- Career & Financial Facts
1. Tony Curtis was born Bernie
2. Money was extremely tight in the Schwartz home when Tony was a boy.
He remembered the terror he felt as a young boy the day his father lost
an entire week's salary ($22 in cash), and struggling to help him find
it in the 12 blocks around their home.
3. When he was 12
Tony Curtis worked several part time jobs.
-He was a paperboy.
-He delivered clothes for 50 cents a load.
-He delivered groceries.
-He delivered prescriptions for a pharmacy.
-He also shined shoes in front of the St. Regis Hotel in New York, the
same hotel he would later be chauffeured to while staying in NY.
Tony Curtis' dad once responded to an ad that said "Dancers Wanted".
He was excited at the possibility of getting into show business. He got
to the place and was told to take off his shoes and socks and roll up
his pant legs. Then he was taken to an adjacent room and told to step
into a large vat of grapes and dance. Turns out a company needed grape
crushers and figured more people would apply if they advertised for
5. Unable to financially support the family any longer, his parents put
him and Julius in a government sponsored orphanage for two weeks, during
the height of the Great Depression. It was common for other parents to
do the same thing during the Great Depression.
Tony recalled the first time he ever held paper money in his hands
was during his brother's funeral. Tony was 13 years old. People gave him
envelopes of money; his father promptly took the money from him.
7. Even though he didn't graduate from high school,
Tony joined the Navy
at the age of 16 (he lied about his age). Tony's big break for acting
came when he answered a casting call while in the Navy. A college music
department needed 8 sailors for a musical. He was one of them chosen out
of 100 sailors.
8. After leaving the Navy at age 20
Curtis made some money as a
model. He was even paid $100 once for being featured on a magazine
cover. Page 78
9. He paid for acting school with the G.I. Bill. The G.I. Bill
gave veterans a $60 a month stipend while attending school. Page 82
10. His first acting job paid him $40 a week. He was one of five actors
in a traveling play called This Too Shall Pass. His acting got the
attention of another production company who then offered him $65 a week
to act in their plays. He accepted the job offer.
11. On June 2, 1948, one day before his 23 birthday
Tony Curtis signed a
contract with Universal Studios that would initially pay him $75 a week
(minus $20 a week for union dues). The contract could be renewed at the
studio's discretion every 6 months for a total of 7 years.
12. Each time his Universal Studios contract was renewed
get a pay raise and could earn up to $1,200 a week at the end of 7
years. After signing the contract he immediately found a place to live
in Los Angeles for $30 a month.
This included one room with a bed and dresser, along with breakfast
13. Curtis got his first pay raise in 1949 because of a two minute
dancing part he had in Criss Cross. Hundreds of fans wrote to the studio
asking who he was. His pay was immediately raised from $75 a week to
$125 a week.
Video Curtis' next
raise came in 1950 after a great performance in Winchester 73. His
weekly salary was raised to $225. However, even with the pay increase
Curtis admitted he was broke.
14. In 1951 Universal Studios offered Tony Curtis $30,000 (a
fortune in 1951) to marry 18 year old actress Piper Laurie. The studio
believed movie-goers would love that dynamic / story. He declined the
15. In 1952 Curtis bought his first Rolls-Royce through a friend's
dealership. List price for the car was $21,000, but Curtis only had to
16. In 1955
Tony Curtis became a landlord when he bought, and
rented out, 12 garden apartments. Page 168.
17. In 1956 he was paid $150,000 to star in Trapeze. He also
earned $150,000 for his role in the 1978 movie Bad News Bears Go To
18. In 1958 movie producer and actor Kirk Douglas paid
Tony Curtis an
extra $200 to grow a real beard for the movie The Vikings.
19. In 1962 Curtis divorced Janet Leigh, and even with his previous
movie success he described himself as "completely broke" that year. This
forced him to make movies he really didn't want to be in just so he
would have enough income to meet his financial obligations.
20. In 1963 Curtis married 17 year old Christine Kaufmann. He
paid her mother the $10,000 she asked for in order to help her "overcome
her concerns" about the marriage. Page 242
21. From Wikipedia: "Throughout his life, Curtis enjoyed painting, and
since the early 1980s, painted as a second career. His work commands
more than $25,000 a canvas now."
Tony Curtis once had to pay a 50 pound fine in England when he was
arrested at customs for carrying marijuana and a pistol.
23. By 1975 Curtis was making more money from his real estate
investments in California than from acting. He had bought 250 acres of
land in Perris Valley, California, leased some of it to vegetable
farmers, and sold small chunks of it for nice profits as California real
estate prices climbed.
24. Tony Curtis did have a will and in it he specifically acknowledged
his children by saying he had "intentionally and with full knowledge
chosen not to provide for them."
More Facts and Sources
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Tony Curtis Career & Financial Facts 9
Tony Curtis Career & Financial Facts 10
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