I'm off on a book tour of Canada later today. See here for details.
Thursday, 23 October 2008
Last night Harry and I accepted a couple of complimentary tickets to hear Tony Curtis talk about his new autobiography with Joan Bakewell at the Criterion Theatre.
Curtis, who once looked like this
Now looks like this
(and is bald as a boiled egg under the hat.)
Still, what a moving an memorable evening! Joan Bakwell was continuously prompting the quite deaf Curtis to talk about Marilyn, and eventually he did recounting the brief affair they had when both had just arrived in Hollywood after the war. He was 20, she was 18; both were unknowns who had not yet made a movie.
But Harry and I agreed that of far greater resonance were his recollections of his childhood in the Bronx, of extreme poverty and anti-semitism, of speaking Hungarian at home until he learned English at the age of five, of the tragic death of his brother in a street accident when he was nine just after they were released from a month in an orphanage because their parents were too poor to buy food.
What Curtis really wanted to talk about was the Navy, the great institution which he described as his mother and his father, which gave him equality and an escape from poverty and racism. And under the GI Bill sent him to acting school. You felt that he loved the Nany more than all his years in Hollywood.
Though rather deaf and unable now to walk, his wit was as fast as ever. A male member of the audience asked him: 'What was it like to be as handsome as Elvis and as charismatic as Steve McQueen?' Quick as a flash he answered, 'You'd love it.'
Curtis is only really famous for one film, Some Like It Hot, his career had nothing like the highs of Jack Lemmon's - but what a film that was. Like having a starring role in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.