Today’s post was written by David Langbart, archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.
In 1956, Tony Curtis was an up-and-coming actor. In a career stretching from the 1940s to the 2000s, he starred in both dramatic and comedic films. By 1956, he had had some success in such films as Winchester 73, Houdini (in which he played the title role), and So This Is Paris, but his major films, including Sweet Smell of Success, The Defiant Ones, Some Like It Hot, Operation Petticoat, Spartacus, and The Boston Strangler, were all in the future.
In April 1956, after spending months abroad working on movies, Curtis sent the following letter to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. In it, he made several recommendations for utilizing American entertainments stars to create good will for the United States overseas.[i]
The reaction in the Department of State was positive. One official noted “Coming from Tony Curtis, this – to me – is a surprisingly literate, thoughtful letter” and recommended that the Department make a serious reply. After working its way through the bureaucracy, the Department sent the following letter.[ii]
[i] Tony Curtis to John Foster Dulles, April 11, 1956, file 511.00/4-1156 (NAID 171392418), 1955-59 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.
[ii] James Donovan to Tony Curtis, May 9, 1956, file 511.00/4-1156 (NAID 171392418), 1955-59 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.