Shalom Life | April 23, 2014

TJFF Review: 'Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom'

The documentary tells the story of the late movie star who rose to fame in the 1950s.

By: Ilan Mester

Published: May 1st, 2012 in Culture » Film » Reviews

TJFF Review: 'Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom'

Documentaries about people in the entertainment industry rely heavily on whether the person at hand is interesting. Luckily, Tony Curtis’ life story is quite fascinating.

Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom covers the entire life of the late silver screen star -- including his humble upbringing in New York and his decade-spanning career in Hollywood. Director Ian Ayres (who previously directed another documentary featuring Curtis called The Jill & Tony Curtis Story) delves deep into the life story of the famous actor with interviews featuring the late star along with many of his friends.

The documentary features many interesting facts that movie dwellers might not have known about Curtis, whose long list of credits include Some Like it Hot and The Defiant Ones. He was born to Jewish parents from Hungary and had a tough childhood; his younger brother died when he was a kid and Curtis’ parents struggled to make ends meet. He was also bullied at school.

“I was Jewish and that created a lot of problems for me,” he said during an interview in the documentary.

The movie theatre became an escape for him and after he served in the Navy, Curtis enrolled in an acting school. He was eventually discovered by a scout from Universal Studios, who offered him a contract in Los Angeles. But Curtis quickly learned that having a contract from a major studio didn’t mean he had made it in Hollywood.

As we all know, Curtis became a teen idol -- but that took a lot of work. The film explores his struggles and how he eventually became an internationally-recognized star whose style was admired and copied by thousands of people -- including Elvis Presley.

The documentary features interviews with a number of prominent figures who knew the Oscar-nominated actor, including Hugh Hefner, Debbie Reynolds and Piper Laurie. Some viewers might find the runtime a bit long, but there aren’t many dull moments -- if any at all.


Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom premieres at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival on May 8. Visit www.tjff.com for more information.

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