Filled Under: Janet Leigh
“I don’t know what it is I exude. But whatever it is, it’s whatever I am!” ~ Janet Leigh
Janet Leigh was born Jeanette Helen Morrison on July 6, 1927 in Merced, California. The only child of Helen Lita and Frederick Robert Morrison she grew up in Stockton, California. Her maternal grandparents were immigrants from Denmark. Leigh was a bright kid who skipped several grades and finished high school when she was fifteen. She was a student at the University of the Pacific when in 1945, she was discovered by actress Norma Shearer, whose late husband Irving Thalberg had been a senior executive at MGM. Shearer showed talent agent Lew Wasserman a photograph she had seen of Leigh while vacationing at Sugar Bowl, the ski resort where the girl’s parents worked. Shearer later recalled that “that smile made it the most fascinating face I had seen in years. I felt I had to show that face to somebody at the studio.” Leigh left the University of the Pacific after Wasserman secured a contract with MGM and she was placed under the tutelage of drama coach Lillian Burns. Leigh made her film debut in the big budget film “The Romance of Rosy Ridge” in 1947 opposite Van Johnson. She went on to appear in a number of successful films over the following decade, among them “Words and Music” (1948), “Act of Violence” (1948), “Little Women” (1949), “Holiday Affair” (1949), “Angels in the Outfield” (1951), “Scaramouche” (1952), “The Naked Spur” (1953), “Living It Up” (1954), “My Sister Eileen”(1955), “Safari” (1956), and the Orson Welles film noir classic “Touch of Evil” (1958).
In 1951, Leigh married actor Tony Curtis, her third husband, with whom she co-starred in five films; “Houdini” (1953), “The Black Shield of Falworth” (1954), “The Vikings” (1958), “The Perfect Furlough” (1958) and “Who Was That Lady” (1960). Leigh is probably best remembered for the forty minutes she was on screen in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960). Even though her character was killed off early in the picture, she won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress.
Leigh had starring roles in several more films, including “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) with Frank Sinatra, and “Bye Bye Birdie” (1963) which was based on the hit Broadway show of the same name. She also appeared in two horror films with her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, playing a major role in “The Fog” (1980) and making a brief appearance in “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” (1998). Janet Leigh also appeared in many Television movies and shows during her career. All told, Leigh was in fifty-one major Hollywood films and has thirty-five credits on television movies/shows in a career that spanned almost sixty years.
Janet Leigh was married four times. In 1941, at the age of 14, Leigh married John Kenneth Carlisle . The marriage was annulled the same year. She then married Stanley Reames in 1945 and they were divorced in 1948. Leigh married her third husband, Tony Curtis, on June 4, 1951. They had two children, Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis, who both have become actresses. Leigh and Curtis divorced in 1962. After divorcing Curtis, Leigh married stockbroker Robert Brandt in Las Vegas in 1962. They remained married until her death.
Leigh is the author of four books. Her first, the memoir “There Really Was a Hollywood”, was a New York Times bestseller. This was followed by the novels “House of Destiny” and “The Dream Factory” and the non-fiction book “Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller”.
She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California on May 14, 2004.
Leigh died at her home in Los Angeles, California on October 3, 2004 after suffering a heart attack. She suffered from vasculitis and peripheral neuropathy, which caused her right hand to become gangrenous. Her ashes are buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.