Driving to the tony Doheny/ Wilshire neighborhood, we saw a vision of a food truck parked outside the Writers Guild Building. Egg rolls and matzo ball soup were served at the opening of the Seventh Annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival (May 3— 10) held at the Writers Guild during a pre-screening reception. Presented by the Jewish Journal, their theme: Our films aren’t selected; they’re chosen!
Recognizable faces swarmed the room waiting to see Jill Vandenberg Curtis, the widow of Tony Curtis, whose documentary, Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom, was screened.
She did not disappoint. Tall, blonde, and glam, the knockout wore a sparkly blazer and skinny jeans and appeared on a panel with Sally Kellerman, Marian Collier, Max Roeg, and John Gillmore. Film critic Pete Hammond moderated. In the audience: Jon Voight, Robert Forster, Marty Ingels (wife Shirley was recovering from hip replacement surgery), Ed Lautner, Jack Carter, Kat Kramer, Stella Stevens, Marvin Paige, and Anne Jeffries.
Said Jill, “Tony loved being a movie star. Although he was very narcissistic, he didn’t want to do a documentary just about his life. The film was made with people who worked with us on horse rescue.”
As fastidious as Jill is, Tony was interviewed sitting in front of his own art work with paint on his hands, a far cry from the handsome stud he was promoted as early and during his career. The film and folks interviewed referred to him as a pretty boy.
“He loved being Tony Curtis,” she said. She had already seen the screening at the Cannes Film Fest and cried throughout it. The tears returned last week. “I’ll have to excuse myself; it’s difficult to watch.” (And she did. After the panel, the equestrian sat on a folding chair in the lobby of the Writers Guild with a friend during the screening.) She attended the dessert after-party with strawberry shortcake by Hansen’s.
Jill reminisced that she recently visited her late husband’s home he shared as a child. It was in the back of a tailor shop. Four people lived in one room. “He really came from nothing to something.”
Mamie Van Doren, with long hair extensions, credited Curtis for her career. “Tony helped me. He was a tower of strength. He was handsome, sexy, and Jewish. I lucked out! But, he liked me as a friend. He’d call me Little Mamie.
Added Sally Kellerman, “I was commuting between Canada and Israel for work. The most embarrassing thing was a love scene and I had to be naked. I couldn’t do it, so they gave me a rubber contraction, which was a drag. I would have been better off naked.”
His Some Like it Hot co-star, Marion Collier, said, “Tony did a lot of waiting for Marilyn [Monroe] on the set. I signed on for six weeks and wound up working for four months. We all waited for Marilyn.”
Marty Ingels joined the stage to celebrate Curtis. “The Hollywood he loved so much never gave him a break. Fans kept him working. He was the kid who came from the Bronx to Bel Aire.
Said Norby Walters, “Tony Curtis was underrated.”