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Janet Leigh: Young 'Psycho' Victim And Jamie Lee Curtis' Mom

Entertainment | July 6, 2020

Janet Leigh on the set of Jet Pilot, directed by Josef von Sternberg. (Photo by R.K.O. Radio/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Janet Leigh's Psycho (1960) performance -- shower scene and all -- was her most memorable screen moment, but the young actress appeared in dozens more films, including Touch Of Evil (1958), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and Bye Bye Birdie (1963). Leigh's personal life also made her the subject of press coverage and public fascination -- she was married to actor Tony Curtis for over a decade, and one of their daughters is the actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

Source: (reddit)

Janet Leigh was born Jeanette Helen Morrison in 1927 in Merced, California. She grew up in apartments as her parents moved around quite a bit. She was a smart child, finishing high school by the age of 15 and spent much of her time watching movies. After her high school graduation, she went to the University of the Pacific and studied music and psychology. While in college, she worked in stores and manned the information desk at the college, helping to support her parents financially. Her parents both worked at the Sugar Bowl, a ski resort, with her father working the desk and her mother working as a maid. Norma Shearer was at the resort in the winter of 1945-46 and saw a picture of Leigh, which she asked if she could borrow. This led to a screen test for MGM and they gave her an acting contract, despite her lack of experience. She left college and began working with an acting coach, although she did begin to attend night classes in 1947 at the University of Southern California. In 2004, she would be given an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from University of the Pacific.

Janet Leigh Started In Radio

With Van Johnson in The Romance of Rosy Ridge. Source: (Pinterest)

Before her acting career began, she worked on radio, with a guest role on The Cresta Blanca Hollywood Players in 1946. Her first acting role was a starring role in The Romance of Rosy Ridge in 1947. She played a young, naïve country girl, a role she seemed quite suited for. This began a string of roles in the ‘40s and ‘50s, including her role as Meg alongside Elizabeth Taylor in Little Women. She also appeared in Orson Welles’ noir film Touch of Evil in 1953. Some of her early films received positive critical attention.

Her Best Known Role, And An Iconic Scene

With Anthony Perkins in Psycho. Source: (Paramount via IMDB)

Although she appeared in more than 80 roles throughout her career, she is best known for playing Marion Crane in Psycho. For her role in Psycho, she did not inquire about her salary, but simply took the part at a quarter of her normal pay because it was a film by Hitchcock. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the film and received a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Her murder scene in the film is still considered iconic. Incidentally, she had to stand in the shower for a week for that scene.

'Psycho' Was Definitely Not The End

In Bye, Bye Birdie with Dick Van Dyke. Source: (IMDb).

After Psycho, she appeared in The Manchurian Candidate (1962), the musical Bye, Bye Birdie (1963), and Wives and Lovers (1963) before taking a break in 1963 to take care of her two daughters. She returned to film in 1966, starring in a number of films. She also began appearing on television, often in anthology programs such as Tales of the Unexpected as well as making guest appearances on multiple shows, including The Twilight Zone, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island.

Jamie Lee Curtis Followed In Her Footsteps

With Tony Curtis and their daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis. Source: (IMDb).

In 1980, she acted alongside her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis in John Carpenter’s The Fog, and then again in 1998, in Halloween H20:  Twenty Years Later, when she played the role of Laurie’s secretary.   

Janet Leigh Was Married Four Times

With Donald O'Connor in Walking My Baby Home. Source: (IMDb)

Leigh was married four times, two of them before she found Hollywood fame. Her first marriage was when she was 15, to Kenneth Carlisle although she annulled the marriage a few months later. In 1945, when she was 18, she married again, this time to Stanley Reames, a sailor. This marriage lasted four years.  

Tony Curtis And Janet Leigh, Celebrity Couple

With Tony Curtis at the Academy Awards. Source: (Wikipedia)

When she started her romance with Tony Curtis, whom she met at a party, her love life was fodder for Hollywood gossips, but the studio executives spent three days trying to talk him out of marriage, claiming that it would damage his career. However, they eloped on June 4, 1951. Their friend Jerry Lewis acted as their witness. The couple had two daughters, Kelly and Jamie Lee, who went on to follow in her parents’ footsteps. The marriage came to an end in 1962 when Curtis served her divorce papers while she was on the set of The Manchurian Candidate. According to Curtis the divorce happened because he “realized that whatever I was, I wasn’t enough for Janet. That hurt me a lot and broke my heart.” Reportedly, she was heartbroken after the divorce, but this did not stop her from marrying again, the day after her divorce was finalized. This final marriage, which lasted until her death, was to a stockbroker, Robert Brandt.

She Was An Author As Well

Source: (wikipedia)

In addition to her acting career, Leigh wrote four books during her lifetime. Her first was a biography: There Really Was a Hollywood in 1984. This was followed by Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller in 1995. Finally, she wrote two novels: House of Destiny, which was followed by its sequel, The Dream Factory.

Her final film credit came for the direct-to-video film Bad Girls from Valley High, opposite Christopher Lloyd in 2005. She died at home on October 3, 2004 of vasculitis

Tags: Celebrity Couples | Jamie Lee Curtis | Janet Leigh | Ladies | Psycho | Tony Curtis

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!