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RIP Tony Curtis

Tony-Curtis-in-1957-006

It’s another one of those weeks and we’ve lost one of the last surviving greats of the tale end of Hollywood’s classic-era. Indeed, Tony Curtis was a kind of a bridge between the more traditionally manly film stars of the earlier classic era — Clark Gable, John Wayne, Bogart, Cagney — and the eternally young and slightly androgynous stars of today. I’d say it’s safe that say that there’s a bit of Tony in Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith, and Colin Farrell, among many others.

It’s the nature of the actor to imitate and the nature of the movie star to be imitated. He was doubtlessly imitated by countless young men over the years who borrowed his handsome-man moves for personal use, but he also admitted to borrowing a lot of his movies from Cary Grant back when he was a kid from the Bronx named Bernie Schwartz. With a little help from Billy Wilder, he brought the entire matter full circle and, for once, completely lost his accent in “Some Like It Hot” — for me the best farce ever filmed in no small part because of the then-outrageous pre-post modern conceit of allowing an actor to perform a major part of his role overtly imitating another actor, still very much alive and working at the time. As far as I know, this wasn’t even dared again until Christian Slater spent “Heathers” imitating Jack Nicholson. It was good, but it was no “Some Like It Hot.”

Since I had to wait until later in the day to write this, there’s already a lot of online about Curtis — most of it collated over at Mubi – and there’ll be much more. I trust there’ll be more clips here like the one below over the weekend, and maybe a couple more observations about him here as well over the coming days, as well as the wonderfully inevitable 24 hour tribute to Curtis at TCM.

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With “Public Enemies” entering its second weekend in theaters, and inspired by a brief but typically wonderful post on Myrna Loy by cinephile superstar Campaspe, a vintage trailer for the legendary last movie seen by John Dillinger just prior to his death seems fitting.

“Manhattan Melodrama” starred thirties A-listers Clark Gable and William Powell, in the first of his many films opposite Loy, but is not often seen these days in comparison to later films featuring any of the three. Nevertheless, it’s grand, ultra-corny Hollywood entertainment of the most egregious sort. (Glenn Erickson suggested the title should really be “Manhattan Fairy Tale,” and he’s not wrong.) MGM was always the studio of excess glamor and wholesome values, and they brought that even to a gangster picture. Abandon cynicism, maintain your irony, and check it out some time.

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