Curry, Tim (Contemporary Musicians)
Musical stage, screen performer
"There has never been enough of Tim Curry on-screen," famed film critic Pauline Kael asserted in the New Yorker. Possibly this is due to the varied nature of his career and talents. Curry is perhaps best known for his role in both the stage and film versions of the musical The Rocky Horror Show, in which he sang the memorable themes "Sweet Transvestite" and "I Can Make You a Man." But he also released rock albums, and starred in many other stage shows, including a stint in the title role of Amadeus. And despite Kael's words, Curry has done much film work, including the fantasy film Legend, and the comedy Pass the Ammo.
Curry grew up in southern England, where his father served as a Methodist chaplain for the British Navy. During his early school years he developed an interest in singing and acting, and he continued to pursue these activities when he attended the University of Birmingham. While in college, Curry sang with a swing band. He made his stage debut, however, in the London, England, production of the musical Hair.
"I like risky parts," Curry told a People interviewer, "abrasive characters the audience won't necessarily like." "Risky" is as apt a description as any of Curry's most famous screen role, Dr. Frank N. Furter, in the 1975 rock musical cult film Rocky Horror Picture Show. Furter is a kind of transvestite Frankenstein, working on a muscular male monster to service his sexual needs. Not content with this, however, he seduces both units of a young, somewhat nerdish couple stranded by a storm at his spooky mansion. Rocky Horror's soundtrack album also proved a popular favorite and brought Curry's voice into the homes of many young music fans.
After Rocky Horror brought him to the public attention, Curry put much effort into making a career for himself as a rock musician. He told People that he "turned down a lot of roles to make time to record and tour." His albums include Read My Lips and Fearless, and he scored a hit single with "I Do the Rock" in 1979. But after 1981 Curry returned his concentration to stage and film. In that year he was cast in the British National Theatre version of the Broadway play about the life of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Amadeus. The role was not as far a cry from Frank N. Furter as one might think; playwright Peter Schaffer expanded on historical sources that portrayed Mozart as somewhat immature. In the play, Curry explained to People, "I [went] from being an insufferable boor to a truly tragic figure." Schaffer hailed Curry's performance as "seamless," according to People. The singer/actor's other stage credits include the operatic version of playwright William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Travesties.
As for Curry's motion picture career, one of his biggest successes since Rocky Horror was the 1986 film Legend. Though Legend proved a big box office draw, it was not a critical favorite. Nevertheless, Time reviewer Richard Corliss had praise for Curry's appearance as the film's wicked antagonist: "The Lord of Darkness. . . begins to work his evil alchemy. And the film. . . comes to seductive life." When the hero and heroine defeat the Lord of Darkness, Corliss claims, "their victory rings hollow," because while the evil lord was trying to lead the heroine astray, the film was "a bedtime story peopled with creatures of enticement and desire."
Another musical film featuring Curry's talents was 1988's Pass the Ammo. Though not a widely released film, it garnered good reviews, including that of Kael, who wanted to see more of Curry in it: "It's too bad that his role diminishes as Pass the Ammo gets underway." Curry portrayed a dishonest television preachers Kael reported, "his curly, dimply smile [is] so elfishly dirty that it's as if he were lighted by hellfire." But Curry has also had more serious, and less mischievous roles; he starred as the famous playwright in the British Broadcasting Corporation television biography of William Shakespeare, and provided the main voice for the animated children's film Abel's Island.
(With cast) The Rocky Horror Picture Show (includes "Sweet Transvestite" and "I Can Make You a Man"), Ode Records, 1975.
Read My Ups, A & M, 1978.
Fearless (including "I Do the Rock"), A & M, 1979.
Also recorded another album for A & M, c. 1981.
The Best of Tim Curry (compilation: on CD and cassette only)
New Yorker, April 4, 1988.
People, February 16, 1981; June 20, 1988.
Time, March 24, 1975; May 12, 1986.