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Fresh Air Remembers 'Spartacus' Star Tony Curtis.

Actor Tony Curtis, whose notable roles included parts in The Sweet Smell of Success and Spartacus died on Wednesday night of heart failure. He was 85. Fresh Air remembers the legendary actor with highlights from a 1991 interview.




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Other segments from the episode on October 1, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 1, 2010: Obituary for Arthur Penn; Review of the Hank Williams' CD set "The Complete Mother's Best Recordings"; Obituary for Tony Curtis; Review of film "The…


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Fresh Air Remembers 'Bonnie And Clyde' Director


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, filling in for Terry Gross.

Film, stage and television director Arthur Penn died Tuesday night in
New York. He was 88. He directed the films "The Miracle Worker,"
"Alice's Restaurant," "Little Big Man," "Night Moves" and "Missouri
Breaks." And he advised John Kennedy in his 1960 TV debates with Richard

But Penn is best remembered for the 1967 film "Bonnie and Clyde," whose
explicit violence, sex and sympathetic portrayal of two criminals
affected American filmmaking for years to come.

Here's a scene from "Bonnie and Clyde," a story of two young criminals
robbing small-town banks during the Depression. The couple, played by
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, are taking leave of Bonnie's mother
before they hit the road.

(Soundbite of film, "Bonnie and Clyde")

Ms. MABEL CAVITT (Actor): (As Bonnie's Mother) You know, Clyde, I read
about you all in the papers, and I just get scared.

Mr. WARREN BEATTY (Actor): (As Clyde Barrow) Now, Ms. Parker, don't you
believe what you read in all them newspapers. That's the law talking
there. They want us to look big so they can look big when they catch us,
and they ain't gonna catch us because I'm ever better at running than I
am at robbing banks. Shoot, if we'd done half that stuff they say we
done in them papers, we'd be millionaires by now, wouldn't we?

Ms. CAVITT: (As Bonnie's Mother) Yeah.

Mr. BEATTY: (As Clyde) Look, I ain't gonna risk my little girl here just
to make money, uncertain as times are. Why, I know of a job, you
remember, (unintelligible), we could've done $2,000 just as easy as pie,
and I pulled up outside there and I saw them laws, and I said to myself,
I said: Bonnie could get hurt here. So we just drove right on and I let
that money lay.

Ms. CAVITT: (As Bonnie's Mother) Maybe you know the way with her then.
I'm just an old woman and I don't know nothing.

Mr. BEATTY: (As Clyde) Ms. Parker. But Ms. Parker, this here is the way
we know best how to make money. But we going to be quitting all this as
soon as the hard time's over. I can tell you that.

DAVIES: That's a scene from Bonnie and Clyde, directed by Arthur Penn.
He spoke to Terry in 1989.

The film's final scene, in which lawmen find and gun down Bonnie and
Clyde, is one of the most memorable in American cinema.

(Soundbite of film, "Bonnie and Clyde")]

(Soundbite of car engine idling)

(Soundbite of gunfire)


I want to go back to 1967, when you made "Bonnie and Clyde," which is
really a landmark film, in part because of how you handled the violence
in it, particularly the scene at the end, where Bonnie and Clyde each
take dozens of bullets, and their bodies twitch with the impact long
after they're dead.

This film led Pauline Kael to say: Penn has a gift for violence. Despite
all the violence in movies, a gift for violence is rare. Did you think
of yourself that way, as having that gift?

Mr. ARTHUR PENN (Director): No, I wouldn't have defined it that way. But
I guess you have to understand that we were operating, of course, in a
totally different social context in those days. It was in the midst of
the Vietnamese War, and the daily news, the news that we saw on
television was - had body counts and numbers of soldiers wounded and

And it was a time where it seemed to me that if we were going to depict
violence, that we would be obliged, really, to depict it accurately,
with the kind of terrible, frightening volume that one sees when one
genuinely is confronted by violence. And that's what we did in "Bonnie
and Clyde."

Also, we were doing it at the same time with a kind of – at the end of
the film, with an attempt to raise these two characters to a kind of
faintly mythic proportion. So it was done in an extraordinarily
complicated, technical way, but the end result was to sort of propel
them upward into myth. And that was the attempt, at least. And to some
degree, I think we succeeded. We also succeeded in upsetting an awful
lot of people.

GROSS: Yeah. Can I ask you how you choreographed and shot that last
sequence, where Bonnie and Clyde are murdered with dozens of bullets?

Mr. PENN: Yes, but I'm afraid it'll be hopelessly technically difficult.
But let me try and give you a short-volume answer, okay?

GROSS: Oh, please, yeah.

Mr. PENN: All right. One of the things I attempted to do was to have it
in different speeds. And the way you achieve slow motion in film is by
actually running the film faster so that many more frames are exposed,
and that's what produces slow motion.

So the intention there was to get this kind of spastic motion of genuine
violence, at the same time, the attenuation of time that one experiences
when you see something like a terrible automobile accident or, in my
case, certain occurrences in the war.

It was this extraordinary stretch of time while these events were taking
place. And so what I did was I ganged four cameras together, all running
at different speeds, some at very, very, very high speed and some at
just double normal speed, some at four times normal speed. It was to get
this kind of spastic balletic violence. That was really the attempt, to
really join time and space. And that's how we did it, in layman's terms,
without getting into the technical aspects of it too deeply.

GROSS: Now, I was just running back that scene last night on my VCR, and
I think the part where you really see the slowed-down action is just
when Warren Beatty takes the first bullet and falls to the ground.

Mr. PENN: You were aware of it there, but it runs all the way through
the scene. It's all done in different time motions, all the way through
to the very end of the scene, including Faye falling in the car and her
hand slowly bouncing, bouncing and then stopping. All of that was done
by these four cameras in different speeds.

GROSS: Correct me if I'm wrong: The sound of the bullets sounds like
it's real time.

Mr. PENN: Exactly, exactly. We kept that – we decided to do it – I
decided to do it at a visual expansion of time and an auditory continuum
of time in normal - apparently normal extension of time.

GROSS: Why, for disorientation?

Mr. PENN: No, actually for orientation. I thought if we disoriented the
sound as well as we disoriented the film that we would then be clearly
engaged in the movie aspect of it, and I didn't want you particularly to
be aware of the medium at that point. I was hoping that you would be
caught totally by the nature of the action on the screen.

GROSS: Was there a code in existence at the time that you made "Bonnie
and Clyde"?

Mr. PENN: Oh, yes.

GROSS: What did the code say about violence, and did you have any
problem getting the film through, because for its time, it was extreme?

Mr. PENN: Now, may I try to correct a couple of things?

GROSS: Yeah, please, yeah.

Mr. PENN: Yeah, first of all, it was not extreme. What it was was that
it became a cause célèbre because the critic at the time of the New York
Times had decided to engage in a campaign against what he perceived as
violence in films. And he was really objecting to many other kinds of
films. When this came along, however, it provided him with the perfect
launching pad for a real diatribe against our film and violence in film.
And somehow we remained tainted with that.

Now, he's talking about one kind of violence. Pauline Kael is talking
about another. And it's Pauline Kael's kind of violence that I'm really
responding to with - as feeling it accuracy and complimentary, because
there's gratuitous, mindless violence, and then there is the depiction
of how it really is. And I think that we depicted that by not doing it
in an ordinary reportorial style.

God knows, we've been imitated thousands and thousands of times now by
television shows. Every time you see kind of somebody attempting
violence, they go into that basic slow motion. Well, in American films,
at least, we did it first.

GROSS: You're talking about Kael here. Let me quote her again. She says
that you put the sting back in death.

Mr. PENN: Well, in – as I say, in a context of the times, where we
seeing it on the 6 o'clock news all over the country: bodies,
helicopters crashing, people being killed, young men being rushed to the
ambulances. There was a kind of a desensitization in the nation to
violence. And it seems to us, to me, that it was important to depict it
as it really is.

GROSS: You fought in World War II.

Mr. PENN: Yes.

GROSS: Were there images that stayed with you that influenced the way
you've handled violence in your films?

Mr. PENN: Yes.

GROSS: Can you talk about that a little?

Mr. PENN: Well, they just simply were images. They were images mostly
during the Battle of the Bulge. And they – I saw them. And they were

GROSS: Were you injured yourself?

Mr. PENN: No, no. I was very fortunate. I wasn't really engaged in much
action at all. But what little bit of action I saw was more action than
I ever want to see again.

DAVIES: Director Arthur Penn, speaking with Terry Gross in 1989. We'll
hear more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: We're listening to Terry's 1989 interview with director Arthur
Penn, who died Tuesday at the age of 88.

GROSS: Can we go back to 1958, to your first film, "The Left Handed
Gun," which starred Paul Newman?

Mr. PENN: Please.

GROSS: And this was a psychological interpretation of the Billy the Kid
story. How did you feel about making your movie debut in a Western that
was going to be a new type of take on the genre?

Mr. PENN: Well, I felt rather exalted. First of all, the opportunity to
make a film was a pretty heady opportunity. And then, of course, to be
together with old friends - Fred Coe was the producer of it, Paul
Newman, with whom I'd worked previously in television – and to be able
to do a nice, modest little Western that had a quite different slant to
it than conventional Westerns had had up to that point.

GROSS: Did you feel that you and Newman took risks with his performance?

Mr. PENN: Oh, I hope so.

GROSS: Yeah, what kind of risks? What were you...

Mr. PENN: Well, we went from the sort of basic, tight-jawed, laconic
Western hero who said yup and nope, to somebody who was engaged in other
kinds of interpersonal relationships. And they were visible in that
film. And I think that that was what sort of rather startled the
American critics, although it, quite fortunately for me, delighted the
European critics, most particularly Andre Bazin.

GROSS: There's a shot I have to ask you about. There's a scene where
Paul Newman and a woman who's married to one of his friends kiss. And
that scene kind of dissolves or cuts into a flame, a fire.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PENN: A fire.

GROSS: And I was wondering, you know, whenever you see scenes like that
in the movie, you wonder if it's, like, a literal interpretation of yes,
and then they had sex, and we're not going to show it, here's the heat
of the flame. Do you know what I mean?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PENN: I'm afraid that you're quite accurate about that. You know,
this was early filmmaking.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Right.

Mr. PENN: And every once in a while, I got a little too romantic and too
poetic, and it was more than a little embarrassing.

GROSS: You feel embarrassed about that shot now?

Mr. PENN: Well, it's evidence of somebody who was just finding out what
the medium could do. I was very intoxicated by the medium of film,
having come out of live TV, where we didn't have the opportunity to edit
and prepare scenes and so forth, and then to be able to make a film.

GROSS: All right, well, sure, you worked on "Philco Playhouse" and
"Playhouse 90."

Mr. PENN: That's right. That's right.

GROSS: Had you studied the method?

Mr. PENN: Sure. You mean the acting method.

GROSS: Right, exactly.

Mr. PENN: Stanislavski, oh, yes. Yes, I've been associated with the
Actors Studio for 25 years.

GROSS: Could you put into words how you've applied that as a director? I
realize that might be too hard or too broad.

Mr. PENN: Well, and in the shortest possible answer, I think it was an
attempt to break stereotypes. And that's really what it was, to get into
some of the interior life of the characters. And that's what really we
attempted to do in "Left Handed Gun" was to take a Western and strip it
of its kind of prototypical behavior and begin to get it down to direct,
recognizable interpersonal behavior.

GROSS: Well, you directed both the stage and screen version of "The
Miracle Worker." Did you have to rethink your presentation when you
moved it from stage to screen?

Mr. PENN: Yes, I did, but I wish I'd done it more so. I wish I'd done
more of understanding how the cinema could do certain things for us that
instead we sort of articulated in language, and that wasn't necessary.

GROSS: What, for instance, would you have done differently now?

Mr. PENN: Well, there are certain things in "The Miracle Worker" on the
stage where we needed to have a voice of sort of opposition in order to
have an obstacle, which is really what makes for a certain kind of
conflict. And in that case, it was Captain Keller, Helen Keller's
father, who was resigned to her terrible fate as a child who had no
hearing and no sight, and Annie Sullivan, who of course insisted that
the child could be in some way reached or hoped that she could.

Well, on stage, it was necessary to give all that language and to have
scenes that did it. When we put it on film, however, I wish I had been
aware that the camera could very well have provided us with a much more
eloquent version of the enormity of Annie's problem and we wouldn't have
had to quite articulate it so melodramatically as we did in the play.
But that was because it was only my second film, and I didn't know what
I was doing quite.

GROSS: I watched that film about a year ago and was really surprised at
how moody and atmospheric it looked. I had forgotten that.

Mr. PENN: Yes, well, we all have a nostalgia for black and white films,
and they're really remarkable in terms of being able to evoke mood. I
wish we all were doing many more of them.

GROSS: You'd like to work more in black and white?

Mr. PENN: I'm always attracted by that, yes, as a medium, yeah.
Sometimes, I go and I feel as if the screens are just so brilliantly
colored you could practically get blood sugar from it.

GROSS: Do you have actors improvise much on the set?

Mr. PENN: No, not really. Not really. Yeah, this is such an elaborate
subject, but improvisation, as it's practiced on a lot of movie sets, is
not really improvisation. It's actors writing lines on the spur of the
moment. And that doesn't thrill me.

Now, there are certain people who can do it, and every once in a while,
they come up with some wonderful stuff. Brando does it and does it
wonderfully. But for the most part, I prefer not to really improvise. On
the other hand, I don't really start addressing the language of the
script right off the bat, either. It's just a way of sort of arriving at
a scene in a much less formal manner until we're really ready to shoot.
And at that point, I pretty much insist upon having the language of the

GROSS: My guest is film director Arthur Penn, and his new film is "Penn
& Teller Get Killed."

Your brother Irving was an acclaimed fashion photographer whose work was
shown in many museums.

Mr. PENN: Is, is.

GROSS: Is shown in many museums, yes. And I'm wondering if there was
something in your background when you were growing up together that you
think led you both to such visual directions.

Mr. PENN: Well, I would like to be able to point my finger directly at
it, but it doesn't really exist. We didn't spend an awful lot of time
together when we were growing up. We were just two children in a family
where there was divorce at an early age, and I went off in another
direction, living with other people during my childhood, until I was
returned to Philadelphia at the time of the last year of junior high
school. And that's when I sort of rejoined my brother, and we spent
several years together at that point.

GROSS: Do you remember the first movie you ever saw?

Mr. PENN: No, I don't because it traumatized me. I went to see a horror
film with my brother, and I ended up crouching down under the seat. I
remember that. It was in some theater on the East Side of New York. And
I didn't then go back to films for years.

GROSS: Because you were so afraid from this movie?

Mr. PENN: Yes.

GROSS: Does your brother remember what the movie was?

Mr. PENN: No, we – no, we were both very young. I must have been five,
and he was probably 10 at that point.

GROSS: So when was the next time you went back?

Mr. PENN: Well, it wasn't until I was an adolescent in Philadelphia. And
I began to then be able to go to films with some pleasure. And then
finally when I saw "Citizen Kane," that was really the turning point in
terms of gratification from film.

GROSS: Well, looking back now as an adult and as a film director, what
does it say to you that this movie, whatever the movie was, had such an
impact on you that you were terrified and wouldn't even go back into the
theater? And what does it say about the power of movies to you, and...

Mr. PENN: Well, there's no doubt about the power of movies. It's what in
certain circles they call a counterphobic reaction, I guess, which is
you get frightened by something, and finally you decide instead of
staying frightened by it, you join it. And that seems to have been what
turned out to be the case in my life.

But I had never anticipated it. I never anticipated being in film. I
always was drawn toward the theater as an adolescent.

GROSS: Would you like to scare children with your movies?

Mr. PENN: I certainly wouldn't.

GROSS: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PENN: No, I think the films that we're seeing nowadays are much too
scary. I think they're terrible, actually. I think the degree of
violence in them and the basic simplemindedness of the plotting seems to
me to be appalling.

Most every – practically every other film is about some renegade cops
who have to go out and get these big bad guys. But it's sort of
simpleminded. I could wish at least for the Western to come back. It was
a nice morality tale, you know. These are not even moral films as far as
I'm concerned.

GROSS: So really, it's the artfulness and morality of the violence

Mr. PENN: Attracts me, yeah. I mean, I think there's something eloquent
to be said about that and not necessarily always involving violence. I
have a nostalgia for films like "The Miracle Worker," you know. I would
like once, sometime in the foreseeable future, to go to the theater, the
film theater, and see something which was genuinely enlightening, even a
very good love story. There are far too few of those.

We've got all those macho executives out there doing macho films, and I
think maybe we need some more feminine touches in choices of material.

DAVIES: Director Arthur Penn, speaking with Terry Gross, recorded in
1989. Penn died Tuesday in New York. He was 88. Here's music from Arthur
Penn's film "Mickey One," featuring Stan Getz on saxophone. I'm Dave
Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Hank Williams: The Working Musician, The Creative Genius


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross.

In 1951, Hank Williams was one of the biggest stars in country music. He
was also a pitchman for Mother's Best Flour and Farm Feed, a company
that sponsored a daily 15-minute radio show on which Hank and his band
performed some hits, some hymns and featured him joking and plugging the
product. These shows have only recently been released in a 15-disc set
called "The Complete Mother's Best Recordings...Plus!"

Rock critic Ken Tucker says it offers a rare glimpse of a legend at work
and play.

Mr. LOUIE BUCK (Announcer): The Millers of Mother's Best flour bring you
that lovesick blues boy, Hank Williams.

(Soundbite of song, "Lovesick Blues")

Mr. HANK WILLIAMS (Country Singer) (Singing) I got a feeling called the
blues, oh, Lord, since my baby said goodbye. And I don't know what I'll
do. All I do is sit and sigh, oh, Lord.

Mr. BUCK: The Miller's of Mother's Best Flour...

KEN TUCKER: These days, Hank Williams is enshrined as the poet of
country music, the man who established the classic modern country music
myth and body of work: a spangled, grimly grinning performer who sang
about hard times, both romantic and economic. But the Mother's Best
recordings tell a different story: Here is Hank Williams, the working
musician, an ambitious young man who strove to make his immense
creativity seem as tossed-off as the banter with which he engaged the
people in a recording studio in Nashville.

Mr. WILLIAMS: We're feeling good, Louie, and you're feeling good. So
that's make it unanimous.

Mr. BUCK: Unanimous.

Mr. WILLIAMS: And that's it, huh?

Mr. BUCK: Yeah.

Mr. WILLIAMS: Unanimous. We got a unanimous song to start here with this
morning. The key of D, fellas. Sad story, "Just When I Needed You."

(Soundbite of song, "Just When I Needed You")

Mr. WILLIAMS: (Singing) Just when I needed you, you left and went away.
You made my life so blue both night and day. You left me here behind,
with a troubled worried mind, so broken hearted, too, just when I needed

TUCKER: A typical Mother's Best program consisted of five parts: an
intro by announcer Louie Buck, over which Hank sang what was then his
biggest hit, "Lovesick Blues." After his opening remarks, frequently
some byplay with Hank teasing the band about everything from their
haircuts to how sleepy they all were at 7 a.m., Williams would launch
into a country song, usually one he'd written or a cover of someone
else's. Then there'd be a live commercial for Mother's Best flour and
farm feed, followed by a gospel song or hymn.

Then there's another song that was often a familiar standard of the
time, such as "On Top of Old Smokey," and finally some closing remarks
and a musical exit. Williams and his band did this live in the studio,
or more frequently, since he maintained a brutal touring schedule,
recorded in advance when he was traveling the country.

Mr. WILLIAMS: "Dust on the Bible." Let's go.

(Soundbite of song, "Dust on the Bible")

Mr. WILLIAMS: (Singing) I went into a home one day to see some friends
of mine. Of all the books and magazines, not a Bible could I find. I
asked them for the Bible, when they brought it, what a shame, for the
dust was covered over it, and not a fingerprint was plain.

Dust on the Bible, dust on the holy word. The words of all the prophets
and the sayings of our Lord. Of all the other books you'll find, there's
none salvation holds. Get that dust off the Bible and redeem your poor

TUCKER: Spread over 15 discs, "The Complete Mother's Best" recordings
could have used some editing. Hearing the same intro and the same snatch
of "Lovesick Blues" re-done scores of times is a few score too many. And
Hank's generosity in having his wife, Audrey, sing during a number of
these sessions reminds music fans once again that love isn't just blind,
it's also deaf. But there's a lot of priceless material here, all of it
accompanied by a superlative band led by the great steel-guitar player
Don Helms, then a scant 24 years old.

Mr. WILLIAMS: It's called "If You Mind Your Business You Won't Have Time
to be Minding Mine."

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "If You Mind Your Business You Won't Have Time to be
Minding Mine")

Mr. WILLIAMS: (Singing) If the wife and I start fussing, brother, that's
our right, 'cause me and that sweet woman's got a license to fight. Why
don't you mind your own business? Mind your own business. 'Cause if you
mind your business, then you won't be minding mine.

Oh, the woman on our party line's the nosey thing. She picks up her
receiver when she knows it's my ring. Why don't she mind her own
business? Mind your own business. 'Cause, if you mind your business,
then you won't be minding mine.

TUCKER: One of the great things about this set are the unguarded moments
in which Williams gives us little glimpses of his sense of humor - and,
even better, his sense of craft. Listen to the way he covers another
writer's song, "I Cant Tell My Heart That," and gently criticizes its
flat vocal rhyme construction when he finishes.

(Soundbite of song, "I Cant Tell My Heart That")

Mr. WILLIAMS: (Singing) Oh, I can't tell my heart that you are no good.
I'd give this world, if only I could. You cheated and lied, then you
left me flat. Oh yes, it's true, but I can't tell my heart that.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Man: That's a good one. That's a good one there.

Mr. WILLIAMS: You left me flat. Don't know where you're at.

Unidentified Man: Can't tell my heart that.

Mr. WILLIAMS: But I can't tell my heart that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TUCKER: The "Mother's Best" box set, which includes meticulous comments
on every performance by the Hank Williams scholar Colin Escott, is too
repetitive to replace one of the many good greatest-hits collections
available. But if you're a hardcore fan, it's packed with great moments.
Two years after making these recordings, Hank Williams would die of a
heart attack in the back seat of a car taking him to his next concert.
The Mother's Best collection reminds us that the man who came to
symbolize tortured genius - and who's been stuffed into the live-fast-
die-young cliché with many rock stars - well, he was a loose goose, a
commercial shrewdie and a generous genius, as well.

DAVIES: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large for Entertainment Weekly. He
reviewed "Hank Williams: The Complete Mother's Best Recordings...Plus!"

Mr. WILLIAMS: Get your cheese ups, your gorge, your bugles and your
banjos, our long tall rhythm picker, our puny guitar player and our
antique bass knocker and you boys' rhythm picker, and we're going to
leave you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WILLIAMS: Early in the morning, this is Hank Williams, saying thanks
a lot for listening to us. Kathryn, put the eggs in skillet, put some
biscuits in the oven, Bocephus, we going to sop some biscuits directly.

Mr. BUCK: Friends, you know, every experiment station and every
successful hog raiser has proved that grain and pasture must be balanced
with a complete supplement like Mother's Best 40 Percent for a topnotch
results. Mother's Best 40 Percent hog supplement adds essential feed
elements to grain and pasture, bolsters them with antibiotic feeds
supplements and steps them up with animal proteins that give hogs
faster, steadier growth and better finish at a saving of feed, the
saving of labor and savings of money. Get a supply of Mother's Best 40
Percent hog supplements today. You're Mother's Best dealer in St.
Joseph, Tennessee is the St. Joseph Milling Company, and in Winchester
it's William Yarbrook. So in the morning, this is Cousin Louie Buck
saying the best of everything to you, and that's Mother's Best. Goodbye

DAVIES: Coming up, we remember actor Tony Curtis, who died Wednesday at
the age of 85.

This is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Fresh Air Remembers 'Spartacus' Star Tony Curtis


Actor Tony Curtis died Wednesday at his home near Las Vegas, at the age
85. Born as Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx, Curtis became a classic
Hollywood leading man. He earned an Oscar nomination for his role as an
escaped convict in the 1958 film "The Defiant Ones." And he's remembered
for impersonating a female jazz musician in "Some Like It Hot."

Tony Curtis visited FRESH AIR in 1991 to talk about a reissue of the
epic film "Spartacus," in which Curtis played a slave boy who joined a
rebellion against the Roman Empire. The reissue of "Spartacus" included
footage that had been cut from the original because of violent or sexual

Before we hear Terry's interview with Tony Curtis, let's listen to one
of the scenes which was restored in the reissued version. Here, Tony
Curtis' character is attending to his master, a Roman general, in the
bath. Curtis gives his master a robe, then the master, played by
Laurence Olivier, fills his slave boy in on the realities of captivity
in Rome.

(Soundbite of movie, "Spartacus")

(Soundbite of music)

Sir LAURENCE OLIVIER (Actor): (as Marcus Licinius Crassus) There, boy,
is Rome - the might, the majesty, the terror of Rome. There is the power
that bestrides the known world like a colossus. No man can withstand
Rome. No nation can withstand her. How much less a boy? Hmm? There's one
way to deal with Rome, Antoninus. You must serve her. You must abase
yourself before her. You must grovel at her feet. You must - love her.
Isn't that so, Antoninus?

DAVIES: Laurence Olivier, addressing the Tony Curtis character in a
reissued version of the 1960 film "Spartacus."

Terry asked Curtis to describe the part of the scene that was cut from
the original.

Mr. TONY CURTIS (Actor): The scene has Larry Olivier and I in a tub, and
I'm his slave and I'm washing him, and he tries to convince me to have,
probably, a homosexual relationship with him. And after the proposition,
I disappear and join Spartacus' forces. So that is in essence, what that
scene is about.


Yes, except that it's very metaphoric, the whole thing is so...

Mr. CURTIS: Well, he doesn't come out and say I want to stick it to you
with the...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CURTIS: I mean, you know, he talks about snails and oysters. It's a
clever way of - or they thinks it's an artistic way of doing it. I
would've much preferred the scene were a little more blatant in its
approach, because it would've been a lot more logical and perhaps a lot
more realistic. But somebody thought it was kind of fanciful to talk of

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CURTIS: I really don't know why.

GROSS: Well, I actually have the script from that scene in front of me.

Mr. CURTIS: Yeah.

GROSS: So let me read some it. I won't pretend like I'm you or Olivier.

Mr. CURTIS: Well, please.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Crassus, played by Olivier, ask you a bunch of questions.
He asked you: Do you steal, Antoninus? And you say, no master. And he
says, do you lie? And you say, no master. And he says, have you ever
dishonored the gods? And you say, no. He says do you refrain from these
vices out of respect for the moral virtues? And you say, yes. Then he
asks you if you eat oysters and if you eat snails, and you say yeah,
that you eat oysters, but you don't eat snails. And he asks you if you
consider the eating of oysters to be moral and the eating of snails to
be immoral, and so on. And then he confesses that he eats both.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CURTIS: Yes.

GROSS: He's kind of like swinging both ways type of a subtext here.

Mr. CURTIS: Yeah, that's it. Mm-hmm.

GROSS: So did you and Olivier really talk through the scene before you
did it? You know...

Mr. CURTIS: Absolutely not.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CURTIS: There was nothing to talk through. There I am in a bikini,

GROSS: Yeah, you're wearing your bathing trunks.

Mr. CURTIS: ...standing over him while he sits in a bikini in a tub. I
mean, it really doesn't take a lot of internal dialogue to describe or
even know what's going on.

GROSS: Was there a big fight with the censors over the scene?

Mr. CURTIS: No, there wasn't. I don't think the studio had any plans to
really put it in, you know?

GROSS: Well, whose idea was it to put it in?

Mr. CURTIS: Well, it had to go in. Larry Olivier and I wouldn't have
done the other scenes had not that scene been shot. See, it was written
in the script, and before the picture was made, they decided that it was
not going to end up in the movie. So we shot that scene, but only under
protest. Larry and I told the production department and the producer of
the film that we would not be interested in doing the second scene
unless we had that first scene, and we wouldn't do that first scene
unless we had the scene before it where he sees me in the lineup and
says to me: Your name? You will attend to me.

All of those were implicit in this kind of string of the relationship
between Crassus and Antoninus. That's what you call complete movie-
making. It was very important. And for them to cut that scene out hurt
that whole center of the film, and I feel it hurt the movie completely
because it kind of - it kind of, you know, washed it down to nothing so
you weren't quite sure what that meant.

GROSS: So did either of you take the lead in objecting to the scene
being cut or insisting that that scene be played?

Mr. CURTIS: No, we both - we both knew what the relationship between
Crassus and Antoninus was, and we both insisted that the scenes had to
be done the way the script was written. So we got them to shoot that
scene. But they never recorded the sound, you know, they discarded the
sound because they knew that it would probably never be in the film.
Larry and I hoped it would be and when we saw the final cut and realized
they had cut it, we knew that, you know, it was hurting the
performances, but there was nothing we could do about it, and here we
are 30-some odd years later and it’s back in the movie, and I'm sure if
Larry were alive he'd really be happy to know that.

GROSS: Did you need any special training for this Roman epic?

Mr. CURTIS: Nothing more than doing pushups.

GROSS: Did you have to make those muscles bulge just a little bit more?

Mr. CURTIS: Yeah, right. In fact, when the picture started, Larry came
up to me, said, Tony, where do I get arms like that? I said come with
me, sir, and I took him behind the stage. I said get down on the floor,
which he did. I said now do like I do, push up. So I gave him a series
of pushups to do. We do them every morning together. That's one of the
fondest memories I have on that picture, Larry and I doing pushups in
the morning.

GROSS: Do you remember any of the logistical problems in the big battle

Mr. CURTIS: Yes. There was a scene that was shot in Death Valley, if I'm
not mistaken. I don’t remember now the exact location. We're down in the
valley, with thousands of soldiers and men lined up in the camera,
panned up and came up a hill. And as it came up a hill, it disclosed, I
think, Spartacus on a horse. And just as that camera came there, the
horse bolted and took Kirk off in a big steam of sand and dirt and was
never seen again in that that shot. So we had to go do it again. It was
really a complicated scene. And that horse just would not, you know, pay
attention to it, because after all of the action, the camera would
slowly pan and disclose that horse.

So it had those kind of problems, you know? Charlie McGraw, an actor who
was doing a scene with Kirk Douglas and me, he was the – he was the -
what would you call it, the guy that ran the gladiator school. He and
Spartacus when they revolt have their fight and in the struggle, Kirk
pushed his head, Charles McGraw's head, onto the edge of the barrel and
split his eye open. You can see it in the movie, just blood gushing out.
So that held up the shooting for a long time.

GROSS: Oh, you mean he really hurt him accidentally?

Mr. CURTIS: Yes. So there were always accidents like that. I had hurt my
tendon on the film and at one point I just couldn’t walk so they gave me
a cast and I tried to, you know, maneuver through that, which worked all
right. Let's see, what else? Oh, there were a number of these things, a
lot of horses falling down with people on it - people getting broken
arms. But you know, that's the nature of the profession and we were all
kind of prepared for it. We rather liked the adventure of it and the
danger of it. You know, it all adds to the making of a movie.

GROSS: The way Spartacus was cast, all the Romans were played by British

Mr. CURTIS: Yes.

GROSS: And all the slaves were played by...

Mr. CURTIS: Americans.

GROSS: Americans. The Americans, a lot of ethnic Americans were in there

Mr. CURTIS: Yes.

GROSS: What was the rationale for that?

Mr. CURTIS: I think they did it - in retrospect, you see, I feel it was
probably done with, you know, with an intent that that aristocratic
clipped English sound sounded 0 was in a way itself masterful, that kind
of language looked down on anybody else and everybody else. And by
casting most of all the slaves with Americans, you saw that very
distinct difference between the two, and I think that helped in some of
the scenes, you know?

GROSS: It probably played on American stereotypes too of, you know, the
British being - because the comparison it was made between the British
and the Romans, you know.

Mr. CURTIS: Yes.

GROSS: More high culture, I think.

Mr. CURTIS: But that's, yes, that's been going on for a long time in
films, you know?

GROSS: Right. Right.

Mr. CURTIS: Every time you needed someone to - who seemed to have a
higher elevation of intelligence, they always seemed to cast Englishmen,
or that kind of a clipped sound, you know?

GROSS: Mm-hmm. You’ve been in several other period movies and period
epics, including "Taras Bulba." How did you like doing period movies.
Did you have mixed feelings about some of them?

Mr. CURTIS: No, I didn’t. I love every movie I ever made and I've done
every conceivable kind of movie. I've played a woman. I've played
doctors, lawyers. I've been - I played a child in a movie. I've been
football players. I've been pilots. I've been in the Army, the Navy, in
the Marine Corps. So I've played really a great number of different kind
of parts and people, so I loved them all.

DAVIES: Tony Curtis speaking with Terry Gross, recorded in 1991. Curtis
died Wednesday. He was 85.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Building A Winning 'Network,' But At What Cost?


Published last May, Ben Mezrich's "The Accidental Billionaires: The
Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal,"
painted an unflattering and controversial portrait of Facebook inventor
and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It's quietly become a much anticipated movie
called "The Social Network," directed by David Fincher from a screenplay
written by "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin.

Film critic David Edelstein has this review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: David Fincher's fast, entertaining, deeply cynical
business saga "The Social Network" tells a disputed version of how
Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg invented the Web phenomenon Facebook and
became the world's youngest billionaire. To Fincher and screenwriter
Aaron Sorkin, it's a story that has little to do with Facebook itself
and what its ascendance means to the culture. The title is either a
misnomer or ironic, since the film's Zuckerberg, played by Jesse
Eisenberg, is emotionally paralyzed, given to betraying his friends.
It's a bitter joke that he'd be the one to create a tool to facilitate

No, the story Sorkin and Fincher want to tell is about a guy who creates
an online social network with no social skills whatsoever to get back at
a girl who dumped him - and some WASP elites who wouldn't invite him to
join their Harvard club. The obvious conclusion is that only a culture
rooted in greed could lionize this vengeful nerd.

I find that message both depressing and, based on what I know of
Zuckerberg's life, unconvincing, but the film's hard sell is difficult
to resist. Sorkin's dialogue spritzes out so fast it's as if the
characters want their brains to keep pace with their processors; they
talk like they keyboard. The first scene is a tour-de-force, a dialogue
between Zuckerberg and his girlfriend Erica, played by Rooney Mara,
that's done at triple-speed in long takes. Zuckerberg rattles off his
resentment at being ignored by Harvard's elite study clubs - places he
says that actually bus in attractive college girls with the come-on:
Party with the next Fed chairman. As the scene escalates, Erica picks up
on the impossibility of this guy loving anyone, and ends the

And as the movie has it, that's the turning point in Zuckerberg's life.
He goes back to his dorm room, gets drunk, and blogs about Erica's bust
size and the likelihood that her family changed its last name to sound
less Jewish. Then he hacks into the university's intranet and devises
something called Facemash, in which Harvard students will have the
opportunity to rank female students' pictures against one another.

When his roommate, Eduardo Saverin, played Andrew Garfield, returns,
Zuckerberg asks for help in building an equation for Facemash.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Social Network")

Mr. ANDREW GARFIELD (Actor): (as Eduardo Saverin) Hey, Mark.

Mr. JESSE EISENBERG (Actor): (as Mark) Eduardo.

Mr. GARFIELD: (as Eduardo Saverin) You and Erica split up.

Mr. EISENBERG: (as Mark) How did you know that?

Mr. GARFIELD: (as Eduardo Saverin) It's on your blog.

Mr. EISENBERG: (as Mark) Yeah.

Mr. GARFIELD: (as Eduardo Saverin) Are you all right?

Mr. EISENBERG: (as Mark) I need you.

Mr. GARFIELD: (as Eduardo Saverin) I'm here for you.

Mr. EISENBERG: (as Mark) No, I need the algorithm used for chess

Mr. GARFIELD: (as Eduardo Saverin) Are you okay?

Mr. EISENBERG: (as Mark) We're ranking girls.

Mr. GARFIELD: (as Eduardo Saverin) You mean other students?

Mr. EISENBERG: (as Mark) Yeah.

Mr. GARFIELD: (as Eduardo Saverin) Do you think this is such a good

Mr. EISENBERG: (as Mark) I need the algorithm or - I need the need the

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. GARFIELD: (as Eduardo Saverin) Give each girl a base rate of 1,400,
at any given...

EDELSTEIN: "The Social Network" has a tricky structure. Fincher leaps
back and forth between the creation of Facebook and a deposition room,
where a now-wealthy Zuckerberg is being sued by two parties: the six-
foot-five-inch twin championship rowers Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss,
both played by Armie Hammer, who claim he stole their idea; and by
Eduardo Saverin, who put up $19,000 but was shut out of later profits.
Director Fincher has likened the film to "Citizen Kane," his protagonist
becoming at once more successful and more alone, ending up with, like,
zero Facebook friends.

Fincher gets the details right - the energy drinks, the alcohol, the
programmers with their headphones deep in their anti-social trances -
and he captures Harvard's oak-and-crimson ambience. But I could sense
the actors' panic as he cracks the whip to get them talking faster and
faster. This is anti-Method acting, with no time to plumb the psyche.
Only singer Justin Timberlake comes through with a nuanced performance
as the sleazy former Napster co-creator whose hustle is just what
Facebook needs.

My larger problem is that Fincher's worldview is so sour and curdled.
There's no hint in the film of a positive social network - only of a
world in which losing a few friends is a small price to pay for becoming
a billionaire.

The real Zuckerberg has a dismaying unconcern for privacy. But he has
another side too, one that dreams of finding a tool for expanding our
horizons. If Fincher made a biopic of Thomas Edison, there'd be a lot
about him cheating other inventors, which he allegedly did, but nothing
at all about how nice it is to be able to call someone on the phone.

DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York magazine.

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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