Friday, October 8, 2010

For the Weekend: More Curtis Tributes

This Sunday, TCM is having a 24-hour tribute marathon to the late Tony Curtis.  I already talked about "Some Like It Hot" this week (which is, unfortunately, not part of the marathon) so here are some more great Curtis films not to miss, just in case you can't watch the entire day.

First up, don't miss the lighthearted, fun "Operation Petticoat" (1959).  Released the same year as "Some Like It Hot," the comedy stars Curtis and Cary Grant as to naval submarine officers during the early days of World War II who get stuck transporting a few stranded nurses to safety while in a pink submarine.  It's a crazy but fun story.  It was also a dream come true for Curtis.  Growing up, he idolized Grant, especially in his favorite film "Destination Tokyo" (1943).  It even inspired him enough that when Curtis enlisted in the Navy for the war, he requested submarine service.  So when the opportunity came around to actually star with Grant in a submarine flick, he jumped at it.  And they make a great pair.  Catch them together at 11:45am EST.

Next is Curtis' first big breakthrough film into serious acting - "Sweet Smell of Success" (1957) with Burt Lancaster.  Based on a novelette by writer Ernest Lehman, "Success" tells the story of a powerful Broadway columnist (inspired by real-life powerhouse columnist Walter Winchell) who uses a struggling New York press agent to break up his sister's relationship with a jazz musician, by any means necessary.  Curtis had to fight for the role of Falco the press agent because up until then, he had only played nice, pretty-boy characters.  Universal, the studio he was under contract with, was scared "Success" would ruin his career.  But Curtis managed to get the part, and was a critical darling.  He did make production difficult though, unintentionally.  Because much of the film was shot during rush hour on the streets of New York, keeping the Tony Curtis fans behind the barriers was often difficult.  Seeing Curtis as this heartless character did make many fans cringe at the time, but it was still ranked one of the best films of the year by critics.  "Success" is on at 8pm EST (followed by his next big dramatic role in "The Defiant Ones" at 9:45pm - click here to read my previous post on that). 

Finally, it's back to lighthearted, crazy antics in "The Great Race" (1965).  Directed by Blake Edwards (who also directed "Operation Petticoat"), "Race" stars Curtis, Natalie Wood and Jack Lemmon.  Curtis plays The Great Leslie, a turn-of-the-century daredevil who suggests a race from New York to Paris (going west through the US, up through the Bering Strait, and through Russia) to promote a new car.  Based on a real race in 1908, Edwards wanted to turn it into the ultimate comedy.  A true slapstick farce, it has all the comedic elements of the silent era, especially Laurel and Hardy, and cartoons.  (It inspired the "Wacky Races" cartoon series by Hanna-Barbera).  It even includes the largest pie fight ever filmed.  During the fight, there is a running gag that The Great Leslie remains immaculately clean while everyone else is covered from head to foot in pie.  However, at one point, the cast couldn't resist Curtis' clean appearance and pelted him with pies all at once.  Curtis actually wasn't the first choice for Leslie.  Charlton Heston was originally offered the role, but when production on "The Agony and the Ecstasy" (1965) ran long, he had to back out.  Be sure to catch all the crazy fun at 1:30am EST (Monday morn). 

So, pay tribute to a great actor who we just lost and watch TCM this Sunday.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cringe...but it will be worth it.  And, Mr. Curtis, I hope you are peaceful wherever you are.  Until next week, everyone.  Have a wonderful weekend!

(Post-tidbit:  ABC adapted "Operation Petticoat" into a television series back in 1977, which ran for 2 seasons.  It didn't have any of the original film's cast members, of course, but it did have a relation - Curtis' daughter Jamie Lee, starring as one of the nurses.)

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