Belafonte Curtis Leigh on EbonyOn this date in 1953, Harry Belafonte appeared on the cover of Ebony magazine with his former acting school classmate Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, who was married to Curtis. It was the first time that white and black Hollywood stars appeared together on the cover of a U.S. magazine (Ebony‘s premiere issue in November, 1945 did portray six white kids and one black kid, and its January, 1950 issue showed Ralph Bunche with Eleanor Roosevelt). Curtis, born Bernard Schwartz in New York in 1925, had a six-decade career as an actor that included the anti-racist classic The Defiant Ones (with Sidney Poitier, 1958), the gender-bending comic masterpiece, Some Like It Hot (with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, 1959), and Spartacus (1960), which helped to end the Hollywood blacklist of the McCarthy period. (Curtis actually played the role of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1985 film, Insignificance.) In the twenty years before his death in 2010, Curtis became interested in his Hungarian-Jewish background and helped finance the reconstruction of Budapest’s “Great Synagogue” and the commemoration of Hungary’s 600,000 Holocaust victims.

“Curtis has had to overcome the fact that he is a very handsome young man. He has done it, so that his appearance is now secondary to a talent and vitality that mark him as one of the most important young stars.” —Hollywood Reporter, 1956