by Ross Sharp

From “Reverence as Opposed to Love”, an essay by David Mamet from “Bambi vs. Godzilla – On the Nature, Purpose and Practice of The Movie Business”

You may snort with contempt and recall his Brooklynese, “Yonda stands da castle of my faddah”. But I will name, in support, but two of his performances. To the mention of the first you will all smile with love; those who know the second will nod sagely in agreement:

“Some Like It Hot” and “The Boston Strangler”.

The first is the perfect comic turn. As the first beleaguered, then besotted (with Marilyn Monroe) saxophone player, he is, as we say, “as clean as a hound’s tooth.” He plays low comedy high as it gets, and it would have been enough. Then, in the third reel, he has to throw on drag. He joins an all-girl band to escape the wrath of Al Capone. And he does the travesty not only as well as it can be done but better than anyone has ever seen it. He plays a girl for keeps. He believes it, and we believe it. Then, dear reader, and I know you are nodding along with the report, he transforms himself into a millionaire in yachting costume and does the world’s best imitation of Cary Grant …

… Now we see him as “The Boston Strangler”. He plays Albert DeSalvo, the murderer. The camera follows him through various quite grisly stalkings and killings. We are shocked at the seeming reason of his motivation. These acts make perfect sense to the actor – and so we see not a monster but the human capacity (yours and mine) for monstrousness. Now DeSalvo is apprehended. A psychiatrist takes him through the crimes, of which, we discover, he was unaware. He does not remember them. And in the interrogation sessions we see DeSalvo, that is, Tony Curtis, recall, little by little, the grisly murders, and we see him, before our eyes, disintegrate.

These are some of the finest moments of film acting.

We do not laud and revere Mr. Curtis’s “great technique”; we merely remember the moments of his performance our entire lives.