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Mary Mallory Written by Mary Mallory
Feb. 7, 2010 | 10:53 PM

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Tony Curtis Appears at the Magic Castle

Not only is Tony Curtis an exciting and outstanding actor, he also provides generous support to charities he believes in.  To fundraise for his Las Vegas based Shiloh Horse Rescue foundation, Curtis appeared at the Magic Castle in Hollywood on Sunday, February 2 following a screening of the classic film comedy, “Some Like It Hot.”  Directed by the great Billy Wilder, “Some Like It Hot” focuses on the exploits of two male musicians (Curtis and Jack Lemmon) on the run from Chicago mobsters in 1928, who join an all girl band on their way to Florida, after noticing the delectable charms of lead singer Sugar (Marilyn Monroe).  Romance, humor, and suspense ensue. 

Following the screening, Curtis appeared on stage to loud applause from the audience.  He revealed that he suffered muscle weakness after a long bout with pneumonia several years ago, but appeared indomitable and strong.  Displaying his impish sense of humor, he doffed his cowboy hat to reveal he was also bald. 

Curtis brought his wife Jill on stage to explain the work of their foundation, Shiloh Horse Rescue, which she and Tony founded about 5 years ago.  The organization rescues abandoned, injured, abused, and slaughter bound horses, training them for adoption by loving families, or peaceful and contented retirement on a rural farm outside of Las Vegas. At any time, over 500 horses are stabled at the ranch.

Curtis expressed enormous gratitude for his 56 year long career, before regaling the crowd with several amusing stories.  He revealed how much Cary Grant had influenced his career.  Curtis stated that Grant “...filled me up with energy,” that imagining he was Grant gave him a sense of who he was, and how to act as a gentleman.

Like Grant in the film “Destination Tokyo,” Curtis served on a submarine during World War II, and attended college on the G. I. Bill following the War.  This gave him the chance to make something of himself.  At college he began studying acting, which lead to an appearance in the play “Golden Boy.”  Discovered by a talent agent in the play, he was signed to an acting contract and sent to Hollywood.

Curtis jokingly told the audience of meeting a well groomed man who invited him up for a talk at his seat in the front of the airplane, appearing interested in his background and future plans.  Curtis proudly spoke of his contract with Universal, before the man asked if he needed a lift to his hotel.  Once in the limousine, the men introduced themselves, with Curtis discovering he had been talking and joking with Warners Bros. head of production Jack Warner, who went on to become a lifelong friend.

A person in the audience asked about his early acting days.  Proud of his time at Universal, Curtis revealed he loved working for the studio in his early years because it gave him roles in a variety of pictures, which provided great experience and training for how to handle himself in all types of situations.

Another questioner asked him what he learned playing real people in movies.  Curtis stated that he enjoyed reading and learning about Harry Houdini, an Hungarian Jew like himself, who possessed enormous discipline and knowledge in becoming the world’s greatest magician during the early part of the twentieth century.  From Houdini, he learned the attitude, “You don’t act,  you be.”

Responding to a question about THE DEFIANT ONES, Curtis explained how he suggested Sidney Poitier as his costar, as well as how he demanded that they share star billing for the film, the first time a black actor’s name had appeared over a film’s title.

He claimed that he met Marilyn Monroe in 1950, very early in their careers, and how they carried on an affair for a while.  He believed she was a lovely, sweet woman who unfortunately found herself in situations she couldn’t handle with people who weren’t always looking out for her best interests.

Representatives of the Magic Castle presented him with a proclamation from the city of Los Angeles, as well as sterling silver cufflinks in the shape of Lifesavers (in honor of a funny anecdote from Curtis), and a letter from the rabbi of the largest Jewish temple in Europe, located in Budapest, Hungary.  The letter almost moved him to tears, as Curtis revealed he had founded the Emanuel Foundation (named after his father) to help Hungarian Holocaust victims in the United States as well as Europe, giving back as a way to honor his heritage and people.

After his talk, Curtis retired downstairs to sign his book, photos, posters, artwork, and other memorabilia to raise money for Shiloh Horse Rescue.

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