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Published On: Thu, Sep 30th, 2010

50’s heartthrob Tony Curtis dies at age 85 of cardiac arrest

Tony Curtis molded himself from a 1950s movie heartthrob to a respected actor, showing a determined streak that served him well with such films as “Sweet Smell of Success,” “The Defiant Ones” and “Some Like It Hot.”

The Oscar-nominated actor died about 9:25 p.m. PDT Wednesday at his Henderson, Nev., home of a cardiac arrest, Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy said Thursday.

Curtis began in acting with frivolous movies that exploited his handsome physique and appealing personality but then steadily moved to more substantial roles, starting in 1957 in the harrowing show business tale “Sweet Smell of Success.”

In 1958, “The Defiant Ones” brought him an Academy Award nomination as best actor for his portrayal of a white racist escaped convict handcuffed to a black escapee, Sidney Poitier. The following year, he donned women’s clothing and sparred with Marilyn Monroe in one of the most acclaimed film comedies ever, Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot.”

His first wife was actress Janet Leigh of “Psycho” fame; actress Jamie Lee Curtis is their daughter.

Curtis struggled against drug and alcohol abuse as starring roles became fewer, but then bounced back in film and television as a character actor.

His brash optimism returned, and he allowed his once-shiny black hair to turn silver.

Again he came back after even those opportunies began to wane, reinventing himself as a writer and painter whose canvasses sold for as much as $20,000.

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- Stories transferred over from The Desk of Brian where the original author was not determined and the content is still of interest of Dispatch readers.

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