Family Holds Public Farewell for Actor Tony Curtis

CelebritiesFamilyEntertainmentMoviesMovie IndustryJamie Lee CurtisJanet Leigh

HENDERSON, Nev. ( KTLA) -- A public funeral service was be held for legendary actor Tony Curtis in Las Vegas Monday.

The hourlong funeral was be followed by a burial, and then a private reception at the Luxor hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Curtis' wife, Jill Curtis, eulogized her husband of 16 years at the service.

Longtime friend Gene Kilroy, billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, actor Kirk Douglas and singer Phyllis McGuire are among seven honorary pallbearers, according to Kilroy.

Curtis' daughter, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, also attended.

The Oscar-nominated actor died Septemer 29 after suffering cardiac arrest at his Nevada home in the Las Vegas-area city of Henderson, Clark County.

He was 85.

His daughter, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, released the following statement:

"My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages. He leaves behind children and their families who loved him and respected him and a wife and in-laws who were devoted to him. He also leaves behind fans all over the world. He will be greatly missed."

The actress and her father had been estranged for several years before reconciling.

Curtis, one of the biggest box-office stars of the 1950s and one of Hollywood's busiest playboys during that time, died in bed, according to a family spokesperson.

Curtis had a memorable role in the classic gladiator movie "Spartacus" in 1960 and received an Academy Award nomination for 1958's "The Defiant Ones" but his career got off to a rough start.

His first starring role was in "The Prince Who Was a Thief" in 1951 and critics were appalled as Curtis, playing an Arabian prince, proclaimed in a thick New York accent, "Yonduh lies de castle of de caliph, my fadder!"

Two of his most enduring performances came in "Some Like It Hot" as he teamed with Jack Lemmon -- playing cross-dressers opposite Marilyn Monroe -- and "The Sweet Smell of Success," in which which he played a fawning press agent.

His Oscar nomination came for the 1959 film "The Defiant Ones," in which he played racist escaped con chained to Sidney Poitier. Other notable films included "Houdini," "Trapeze," "Operation Petticoat," "The Boston Strangler," "The Vikings" and "The Great Imposter."

Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx in 1925, the sonof Hungarian Jews who had emigrated to the United States afterWorld War I. His father, Manny Schwartz, had yearned to be anactor, but work was hard to find with his heavy accent. He settledfor tailoring jobs, moving the family repeatedly as he sought work.

After serving in the Pacific during World War II and beingwounded at Guam, he returned to New York and studied acting underthe G.I. Bill.

Curtis made more than 140 films, mixing comedies with dramas, but part of his life was plagued by poor movies and struggles with cocaine and alcohol.

He recovered in the early '80s after a 30-day treatment at the

Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Curtis was married six times, starting with actress Janet Leigh in a union he later admitted was partially motivated by publicity value. After divorcing Leigh, he married Christine Kaufman, who was 17 when they met while filming "Taras Bulba."

His sixth wife, Jill Vandenberg, was 45 years younger than Curtis.

He had six children, including actress Jamie Lee Curtis whose mother is Janet Leigh. Daughters Kelly, also withLeigh, and Allegra, with second wife Christine Kaufmann, alsobecame actresses. His other wives were Leslie Allen, Lisa Deutsch.

As his acting career waned, Curtis concentrated on painting and in 1989 he sold more than $1 million worth of his art in the first day of a Los Angeles exhibition.

"Painting is more meaningful to me than any performance I've ever given," he told an interviewer.

Curtis eventually moved to Las Vegas. In 1989, he released an exercise videotape for people past age 50.

He operated the Shiloh Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, a refuge for horses that were abandoned or abused, on the California-Nevada border with wife Jill.


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CelebritiesFamilyEntertainmentMoviesMovie IndustryJamie Lee CurtisJanet Leigh