Tony Curtis dead at 85

Sep 30, 2010 at 1:29 p.m. ET

Legendary actor Tony Curtis died after a battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 85.

Academy Award-nominated actor Tony Curtis rose to fame in such classic films as 1958's The Defiant Ones with Sidney Poitier, Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe and Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus. His appearance in over 100 films cemented his place in the Hollywood stratosphere, but he also made frequent television appearances and began a second successful career as a painter and writer.

Tony Curtis

In a statement released to the Associated Press, daughter Jamie Lee Curtis said:

"My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages. He leaves behind children and their families who loved him and respected him and a wife and in-laws who were devoted to him. He also leaves behind fans all over the world. He will be greatly missed..."

Curtis' personal life is the stuff that would keep today's tabloids in business. He was married six times, and had six children including actress Jamie Lee Curtis with Psycho star Janet Leigh. His son Nicolas (with third wife Leslie Allen) died at the age of 23 from a heroin overdose.

Curtis struggled with his own drug and alcohol addiction after his career declined in the 60's, but credits a stint at the Betty Ford Clinic with turning his life around.

"Mine was a textbook case," he said in a 1985 interview. "My life had become unmanageable because of booze and dope. Work became a strain and a struggle. Because I didn't want to face the challenge, I simply made myself unavailable."

Curtis nearly died in 2006 after a bout of pneumonia left him comatose for several days. His sixth and current wife Jill Curtis said that the actor was hospitalized several times recently due to complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung problems, including once in July 2010 after suffering an asthma attack during a personal appearance. He died in his sleep at home; the coroner's preliminary report lists his cause of death as cardiac arrest.

"His heart survived things that Tony would always say would kill an ordinary man," Jill said. "This time, his heart was ready to go and ready to be at peace."