Tracing the personal and professional history of the actor born to Hungarian immigrants as Bernie Schwartz, “Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom” is the Us Weekly of bio-docs: full of breathless hyperbole and cheesy production values, but jam-packed with alluring photos and celebrity gossip. Helmer-scribe Ian Ayres (“The Jill & Tony Curtis Story”) also incorporates a pop-psychological dimension, speculating on how childhood poverty, an abusive mother and guilt over his younger brother’s death influenced Curtis’ later relationships, and how a craving for fame morphed into alcohol and drug addiction. Jewish fest play will segue to home viewing formats.
Mixing stock footage, theatrical trailers, archival posters and photos, with talking-head interviews with Curtis, his friends, co-stars and family, the pic hurtles through the thesp’s nearly six-decade career, five wives and multiple conquests. Although his striking good looks were part of the story, it becomes apparent that the charismatic Curtis constantly strove to learn and excel as an actor. Less well known is how he daringly defied the racism of the 1950s, starring with Sidney Poitier in “The Defiant Ones,” and posing with him on the cover of “Ebony.”