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RIP Tony Curtis
on October 1, 2010
Since Tony Curtis recently passed away, I thought I would review one of his strong performances. Although Capt Newman MD stars Gregory Peck and Angie Dickinson, Tony Curtis steals the entire film from both stars. As army orderly Labowitz, his is the standout role and portrayal of a hypochondriacal orderly in an army psychiatric hospital, working in support of and sometimes in advance of his boss, Dr Newman. Newman tries to help soldiers who have developed mental illness as a result of their war time experiences. His job is to put these guys back together so they can go out and finish WWII.
As I remember, from Leo Rosten's novel, Labowitz is originally from Chicago, however Curtis draws on his own background and makes Labowitz a skeptical, cynical, brash, New Yorker, whose language is liberally peppered with Yiddishisms and other colorful expressions. Initially put off by the mental patients in his charge he comes to see them as his patients for whom he will go to great lengths. He scrounges up better food for them, he steals the top of the CO's Christmas tree to make his ward merrier, he steals a colleague's weekly salami package to give to the men, he uses the money Newman gives him to buy a Christmas tree on presents for his patients, and otherwise makes the ward a colorful, warm place for Newman's psychiatic cases to convalesce. Labowitz believes in Newman so much that he hustles patients for him from other non-psychiatric wards.
Although Curtis is the best thing about the film, Peck seems right as the reflective, patient Newman who battles the army in order to do the best for his charges. Robert Duvall, Bobby Darin, and Eddie Albert are the patients whose stories are fully developed in the movie and all three are really good in their parts. Angie Dickinson is pretty and believable as Newman's nurse, whom he recruits in order to give the ward's patients a good looking woman to inspire them. Create your own tribute to Curtis by including this film in an evening's entertainment.