A popular leading man in such movies as Houdini (1953) and The Black Shield of Falworth (1954), Curtis rose above his pretty boy looks and impressed critics with dramatic turns in Sweet Smell of Success (1957) and The Defiant Ones (1958), for which he earned a Best Actor Oscar nod. More memorable parts followed in 1959's Some Like It Hot (doing a dead-on Cary Grant riff), Spartacus (1960) and The Boston Strangler (1968).
Curtis moved into character roles in the 1970s, playing a variety of heavies and gangsters. In later years, he made numerous guest appearances on television. He died of heart failure Sept. 29, 2010.