October 30, 2021

Tony Curtis Gave His Parents the Illusion That He Was ‘Ok’ after His Mother Broke His Childhood

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"Some Like It Hot" star Tony Curtis had an incredibly successful career, but his life was filled with tragedies. His mother was the first person who broke him, and he never let the pain go.

With his good looks, charming personality, and impressive acting skills, Tony Curtis took the entertainment industry by storm and became one of the most sought-after actors of the 1950s and 1960s.

But behind the success, wealth, and seemingly perfect life, he was in pain. He blamed his abusive mother for it, but he could never get rid of it.  

Tony Curtis circa 1955 [left]. Curtis at the Times Cheltenham Literature Festival on October 11, 2008 in Cheltenham, England [right]. | Photo: Getty Images



Born in June 1925, in the Bronx, New York, Curtis grew up with his Hungarian Jewish immigrant parents Helen and Emanuel Schwartz. At that time, money was scarce

The family lived in a two-bedroom apartment behind a tailor shop Emanuel owned. Curtis shared one of the small bedrooms with his brothers Julius and Robert.

It is important to point out that the lack of money was not the main reason Curtis's childhood was challenging. That would be Helen, who had schizophrenia and would frequently beat her sons.

Tony Curtis at the Dorchester Hotel, in London, England, circa 1957 | Photo: Getty Images


The actor once admitted that his family only learned about Helen's mental illness later in life. She would physically harm them for something as insignificant as not finishing their meals.

Curtis realized that his unhealthy relationship with his mother harmed the rest of his life. It became part of him and, even as an adult, it would turn into sadness. He said:

"You want everybody to love you to begin when you're a kid. And if your mother doesn't love you, or doesn't act like she loves you, where are you going to go?"

Tony Curtis on April 1, 1967 | Photo: Getty Images



After admitting that his experience with Helen and the lack of love shattered him as a boy and made him compulsive, Curtis revealed he would deliberately skip school. Still, he gave his parents the "illusion" that he was fine even though he wasn't.

Afraid that his violent mother would hit him for no reason, Curtis tried to stay out of her way by spending time on the streets. When he was around five or six years old, he started going to the movies.

Although Curtis didn't get more time with his brother, he changed.

Tony Curtis in London, England, circa 1970 | Photo: Getty Images


The more movies he watched, the more he wanted to be an actor. Even at that young age, he would get on building roofs and perform the scenes he had in his mind.

Things got even more complicated in 1933 during the Great Depression as Helen and Emanuel didn't have enough money to care for their children. As a result, Curtis and Julius were sent to a state institution

Both kids faced bullying, especially from anti-Semitic teens who would start fights because they were Jewish. Unfortunately, life had two more tragedies prepared for Curtis.

Tony Curtis on August 27, 2002, in Vienna, Virginia | Photo: Getty Images



In 1938, when Curtis was 12 years old, Julius was hit by a truck. The actor blamed himself for the accident because Julius's original plan was to play with his brother, but Curtis told him to be with his friends. 

Once Curtis was in the hospital, he apologized to his unconscious brother. Curtis told him how he felt and that he loved him hoped he could forgive him. Julius died shortly after.

His passing understandably devastated Curtis. He once prayed and promised to be a good boy for the rest of his life and never do anything wrong again if he could have 30 seconds with Julius.


Tony Curtis on November 11, 2009 in New York City | Photo: Getty Images

Although Curtis didn't get more time with his brother, he changed. He started attending Seward Park High School and enlisted in the U. S. Navy after graduation. Once he was honorably discharged, he began taking acting lessons at the New School for Social Research. 


In the late 1940s, the actor landed a contract with Universal Pictures. His career skyrocketed in the 1950s and 1960s with appearances in "Houdini," "Some Like It Hot," "Operation Petticoat," and "Spartacus."

Unfortunately, Curtis faced his last tragedy later in life.



As a handsome, successful, and wealthy movie star, Curtis didn't struggle much to find women to be with (he once claimed he slept with 1,000 women). However, he had a hard time keeping a serious relationship.

According to the Independent, Curtis was probably subconsciously looking for someone who would provide the love and security Helen never did. The hypothesis explains why he married six times.

His first wife was "Psycho" actress Janet Leigh. They were together between 1951 and 1962 and had two daughters, Actresses Kelly, and Jamie Lee. Kelly pointed out that, while her dad loved his parents, he never felt taken care of by them. 


Tony Curtis on April 15, 2010 in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images

Curtis married his second wife, Christine Kaufmann, in 1963. They parted ways five years later but had two girls, Alexandra and Allegra. Allegra once admitted her dad was one of the funniest people ever and would try to make her laugh even on the phone.


In 1968, the same year he and Kaufmann's divorce finalized, he married "The Last Tycoon" Actress Leslie Allen. With her, he had two sons, Ben and Nicholas. Unfortunately, Curtis faced his last tragedy later in life.



In 1994, when Nicholas was 23 years old, he died due to a heroin overdose. Curtis confessed he knew his son was an addict but never imagined how bad the situation was. He added

"I felt very strongly that he died like that. I was shattered. Do you know, pal, I was shattered: this son of mine to die so ignominiously."

Barry Paris, who co-authored Curtis's 1993 autobiography, revealed that the actor was devastated and "immobilized" by Nicholas's passing as he adored him. 

Curtis also admitted he didn't see his son's body in the casket. Instead, he stayed 20 or 30 feet away and would get angry at anybody who would tell him to look at him.

On September 29, 2010, four years after a bout with pneumonia, Curtis passed away. Following his death, Jamie Lee shared that his family loved, respected, and were devoted to him. Rest in peace, legend. 


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