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Oscar-nominated actor Tony Curtis dies at 85

September 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Oscar-nominated actor Tony Curtis died peacefully at his home in Nevada with his wife by his side late Wednesday night, according to a family spokesman. He was 85.Curtis died at about 9:25 PDT of a cardiac arrest, according to a Clark County coroner.

Curtis began his acting career as a 1950s heartthrob, and his characters were always trying to charm the ladies. In "Sex and the Single Girl," it was typical Curtis - suave, but with humor. He co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in one of the most acclaimed comedies ever made, "Some Like It Hot."

Karen Davis, a fan, said one of her favorite movies is "Some Like It Hot."

"I thought he was wonderful in that with Monroe. You couldn't beat it. It was one of his best performances," said Davis.

But he became a respected actor with serious films like "The Sweet Smell of Success," which was just the beginning of a string of acclaimed hits, including "The Defiant Ones," which earned him his only Oscar nomination.

"I think it has nothing to do with good performances or bad performances," he told The Washington Post in 2002. "After the number of movies I made where I thought there should be some acknowledgment, there was nothing from the Academy."

"My happiness and privilege is that my audience around the world is supportive of me, so I don't need the Academy."

In 1968, Curtis went against type to play the notorious "Boston Strangler."

But his onscreen performances were often eclipsed by his pesonal life - his battles with drugs and alcohol, and his six marriages. His first wife was actress Janet Leigh, with whom he starred in "Houdini." They had two children, including actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

"My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages," Jamie Lee Curtis said in a statement Thursday. "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 was an absolute delight. Everything he did, he did well," said fan Deanna Rauen.

"He could do anything. He seemed like a real person. He was just a very entertaining guy," said another fan Larry Wilhelm.

Curtis' last marriage was to a woman 45 years his junior.

He turned to television during the second half of his career, starring in several TV series like "The Persuaders!"

Curtis made dozens of guest TV appearances, and later on in life, he focused on his artwork. His paintings fetched upwards of $20,000.

"I'm not ready to settle down like an elderly Jewish gentleman, sitting on a bench and leaning on a cane," he said at 60. "I've got a helluva lot of living to do."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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