American Prince: A Memoir
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“All my life I had one dream and that was to be in the movies.”
He was the Golden Boy of the Golden Age. A prince of the silver screen. Dashing and debonair, Tony Curtis arrived on the scene in a blaze of bright lights and celluloid. His good looks, smooth charm, and natural talent earned him fame, women, and adulation—Elvis copied his look and the Beatles put him on their Sgt. Pepper album cover. But the Hollywood life of his dreams brought both invincible highs and debilitating lows. Now, in his captivating, no-holds-barred autobiography, Tony Curtis shares the agony and ecstasy of a private life in the public eye.
No simple tell-all, American Prince chronicles Hollywood during its heyday. Curtis revisits his immense body of work—including the unforgettable classics Houdini, Spartacus, and Some Like It Hot—and regales readers with stories of his associations with Frank Sinatra, Laurence Olivier, director Billy Wilder, and film industry heavyweight Lew Wasserman, as well as paramours Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe, among others.
As forthright as he is enthralling, Tony Curtis offers intimate glimpses into his succession of failed marriages (and the one that has endured), his destructive drug addiction, and his passion as a painter. Written with humor and grace, American Prince is a testament to the power of living the life of one’s dreams.
From the Hardcover edition.
movies. I felt like it was the only thing I really knew how to do. In 1978 I acted in a film called Title Shot, about a mobster who tries to fix a fight. Les Rose directed it. It was a good payday, as was Little Miss Marker, one of two pictures I did shortly thereafter for Universal. Walter Matthau played a bookie, and I was cast as the heavy, Blackie. Julie Andrews played the girlfriend. I had fun doing it because Walter and I were together again. I loved that guy. My next movie, The Mirror
other guys, and we all got up at the same time, went for breakfast, did some physical exercise, and then went as a group into a room where we had to talk about ourselves, telling everyone why we felt we needed help. There was no shot in the ass, and the staff didn’t cure you. You cured yourself by examining the reasons why you wanted to take drugs and alcohol and by sharing those reasons with people just like yourself. You had to dig deep in your soul every day and bring whatever you found there
your own freakin’ friends.” We didn’t need a nine-year-old hanging around, ruining our fun. That night my father went to synagogue for Shabbat services, and by the time he came back, Julie still hadn’t come home. My mother asked me, “Where’s your brother?” I said, “I saw him a while ago, watching the parade.” She replied, “Why didn’t you stay with him?” I said, “I was playing with some of the guys.” I could see she was getting worried. It wasn’t like Julie to stay out without letting us know
trouble. He’ll open his mouth and yawn.” Carl said, “I don’t want to do it.” The guy who owned the bear said, “Carl, there’s nothing to worry about. He’s a very gentle animal.” And in front of the cast and the crew, he went up to the animal. He said, “This is what I want you to do.” He put his face up to the bear’s mouth, and the bear bit his cheek off. Needless to say, the bear scene was edited out. Tragically, Carl was shot to death not too long after we finished shooting The Defiant Ones. He
cast him in Sunset Boulevard. “No one else thought Bill could do it,” Billy had told me, “but in that movie he proved himself.” Billy had wanted a great performance of a guy going downhill, and he’d gotten it. Now Holden was going downhill in real life. Paris—When It Sizzles didn’t have much of a story, which turned out to be helpful when they had to write me in at the last minute. I did a good job, but having me in the movie didn’t turn it around. After my part in the picture was finished, I