11/17/2008 at 01:00 AM EST
Tony Curtis isn't one to brag about his acting chops. "I was a good-looking kid," he says. "That's the only reason I got into the movies." More than 150 of them, in fact, and a Hollywood high life to match: six wives, romances with starlets from Marilyn Monroe to Natalie Wood and six kids he admits he often failed.
Now 83, Curtis, who spends his days painting and helping sixth wife Jill rescue horses bound for slaughter, has written a memoir, American Prince. Modest or not, he has no doubts about his legacy. "Being someone who worked in such a way that he'll be remembered forever means a lot to me," he says. At his home near Las Vegas, he reminisced with PEOPLE's Mark Gray.