Tony Curtis, Hollywood legend, dies aged 85

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The Independent Culture

Hollywood legend Tony Curtis, whose career spanned more than 60 years, has died at the age of 85.

The star - who will forever be remembered for his role in drag in the 1959 Billy Wilder comedy Some Like It Hot - suffered a heart attack and died last night.

His daughter, the actress Jamie Lee Curtis paid tribute to her father saying he left "a legacy of great performances".

"He leaves behind children and their families who loved him and respected him and a wife and in-laws who were devoted to him," she said.

"He also leaves behind fans all over the world. He will be greatly missed."

Sir Roger Moore, who starred alongside Curtis in TV hit The Persuaders, paid tribute to him, telling Sky News: "He was a fine actor."

Sir Roger played aristocrat Brett Sinclair in the series while Curtis was playboy Danny Wilde.

The former James Bond star said: "We had a lot of laughs together for about 15 months, working together every day.

"He was great fun to work with, a great sense of humour and wonderful ad libs. We had the best of times. I shall miss him."

Sir Michael Parkinson, who interviewed the star several times, said his performance in Some Like It Hot alongside Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe would live forever.

He said: "He was a very, very fine actor. Some Like It Hot is one of the greatest comedies of all time.

"The man who made it, Billy Wilder, did not suffer fools so for Tony Curtis to work with him and make that film shows just how good he was.

"He was an extraordinary man. Hollywood tried to make him into a sex symbol in the 1950s and 1960s but he was his own man.

"He was a great chatshow guest and was wonderfully indiscreet but he was very bright and did not take himself too seriously."

The actor's business manager and family spokesman Preston Ahearn told US TV network ABC News that Curtis passed away peacefully in bed next to his wife Jill in their home in Nevada.

Clark County coroner Mike Murphy said the actor suffered a heart attack.

Curtis, who had heart surgery in 1994, began his acting career as a 1950s heartthrob but became a respected actor in films such as The Defiant Ones.

His portrayal of a racist escaped convict handcuffed to a black escapee, Sidney Poitier, in the film brought him an Oscar nomination in 1958.

His journey to Hollywood stardom began in the Bronx, a tough neighbourhood of New York, where he was born Bernard Schwartz.

His parents were Hungarian Jews who emigrated to the United States after the First World War.

Curtis joined the Navy and served in the Pacific during the Second World War, where he was wounded in action, before returning to New York to study acting.

He got his break in 1948 when he signed up with a Hollywood studio and they soon started to smooth over his rough edges.

First to go was his name and he became first Anthony Curtis, then plain Tony, but getting rid of his New York accent proved a tougher job.

But it did not stop his career going from strength to strength.

In 1960, he appeared in Stanley Kubrick's epic Spartacus and eight years later he won plaudits after he was cast against type in the Boston Strangler as a deranged killer.

Curtis was married six times.

His first wife was Psycho star Janet Leigh. They married in 1951 when they were both up-and-coming Hollywood actors and had two daughters including Jamie Lee Curtis before divorcing in 1963.

He had another two daughters with his second wife, Christine Kaufmann, and two sons with his third wife, Leslie Allen.

In 1983 he married Andria Savio. He married Lisa Deutsch in 1993 but divorced her a year later and then married Jill Vandenberg in 1998.