Tony Curtis: From Pants Suits to Pearl Strands

Diamonds may have been Marilyn Monroe’s best friend, but pearls were the pretty companion of Tony Curtis in their iconic film “Some Like It Hot” – a movie masterpiece that I’m sure many will revisit now that the last living member of the film’s trio has passed away.

For the uninitiated: “Some Like It Hot,” is a1959 film in which Curtis and Jack Lemmon played small-time jazz musicians who witnessed the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago and, pursued by gangsters, posed as women to escape with an all-female jazz band bound for Miami (Marilyn Monroe, included).

Hi-jinks ensue.

Oscar-winning costume designer, Orry Kelly, turned Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis into ‘Josephine’ and ‘Daphne’ using all the well-known fashion secrets drag queens the world over still use today: lots of neck scarves, long gloves, fun hats  – and yes – that ubiquitous symbol of understated femininity: pearls.

Pearl jewelry is generally thought of as the go-to gem when women want that ‘conservative yet classic’ look. Politicians and first wives love pearls for their sartorial safety, and they’re always a Mother’s Day crowd pleaser.

But Tony Curtis and his partner in crime brought the category to a, shall we say, ‘new’ audience – making everything from pearl-drop earrings to long strands work in ways the jewelry world never thought possible.

In other words: Clothes may make the man – but classic pearls create the cross-dresser.

Tony Curtis, R.I.P.  Here’s to you. Who’s like you? Damn few.

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  1. Janet

    Excellent post from a true film and jewelry expert. His obituary in the NY Times was full of things I never knew and now your post is yet another nostalgic reflection of Tony Curtis. Thanks so much!

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