy. Curtis does an expert job of skewering narcissistic "ac-TORS," himself included.

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