Boys Will Be Girls Tony Curtis (born Bernard Schwartz) will turn 77 on June 3, one day before the opening night of Some Like It Hot, a musical based on the 1959 Billy Wilder movie in which he co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. In this production Curtis will play the rich suitor, Osgood Fielding III, a different character from Joe, whom he portrayed in the film. The show premieres at the new $100 million Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in Houston before embarking on a fifty-city tour. It’s an honor to be talking to you.
Don’t do that to me. Let me ask you a question. Are your parents immigrants? My great-grandfather emigrated from Poland and changed his name from Charney to Schwartz because it was more fashionable to have a German name at that time.
I never liked that German name.
How will you recreate Some Like It Hot without Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, or Billy Wilder?
This is completely different. Although Some Like It Hot lends itself to a musical, this is an out-and-out Technicolor musical. We want to make it snappy and very American. I sing three songs. [Sings]: I fall in love too easily . . .
Why do you think the film still holds up?
From my observation, the reason is a simple and solid one. There’s nothing we can do to obliterate the fact that we come from man and woman. We all were on the breast once in our lives. We share a lot of things. That’s the way life is. Isn’t it amusing that two guys got to get dressed up like girls ’cause they don’t want to get murdered, and one guy falls in love with the girl singer, and this millionaire falls in love with the other guy? We’re going to get people to laugh and enjoy themselves. That’s what theater should be. Theater is of the time and it’s present. You’re there; you’re sharing.
I’m sure you’re always asked about Marilyn Monroe.
There was no big secret about Marilyn. She wasn’t too intelligent. Not that emotional. But she was a clever actress.
Was she really as sexy in person as she was on-screen?
She was a provocative-looking woman. I met her in ’49. I drove her home one night and we became friends. We were lovers for about six months. She was 21; I was 23. We were little kiddies in those early days when boys and girls need a little experience in life.
Where do you get your stamina these days?
I don’t even think about it. I feel I have a purpose. Service to others is the rent that we pay for time on this planet. I want to serve others—my own way. A lot of the people I know say, “What are you doing?” and I say, “What do you mean ‘What are you doing?’ I know what I’m doing.”
Hey, the play could go to Broadway.
Us Schwartz kids know what we’re doing.
(See Houston: Theater.)