Family plans public farewell for actor Tony Curtis
LAS VEGAS -- Celebrities, fans, friends and family members will say goodbye to Tony Curtis during public funeral services to celebrate the movie star's life.
Curtis' wife, Jill Curtis, planned to eulogize her husband of 16 years today in Las Vegas, longtime friend and pallbearer Gene Kilroy told The Associated Press.
The 85-year-old Oscar-nominated actor who starred in such films as "The Defiant Ones," 'Spartacus" and "Some Like It Hot" died Wednesday at his home in Henderson after suffering cardiac arrest.
Known for shifting from a pigeonholed pretty boy in the late 1940s and early 1950s to a serious actor, Curtis reshaped himself over decades of work and make himself impossible to typecast. The transformation was completed in 1957's "Sweet Smell of Success," in which he played a sleazy press agent who is manipulated by a ruthless newspaper columnist (Burt Lancaster).
In person, Kilroy said, Curtis loved giving friends and fans extra touches that made their face-to-face moments more memorable.
"He had a certain way of making everybody feel like they were Spartacus," Kilroy said.
An hourlong funeral is to be followed by burial and then a reception for 200 invited guests at the Luxor hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Kilroy, an executive at the casino, said billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, actor Kirk Douglas and singer Phyllis McGuire are among seven honorary pallbearers.
Jamie Lee Curtis, Curtis' daughter from his first marriage with "Psycho" actress Janet Leigh, is among family members expected to attend.
She was estranged from her father for a long period, but they eventually reconciled and Curtis took pride in her on-screen credits that include "Perfect," 'Halloween," 'True Lies" and new comedy "You Again."
She said in a statement that her father leaves behind a "legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages."
Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx in 1925. His father wanted to be an actor, but was hindered by his heavy accent.
Curtis found refuge in movies at age 12 after his younger brother was killed in a traffic accident. He served on a submarine during World War II, then enrolled in drama school on the G.I. Bill. An agent lined up an audition with Universal, and Curtis signed a seven-year contract starting at $100 a week at age 23.
The studio gave him a new name: Anthony Curtis, taken from his favorite novel, "Anthony Adverse," and the Anglicized name of a favorite uncle. He later shortened it to Tony Curtis.