Janet Leigh: American actress (1927 - 2004) | Biography
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Janet Leigh
American actress

Janet Leigh

Janet Leigh
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American actress
A.K.A. Jeanette Helen Morrison
Was Actor Stage actor Television actor
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender female
Birth 6 July 1927, Merced
Death 3 October 2004, Beverly Hills (aged 77 years)
Spouse: Tony Curtis
Children: Kelly CurtisJamie Lee Curtis
Janet Leigh
The details (from wikipedia)


Janet Leigh (born Jeanette Helen Morrison; July 6, 1927 – October 3, 2004) was an American actress, singer, dancer and author. She is best remembered for her performance in Psycho, for which she was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and received an Academy Award nomination. She was the first wife of actor Tony Curtis and the mother of Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Discovered by actress Norma Shearer, Leigh made her acting debut on radio in 1946 and secured a contract with MGM the following year. Early in her career she appeared in popular films spanning a wide variety of genres, including Act of Violence (1948), Little Women (1949), Angels in the Outfield (1951), Scaramouche (1952), The Naked Spur (1953) and Living It Up (1954). She played mostly dramatic roles during the latter half of the 1950s, in such films as Safari (1956) and Touch of Evil (1958), but achieved her most lasting recognition as the doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960).
Her highly publicized marriage to Curtis ended in divorce in 1962, and after starring in The Manchurian Candidate that same year, Leigh scaled back her career. Intermittently, she continued to appear in notable films, including Bye Bye Birdie (1963), Harper (1966) and Night of the Lepus (1972) as well as two films with her daughter, Jamie Lee: The Fog (1980) and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998). She also wrote four books between 1984 and 2002, including two novels.
Leigh died in 2004 at the age of 77, following a year-long battle with vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels. Among her survivors was her husband of 42 years, Robert Brandt.

Early life

The only child of Helen Lita (née Westergaard) and Frederick Robert Morrison, Leigh was born Jeanette Helen Morrison in Merced, California, where she also grew up. Her maternal grandparents were immigrants from Denmark, and she also had Scots-Irish and German ancestry. In winter 1945, she was discovered by actress Norma Shearer, whose late husband Irving Thalberg had been a senior executive at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 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 College of the Pacific, where she was studying Music and Psychology, after Wasserman secured a contract with MGM, despite having no acting experience. She was placed under the tutelage of drama coach Lillian Burns.



Leigh in the trailer for Little Women (1949)

Prior to beginning her movie career, Leigh was a guest star on the radio dramatic anthology The Cresta Blanca Hollywood Players. Her initial appearance on radio at age 19 was in the program's production "All Through the House," December 24, 1946. Leigh made her film debut in the big budget film The Romance of Rosy Ridge in 1947, as the romantic interest of Van Johnson's character. She got the role when performing Phyllis Thaxter's long speech in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo for the head of the studio talent department. During the shooting, Leigh's name was first changed to "Jeanette Reames", then to "Janet Leigh" and finally back to her birth name "Jeanette Morrison", because "Janet Leigh" resembled Vivien Leigh too much. However, Johnson did not like the name and it was finally changed back to "Janet Leigh". Leigh initially left college for a film career, but enrolled in night school at the University of Southern California in 1947.

Immediately after the film's release, Leigh was cast opposite Walter Pidgeon and Deborah Kerr in If Winter Comes in the summer of 1947. Furthermore, due to the box office success of The Romance of Rosy Ridge, Leigh and Johnson were teamed up again in a film project called The Life of Monty Stratton in August 1947. The project was eventually shelved and released in 1949 as The Stratton Story, starring James Stewart and June Allyson. Another film that Leigh was set to star in, before being replaced, was Alias a Gentleman, in which she was cast in April 1947. By late 1947, Leigh was occupied with the shooting of the Lassie film Hills of Home (1948), the first film in which she received star billing. In late 1948, Leigh was hailed the "No. 1 glamour girl" of Hollywood, although known for her polite, generous and down-to-earth persona.

Many movies followed, notably the 1949 box-office hit Little Women, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott. She proved versatile, starring in films as diverse as the baseball farce Angels in the Outfield in 1951 and the tense western The Naked Spur in 1953. The following year, she had a supporting role in the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy Living It Up. In 1955, Leigh played the title role in the musical comedy My Sister Eileen, co-starring Jack Lemmon, Betty Garrett and Dick York.

Her initial roles were ingenues based on characters from historical literature, for example in Scaramouche opposite Stewart Granger. By 1956, she moved to more complex roles, such as the role of Linda Latham in Safari opposite Victor Mature.

She co-starred with then-husband Tony Curtis in five films, Houdini (1953), The Black Shield of Falworth (1954), The Vikings (1958), The Perfect Furlough (1958), and Who Was That Lady? (1960). They also had cameos together in a sixth film, Pepe (1960).

In 1958, Leigh starred as Susan Vargas in the Orson Welles film noir classic Touch of Evil (1958) with Charlton Heston, a film with numerous similarities to Alfred Hitchcock's later film Psycho, which was produced two years after Touch of Evil.

In Touch of Evil (1958)

Her most famous role was as the morally ambiguous Marion Crane, co-starring with John Gavin and Anthony Perkins, in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), featuring its iconic shower murder scene. The fact that the star died early in the movie violated narrative conventions of the time. She received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. Leigh was so traumatized by the shower scene that she went to great lengths to avoid showers for the rest of her life.

Leigh had starring roles in many other films, including the stark drama The Manchurian Candidate (1962) with Frank Sinatra, and the musical comedy Bye Bye Birdie (1963) based on the hit Broadway show. Following those two films, the recently divorced/remarried Leigh took a break from her acting career and turned down several roles, including the role of Simone Clouseau in The Pink Panther, because she didn't want to go off on location and away from her family. In 1966, she portrayed Paul Newman's estranged wife in the private-detective story Harper and reteamed with Jerry Lewis for the comedy Three on a Couch.

Leigh worked frequently in television from the late 1960s onward. Her initial TV appearances were on anthology programs such as Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre and The Red Skelton Hour, and later, Tales of the Unexpected. She also starred in several made-for-TV films, most notably the off-length (135 minutes instead of the usual 100) The House on Greenapple Road, which premiered on ABC in January 1970 to high ratings.

In 1972, Leigh starred in the science fiction film Night of the Lepus with Stuart Whitman as well as the drama One Is a Lonely Number with Trish Van Devere. In 1975, she played a retired Hollywood song and dance star opposite Peter Falk and John Payne in the Columbo episode Forgotten Lady. The episode utilizes footage of Leigh from the film Walking My Baby Back Home (1953).

Her many guest appearances on TV series include The Man From U.N.C.L.E. two-part episode, "The Concrete Overcoat Affair", in which she played a sadistic Thrush agent named Miss Dyketon, a highly provocative part for mainstream TV at the time. The two-part episode was released in Europe as a feature film in 1967, entitled The Spy in the Green Hat. She also appeared in the title role in the 1970 episode "Jenny" of The Virginian, the Murder, She Wrote 1987 episode, "Doom with a View", as "Barbara LeMay" in an episode of The Twilight Zone in 1989 and the Touched by an Angel episode, "Charade", in 1997. She guest-starred twice as different characters on both Fantasy Island and The Love Boat. In 1973, she appeared in the episode "Beginner's Luck" of the romantic anthology series Love Story.

Leigh appeared in two horror films with her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, playing a major role in The Fog (1980), and making a brief cameo appearance in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998). Her final film was Bad Girls from Valley High (2005).


Leigh is also the author of four books. Her first, the memoir There Really Was a Hollywood (1984), became a New York Times bestseller. In 1995, she published the non-fiction book Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller. In 1996, she published her first novel, House of Destiny, which explored the lives of two friends who forged an empire that would change the course of Hollywood’s history. The book's success spawned a follow-up novel, The Dream Factory (2002), which was set in Hollywood during the height of the studio system.

Personal life

At the age of 15 (pretending to be 18) Leigh married 18-year-old John Kenneth Carlisle in Reno, Nevada, on August 1, 1942. The marriage was annulled four months later, on December 28, 1942. She married Stanley Reames October 5, 1945 at the age of 18 and they were divorced on September 7, 1949.

On June 4, 1951, Leigh married actor Tony Curtis. They had two children, Kelly and Jamie Lee, who both subsequently became actresses. Curtis had divorce papers served to Leigh on the set of The Manchurian Candidate. On September 15, 1962, shortly after it was finalized, Leigh married stockbroker Robert Brandt in Las Vegas. They remained married for 42 years until her death in 2004.

She served on the board of directors of the Motion Picture and Television Foundation, a medical-services provider for actors.

Leigh was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, on May 14, 2004.

Leigh was a Democrat and appeared alongside Tony Curtis at the 1960 Democratic National Convention.


Janet Leigh's grave

Leigh died at her home in Los Angeles on October 3, 2004, in her 77th year, after suffering a heart attack. Her body was cremated, and its ashes were interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.


Feature films
Year Title Role
1947 The Romance of Rosy Ridge Lissy Anne MacBean
1947 If Winter Comes Effie Bright
1948 Hills of Home Margit Mitchell
1948 Words and Music Dorothy Feiner Rodgers
1948 Act of Violence Edith Enley
1949 Little Women Margaret 'Meg' March/Brooke
1949 The Red Danube Olga Alexandrova a.k.a. Maria Buhlen
1949 The Doctor and the Girl Evelyn 'Taffy' Heldon
1949 That Forsyte Woman June Forsyte
1949 Holiday Affair Connie Ennis
1951 Strictly Dishonorable Isabelle Perry
1951 Angels in the Outfield Jennifer Paige
1951 Two Tickets to Broadway Nancy Peterson
1951 It's a Big Country Rosa Szabo Xenophon
1952 Just This Once Lucille 'Lucy' Duncan
1952 Scaramouche Aline de Gavrillac de Bourbon
1952 Fearless Fagan Abby Ames
1953 The Naked Spur Lina Patch
1953 Confidentially Connie Connie Bedloe
1953 Houdini Bess Houdini
1953 Walking My Baby Back Home Chris Hall
1954 Prince Valiant Princess Aleta
1954 Living It Up Wally Cook
1954 The Black Shield of Falworth Lady Anne
1954 Rogue Cop Karen Stephanson
1955 Pete Kelly's Blues Ivy Conrad
1955 My Sister Eileen Eileen Sherwood
1956 Safari Linda Latham
1957 Jet Pilot Lt. Anna Marladovna Shannon / Olga Orlief
1958 Touch of Evil Susan 'Susie' Vargas
1958 The Vikings Morgana
1958 The Perfect Furlough Lt. Vicki Loren
1960 Who Was That Lady? Ann Wilson
1960 Psycho Marion Crane
1960 Pepe Cameo
1962 The Manchurian Candidate Eugenie Rose Chaney
1963 Bye Bye Birdie Rosie DeLeon
1963 Wives and Lovers Bertie Austin
1966 Kid Rodelo Nora
1966 Harper Susan Harper
1966 Three on a Couch Dr. Elizabeth Acord
1966 An American Dream Cherry McMahon
1966 The Spy in the Green Hat Miss Diketon
1967 Grand Slam Mary Ann
1969 Hello Down There (a.k.a. Sub-A-Dub-Dub) Vivian Miller
1972 One Is a Lonely Number (a.k.a. Two Is a Happy Number) Gert Meredith
1972 Night of the Lepus Gerry Bennett
1979 Boardwalk Florence Cohen
1980 The Fog Kathy Williams
1985 The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal Herself
1998 Halloween H20: 20 Years Later Norma Watson
2005 Bad Girls from Valley High (filmed in 2000) Mrs. Witt
Television films
Year Title Role
1955 What's My Line? guest panelist
1969 The Monk Janice Barnes
1969 Honeymoon with a Stranger Sandra Latham
1970 The House on Greenapple Road Marian Ord
1971 My Wives Jane Jane Franklin
1971 Deadly Dream Laurel Hanley
1973 Murdock's Gang Laura Talbot
1975 Columbo: Forgotten Lady Grace Wheeler
1977 Murder at the World Series Karen Weese
1977 Telethon Elaine Cotte
1978 'The Love Boat - Til Death Do Us Part' Gail
1979 Mirror, Mirror Millie Gorman
1985 On Our Way Kate Walsh
1998 In My Sister's Shadow Kay Connor

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Lux Radio Theatre Strictly Dishonorable
1952 Stars in the Air Model Wife


  • There Really Was a Hollywood (Autobiography) (Doubleday, 1984)
  • Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller (Harmony, 1995)
  • House of Destiny (novel) (1996)
  • The Dream Factory (novel) (Mira, 2002)

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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