Curtis was born Richard Dye in Newport, Kentucky. Standing at 6' 3", Curtis appeared in films stretching from Charles Starrett to The Three Stooges. In most of his films, he played villains or heavies. He made television appearances on The Lone Ranger and The Range Rider. He appeared in California Gold Rush, Spook Town, The Gene Autry Show, and many others.
Though his forte was in villainous roles, Curtis had a genuine comedic touch. As such, modern audiences will recognize Curtis for his roles in such Three Stooges films as Yes, We Have No Bonanza, You Nazty Spy!, and The Three Troubledoers.
With the help of his friend and actor Russell Hayden, Curtis helped develop Pioneertown, a western movie set location in Southern California that was used for many television and film westerns.
Curtis died of pneumonia, brought on by lung cancer, on January 3, 1952, fifteen days before Curly Howard, and two months before fellow Stooge character actor Eddie Laughton in March, who also died of pneumonia. Curtis’s final appearance with the Stooges was as Shemp Howard's dental patient in The Tooth Will Out.
He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.