CBS News correspondent Manuel Gallegus reports that Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz, to poor Jewish immigrants in the Bronx. His father was a tailor from Hungary, his mother from Czechoslovakia.
He joined the Navy when he was 17 years old. When he got out, the GI Bill paid for acting school, an agent saw him and Curtis was on his way to Hollywood.
He moved quickly from bit parts to leads roles swashbucklers like Ali Baba.
“I had all that – dark hair and blue eyes, a nice figure, jumping around, kissing girls, a lot of energy, hip-hop jumping around,” Curtis boasted in an interview once. “I mean, how could you not go for me? I even went for me!”
Ultimately, Curtis appeared in more than 100 films, playing roles as diverse as escape artist Harry Houdini, a noble slave in Sparticus, and a hustling Naval officer in Operation Petticoat.
In 1958, Curtis teamed up with Sidney Portier in The Defiant Ones, in which they played a pair of escaped convicts. They both received Best Actor Academy Award nominations.
But nothing was a bigger hit for Curtis than the classic comedy, Some Like it Hot, the following year.
Curtis and Jack Lemmon played two musicians running from the mafia. They joined up with an all girl orchestra featuring Marilyn Monroe.
He was married six times, first to actress Janet Leigh, mother of Jamie Lee Curtis, the only one of his six children to enter show business.
Curtis also loved to paint, and he credited his art with helping him through a period of addiction to alcohol and cocaine in the 1970s.
But as much as he loved standing in front of an easel, nothing gave Tony Curtis more pleasure than standing in front of an audience.
©MMX, CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.