Janet Leigh (born Jeanette Helen Morrison; July 6, 1927 – October 3, 2004) was an American actress. She was the mother of Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Discovered by actress Norma Shearer, Leigh secured a contract with MGM and began her film career in 1947. She appeared in several popular films over the following decade, including Little Women (1949), Holiday Affair (1949), Angels in the Outfield (1951), and Living It Up (1954).
In 1951, she married actor Tony Curtis, her third husband, with whom she co-starred in five films, including Houdini (1953), The Black Shield of Falworth (1954), The Vikings and The Perfect Furlough (1958). During the latter half of the 1950s, she played mostly dramatic roles in such films as Safari (1955), Touch of Evil (1958) and Psycho (1960), for which she was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She continued to appear occasionally in films and television, including The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and two films with her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis: The Fog (1980) and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998).
The only child of Helen Lita and Frederick Robert Morrison, Leigh was born as Jeanette Helen Morrison in Merced, California, and grew up in Stockton, California. Her maternal grandparents were immigrants from Denmark. 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 University 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 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 (1944) for the head of the studio talent department in 1946. 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 (1947) 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 glamor girl' of Hollywood, although known for her polite, generous and down-to-earth persona.
Many movies followed, notably the title role in the musical comedy My Sister Eileen, co-starring Jack Lemmon, Betty Garrett and Dick York. 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.
Her best-known performance was as "Marion Crane" in the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho (1960). 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.
In 1975, Leigh 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). Some of her TV appearances include The Man From U.N.C.L.E. two-part episode, "The Concrete Overcoat Affair", in 1966, and the Murder, She Wrote 1987 episode, "Doom with a View". 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).
Leigh is also 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. Leigh's daughter Jamie Lee Curtis is also an actress and popular author.
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