Janet Leigh

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Janet Leigh
The Naked Spur-Janet Leigh.JPG
Leigh in The Naked Spur (1953)
Born Jeanette Helen Morrison
(1927-07-06)July 6, 1927
Merced, California, U.S.
Died October 3, 2004(2004-10-03) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Vasculitis
Resting place Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Occupation Actress, singer, dancer, author
Years active 1947–2004
Spouse(s) John Carlisle
(m. 1942; annulled 1942)

Stanley Reames
(m. 1945; div. 1949)

Tony Curtis
(m. 1951; div. 1962)

Robert Brandt
(m. 1962; her death 2004)
Children Kelly Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis

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.

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 actor Tony 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 Curtis: 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 age 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[edit]

The only child of Helen Lita (née Westergaard) and Frederick Robert Morrison, Leigh was born Jeanette Helen Morrison in Merced, California, she was raised in Stockton, California where she attended Weber Grammar School, Stockton High School and both San Joaquin Delta College and College of the Pacific (now University of the Pacific).[1] Her maternal grandparents were immigrants from Denmark,[2] and she also had Scots-Irish and German ancestry.[3] 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."[4] Leigh left the College of the Pacific, where she was studying Music and Psychology from 1943-46,[5] after Wasserman secured a contract with MGM, despite having no acting experience. She was placed under the tutelage of drama coach Lillian Burns.[6]



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[7] at age 19[8] was in the program's production "All Through the House," December 24, 1946.[9] 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.[6] 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.[10] However, Johnson did not like the name and it was finally changed back to "Janet Leigh" (pronounced "Lee").[10] Leigh initially left college for a film career, but enrolled in night school at the University of Southern California in 1947.[11]

Immediately after the film's release, Leigh was cast opposite Walter Pidgeon and Deborah Kerr in If Winter Comes in the summer of 1947.[12] 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,[13] 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.[14] 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;[15] in late 1948, Leigh was hailed the "No. 1 glamour girl" of Hollywood, although known for her polite, generous and down-to-earth persona.[16]

Many movies followed, notably the box-office hit Little Women (1949), 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.[17]

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.[18]

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;[19] 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 television 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.

As Marion Crane in Psycho (1960)

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 television 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 role for mainstream television at the time. The two-part episode was released in Europe as a feature film entitled The Spy in the Green Hat (1967), she also appeared in the title role in The Virginian episode "Jenny" (1970), the Murder, She Wrote episode "Doom with a View" (1987), as Barbara LeMay in an episode of The Twilight Zone (1989) and the Touched by an Angel episode "Charade" (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[edit]

At age 15, Leigh married 18-year-old John Kenneth Carlisle in Reno, Nevada, on August 1, 1942,[20] the marriage was annulled four months later, on December 28, 1942.[20] 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,[21] 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.

Memorial at Janet Leigh Plaza in Downtown Stockton

Leigh was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, on May 14, 2004. On October 13, 2006, Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis unveiled a bronze plaque of their mother to honor her early life in Stockton, the memorial is located in the downtown Stockton plaza adjacent to the City Center Cinemas, since renamed "Janet Leigh Plaza".

Leigh was honored posthumously by University of the Pacific with the naming of the "Janet Leigh Theatre" on the Stockton campus on June 25, 2010, the plaque at the theatre reads as follows "Pacific's Janet Leigh Theatre - Made possible by a generous gift from the Robert Brandt and Janet Leigh Brandt Estate. The Janet Leigh Theatre was created to bind the experiences and friendships that Janet Leigh valued while a student at Pacific, this memorial is a tribute to her life and career in the Stockton region as well as her magnificent contributions to the Hollywood film industry as an actress, wife, mother and humanitarian. Dedicated Friday, June 25, 2010."[22]

Leigh was a Democrat and appeared alongside Tony Curtis at the 1960 Democratic National Convention.[23]


Janet Leigh's grave

Leigh died at her home in Los Angeles on October 3, 2004, at age 77, from vasculitis,[24] her body was cremated, and its ashes were interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.[25]


Theatrical films[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1947 The Romance of Rosy Ridge Lissy Anne MacBean
1947 If Winter Comes Effie Bright
1948 Hills of Home Margit Mitchell Alternative titles: Danger in the Hills and Master of Lassie
1948 Words and Music Dorothy Feiner Rodgers
1949 How to Smuggle a Hernia Across the Border Short film
1949 Act of Violence Edith Enley
1949 Little Women Meg March
1949 The Red Danube Maria Buhlen
1949 The Doctor and the Girl Evelyn Heldon Alternative title: Bodies and Souls
1949 That Forsyte Woman June Forsyte Alternative title: The Forsyte Saga
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 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 Vargas
1958 The Vikings Morgana
1958 The Perfect Furlough Lt. Vicki Loren
1960 Who Was That Lady? Ann Wilson Laurel Award for Top Female Comedy Performance (4th place)
1960 Psycho Marion Crane Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance (2nd place)
Nominated-Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1960 Pepe Herself (cameo) Laurel Award for Top Female Comedy Performance
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 Alternative title: The Moving Target
1966 Three on a Couch Dr. Elizabeth Acord
1966 An American Dream Cherry McMahon Alternative title: See You in Hell, Darling
1967 The Spy in the Green Hat Miss Diketon
1967 Grand Slam Mary Ann Alternative title: Ad ogni costo
1969 Hello Down There Vivian Miller Alternative title: Sub-A-Dub-Dub
1972 One Is a Lonely Number Gert Meredith Alternative title: Two Is a Happy Number
1972 Night of the Lepus Gerry Bennett Alternative title: Rabbits
1979 Boardwalk Florence Cohen
1980 The Fog Kathy Williams
1998 Halloween H20: 20 Years Later Norma Watson
2005 Bad Girls from Valley High Mrs. Witt Final film role (filmed in 2000; released posthumously)


Year Title Role Notes
1957 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Mother Episode - "Carriage from Britain"
1964 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Carol Hartley Episode - "Murder in the First"
1966 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Virginia Ballard Episode - "Dear Deductible"
1966 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Miss Diketon Episode - "The Concrete Overcoat Affair"
1966 The Red Skelton Show Daisy June Episode - "Jerk Be Nimble"
1968 The Danny Thomas Hour Liza Merrick Episode - "One for My Baby"
1969 The Monk Janice Barnes Television film
1969 The Red Skelton Show Clara Appleby Episode - "It's Better to Have Loved and Lost - Much Better"
1969 Honeymoon with a Stranger Sandra Latham Television film
1970 House on Greenapple Road Marian Ord Television film
1970 The Virginian Jenny Davis Episode - "Jenny"
1970 Bracken's World Maggie Morgan Episode - "The Anonymous Star"
1971 The Name of the Game Glory Bates Episode - "The Man Who Killed a Ghost"
1971 My Wives Jane Jane Franklin Television pilot
1971 The Deadly Dream Laurel Hanley Television film
1973 Circle of Fear Carol Episode - "Death's Head"
1973 Murdock's Gang Laura Talbot Television film
1973 Love Story Leonie Episode - "Beginner's Luck"
1975 Movin' On Nina Smith Episode - "Weddin' Bells"
1975 Columbo Grace Wheeler Episode - "Forgotten Lady"
1977 Murder at the World Series Karen Weese Television film
1977 Telethon Elaine Cotten Television film
1978 The Love Boat Gail Episode - "Till Death Do Us Part-Maybe/Locked Away/Chubs"
1979 Fantasy Island Carol Gates Episode - "Birthday Party/Ghostbreaker"
1979 Mirror, Mirror Millie Gorman Television film
1982 Tales of the Unexpected Joan Stackpole Episode - "Light Fingers"
1982 Matt Houston Ramona Launders Episode - "Who Would Kill Ramona?"
1982 Fantasy Island Suzanne King Episode - "Roller Derby Dolls/Thanks a Million"
1985 The Love Boat Joan Philipps Episode - "Instinct/Unmade for Each Other/BOS"
1985 On Our Way Kate Walsh Television film
1986 Starman Antonia Weyburn Episode - "Society's Pet"
1987 Murder, She Wrote Cornelia Montaigne Harper Episode - "Doom with a View"
1989 The Twilight Zone Barbara LeMay Episode - "Rendezvous in a Dark Place"
1997 Touched by an Angel Vera King Episode - "Charades"
1999 In My Sister's Shadow Kay Connor Television film
2001 Family Law Mary Sawyer Episode - "The Quality of Mercy"

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Title Episode
1952 Lux Radio Theatre Strictly Dishonorable [26]
1952 Stars in the Air Model Wife [27]



  1. ^ http://www.recordnet.com/article/20061014/NEWS01/610140323
  2. ^ There/Hollywood, page 6, 1985, by Janet Leigh
  3. ^ "German ancestry Politicians in California". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved May 14, 2015. 
  4. ^ "'Luckiest' Photograph Changed Whole Life for a College Girl", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 16, 1947, p. 1
  5. ^ http://www.pacific.edu/Campus-Life/Residential-Life-and-Housing/Campus-Facilities/Janet-Leigh-Theatre.html
  6. ^ a b "A Fairy Tale That Came True" by Victor Gunson, The Daily Times, October 3, 1946, p. 14
  7. ^ Dunning, John. (1976). Tune in Yesterday: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, 1925-1976. Prentice-Hall, Inc. ISBN 0-13-932616-2. pp. 283–284.
  8. ^ Molyneaux, Gerard (1995), Gregory Peck: A Bio-bibliography. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-28668-X. p. 214.
  9. ^ Capua, Michelangelo (2013). Janet Leigh: A Biography. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-7022-8. p. 228
  10. ^ a b "Hayward And Bacall Bid For Novel, 'Ronnie Harper'" by Sheilah Graham, The Miami News, December 2, 1946, p. 11
  11. ^ "Van's Leading Lady Returns to School", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 2, 1947
  12. ^ "If Winter Comes: Overview Article". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  13. ^ "Gadding About Hollywood" by Sheilah Graham, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 3, 1947
  14. ^ "Screen and Stage News" by Hedda Hopper, Toledo Blade, April 15, 1947
  15. ^ "Janet Leigh Wins Star Billing", Deseret News, January 26, 1948, p. 14
  16. ^ "MGM Convinces All Except Janet Leigh Of Her Glamor" by Virginia MacPherson, The Modesto Bee, November 22, 1948, p. 20
  17. ^ Janet Leigh Transition
  18. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (May 1, 1995). "'Psycho' in Janet Leigh's Psyche". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Leigh, Janet (1984). There Really Was a Hollywood. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0385190350. 
  20. ^ a b Carlisle v. Fawcett Publications, Inc., 201 Cal.App.2d 733. For dramatic reasons, an article "Janet Leigh's Own Story—″I Was a Child Bride at 14!″", in the December 1960 issue of Motion Picture Magazine, wrongly stated the marriage occurred in 1941, while she was only 14.
  21. ^ "Tony Curtis biography". biography.com. A&E Television Networks. Retrieved August 11, 2011. 
  22. ^ http://www.pacific.edu/Campus-Life/Residential-Life-and-Housing/Campus-Facilities/Janet-Leigh-Theatre.html/
  23. ^ Video on YouTube
  24. ^ Janet Leigh Dies at 77
  25. ^ Janet Leigh at Find a Grave
  26. ^ Kirby, Walter (December 7, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 52. Retrieved June 14, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  27. ^ Kirby, Walter (February 10, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 38. Retrieved June 2, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read

External links[edit]