Last week, Hollywood lost one of its last Golden Age stars, Tony Curtis, at the age of 85. Like many non-WASP actors of his time, the Bronx-born actor changed his name, from Bernard Schwartz to the Anglo-sounding Tony Curtis. Curtis' career, which spanned an astounding six decades and 130 film and television credits, peaked long before most readers of this article were born, but the Oscar-nominated actor still managed to leave a brief, if no less compelling, series of performances, both in light, comic roles ( 'Operation Petticoat,' 'Some Like It Hot') and hard-hitting dramatic films ('Sweet Smell of Success,' 'The Boston Strangler').
Like other GIs returning home from World War II, Curtis took advantage of the government's generous GI program, and studied acting before heading off to Hollywood. His first role, a walk-on in 'Criss-Cross,' a crime-noir starring Burt Lancaster, proved propitious. Curtis and Lancaster would go on to co-star in 'Trapeze,' in 1956, and 'Sweet Smell of Success,' in 1957, before Curtis joined Kirk Douglas in the 1958 film 'The Vikings.' (Curtis and Douglas appeared together again in the epic Stanley Kubrick movie 'Spartacus,' two years later.)