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Tony Curtis Dies at 85

Tony Curtis, the man who dressed up in drag opposite Jack Lemmon and Marylin Monroe in “Some Like it Hot,” died yesterday of cardiopulmonary arrest in Henderson, Nevada. He was 85.

“My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages,” actress Jamie Lee Curtis, his daughter, said in a statement. “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.”

More from the LA Times’ obit:

Starting out in 1949 as a contract player at Universal, Curtis broke out as a leading Hollywood actor in 1952 with “Son of Ali Baba.” It was, however, a mixed blessing because the film also made Curtis the lifelong butt of a joke about his New York accent when he said: “Yonder lies the castle of my faddah.” Rarely did his delivery of this line not come up during press interviews, but Curtis never saw the humor, saying it was “not just a put-down of New Yorkers but of Jews.”

The actor made the well-regarded “Houdini” in 1953 and from 1956 to 1959 starred in a string of critical and popular hits: “Trapeze,” “Mister Cory,” “Sweet Smell of Success,” “The Vikings,” “Kings Go Forth,” “The Defiant Ones,” “The Perfect Furlough,” “Some Like It Hot” and “Operation Petticoat.”

His characters varied, with swashbuckling heroes as well as a smarmy press agent, and showed, when the role called for it, a genuine comic talent. And his costars were the biggest names in Hollywood: Burt Lancaster, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Poitier, Lemmon, Natalie Wood and — in “The Vikings,” “Houdini” and other films — his first wife, Janet Leigh.

In 2000, AFI named Curtis’ “Some Like It Hot” the best comedy of the 20th century.

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