Tony Curtis, a Hollywood leading man who memorably starred in films like The Defiant Ones, Spartacus, and Some Like It Hot,died on September 29, 2010 at his home in Las Vegas at age 85. Take a look back at the the roles – and romances – that made the handsome blue-eyed New Yorker a star.
Circa 1943, Curtis, then 18, and a friend are photographed in Honolulu during his service as a signalman 3rd class in the U.S. Navy. After his discharge he studied acting on the GI bill. His good looks and raw talent attracted the attention of a talent scout from Universal Studios, where he landed a contract.
Curtis (with saxophone) and Jack Lemmon hide from the mob by dressing as women in the 1959 comedy hit Some Like It Hot, costarring Marilyn Monroe. Although Curtis famously likened kissing the blonde bombshell to “kissing Hitler,” Curtis later claimed Monroe was one of his many Hollywood conquests.
Curtis poses with his first of six wives, Janet Leigh, and their two daughters, Kelly and Jamie Lee, in 1959. “For a while, we were Hollywood’s golden couple,” Curtis once said of his actress wife, who starred in Psycho.
Curtis and daughter Jamie Lee (here in 1984) had a troubled relationship, which Curtis blamed on his ex-wife.” She had heard that I was arrogant, uninterested, a rake, a womanizer, a drunk and a dope-taker,” he told PEOPLE in 1980. But Jamie Lee eventually came to terms with their relationship, saying at the time, “I understand him better now, perhaps not as a father but as a man.”
Curtis’s last wife, Jill Vandenberg, was by his side when the actor died of cardiac arrest. “The age gap doesn’t bother us,” he once said of his sixth wife, who was 42 years his junior. “We laugh a lot. My body is functioning and everything is good. She’s the sexiest woman I’ve ever known.”
Curtis and frequent costar and good friend Jerry Lewis laugh it up in 1994. “Hollywood… the most sensational merry-go-around ever built,” Curtis, who appeared in more than 100 films, once said of his career. See more images from Tony Curtis’s life at LIFE.com