Legendary actress, Janet Leigh, was born Jeanette Helen Morrison on Jul 6, 1927 in Merced, CA. Leigh died at the age of 77 on Oct 3, 2004 in Beverly Hills, CA and was laid to rest in Westwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.
Janet Leigh was born Jeanette Helen Morrison on July 6th, 1927 in Merced, California. She was the only child of Helen and Frederick Morrison, who worked as an insurance man. Her childhood was marked by loneliness and seclusion. After the onset of the Great Depression, Leigh lived a nomadic childhood as her father was forced to move from town to town in order to maintain employment. Because of this, she found solace in the motion pictures houses, which she fondly recalls as her "babysitter." As a child, Janet took interest music and dancing, taking lessons in both and acted as baton twirler in her hometown marching band. She was also an attentive and bright student who skipped several grades early in her academic career. Despite this intelligence the 14 year old still had the heart of a teenager and ran away to Reno in order to marry her high school sweetheart, John Carlyle. The marriage, however, would be a short one as her mother found the newlyweds the day after their nuptials and had the union dissolved. Upon returning to California, she returned and graduated just shy of her 16th birthday. After graduating she attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California and studied both music and psychology.
Although Leigh had no acting ambitions, a ski trip to Northern California would change that forver. Both of Leigh's parents worked at the ski lodge, her father at the front desk and her mother as maid. It would happen by chance that retired MGM actress Norma Shearer would take notice of Janet's picture on her father's desk. Struck by the girls' beauty, Shearer arranged for her to take a screen-test. Soon after, Leigh quite college, packed her bags, and headed to Hollywood to sigh a contract with MGM studios. Because of her extremely limited acting experience she was immediately put in lessons with acting coach, Lillian Burns.
After a year of working on her craft on the MGM lot, Leigh made her screen debut in the 1947 Civil War drama Roy Rowland film The Romance of Rosy Ridge. In the film Leigh played the "girl-next-door" love interest to leading MGM star, Van Johnson. The film was moderate hit and MGM had found their newest starlet, casting her in the trope of ingenue for the formative years of her career. Her next film was opposite Walter Pidgeon, Deborah Kerr, and Angela Lansbury in the Victor Saville film If Winter Comes. In the film she played Effie Bright, an emotionally stressed pregnant woman who runs to Walter Pidgeon's character, Mark, for help. In 1948 she was cast as Dorothy Feiner Rodgers, the wife of famed composer Richard Rodgers, in the star studded musical bio-pic Words and Music. Later that year she starred in the in the fourth installment of the Lassie series, Hills of Home, marking the first time she received star billing.
The next year Leigh would co-star in the 1949 Technicolor big screen adaptation of the Louis May Alcott novel Little Women. In the film she played the beautiful eldest of the March sisters, Meg, opposite the well-established young starlets Elizabeth Taylor, June Allyson, and Margaret O' Brien. The film was a massive success and Leigh received praise for her restrained performance. That same year she starred opposite Greer Garson and Errol in the box-office flop That Forsythe Woman. Despite its box office failure, and overwhelmingly negative reviews, Leigh was singled out by the critics as one of the films only saving graces. With success of Little Women, the start of the new decade would bring roles a wide variety of films for the young actress, even if her roles themselves would be largely decorative as the beautiful ingenue. The 1950s would also bring her a new husband, as she married fellow rising star, Tony Curtis in 1951.There marriage created a whirlwind of media hype with the tabloid and trade papers dubbed them "Hollywood's perfect couple." The same year she starred in three films, Strictly Dishonorable, Angels in the Outfield and Two Tickets to Broadway. In 1952 she starred opposite Stewart Granger and Eleanor Parker in the swashbuckling action/adventure film Scaramouche. In 1953 Leigh broke from her typical ingenue role and starred opposite James Stewart and Robert Ryan in the Anthony Mann Western Thriller The Naked Spur. That year she also starred with Hubby Tony Curtis in the highly fictionalized bio-pic, Houdini. The couple would team up again in 1954 for the action/adventure period piece The Black Shield of Falworth but was once again relegated to the role of ornamental ingenue.
After a decade of mostly romantic comedies and swashbuckling period pieces, by the end of the decade Leigh was beginning to be cast in more dramatic pieces. In 1958 she demonstrated her acting prowess in the Orson Welles noir Touch of Evil. In the film, Leigh shed her girl next-door image as Susan Varges, the newly minted wife of Mexican Narcotics officer played by Charlton Heston. With the film Leigh not only showed her improved acting chops when her character was kidnapped and tortured by a gang of local criminal, but also added a layer of sexuality missing from her earlier ingÃÂÃÂ©nue roles. Although the film was a box-office and critical failure at the time of its release, it has since been re-edited to fit Orson Welles original intentions and is now hailed as on the of the greatest film noir pieces of all time. Although the film solidified Leigh as a serious actress, it would be another that would another solidify her place in all of film and pop culture history.
In 1960 Leigh was cast in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Psycho. The film would go on to revolutionize not only the genres of thriller and horror but the use of film form all together. In the film Leigh plays Marion Crane, a trusted office worker who ends up stealing $40,000 of her bosses money. In daring act of film genius, Hitchcock did the unthinkable by killing her character, the lead protagonist, 40 minutes into the film and it is that very death which placed her in the lexicon of film history. The infamous shower scene was a revelation in film editing. Thanks to its lighting fasts cuts, suggestion of violence, and hard-hitting Bernard Herrmann score, the scene has been shown in countless film classes thought out the world and remains one of the most important moments in all of film history. For her efforts in cinemas most memorable scene, Leigh would receive the only Oscar nomination of her career and would go on to win the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Leigh would once again put her dramatic skills on display in the 1962 John Frankenheimer film The Manchurian Candidate. Despite her dramatic successes, Leigh's personal life was beginning to crumble as her 11-year marriage to Tony Curtis came to an end.
Later Career and Life
In 1963 Leigh returned to light comedy with the big screen adaption of the Broadway hit Bye Bye Birdie. However, after her divorce from Curtis, Leigh's priorities began to shift from acting to family life. Although she still worked in films such as Kid Rodelo, Harper, and See You in Hell, Darling, by the mid 1960s Leigh's began working in mostly the television industry. She rounded out the decade by guest starring in series such as The Jerry Lewis Show, The Danny Thomas Show, and The Bob Hope Show. Her M.O didn't change much in the 1970's and Leigh continued to shy away from features in favor of the relative ease of television, guest starring in series such as Murdock's Gang, Love Story, and Columbo. In 1980 she returned to big screen to star with her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, in The Fog. Four years later she released her autobiography There Really Was a Hollywood. This would lead to moderately successful as a writer, authoring novels such as House of Destiny and The Dream Factory. In her twilight years of life, on May 14th, 2004, Leigh was warded an honorary degree from her former school of choice, University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. Janet Leigh died on October 3rd, 2004 of a heart attack in her California home. She was 77 years old.(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).
HONORS and AWARDS:.
Although Leigh was nominated for one Oscar, she never won a competitive Academy Award.
|1960||Best Supporting Actress||Psycho (1960)||Marion Crane||Nominated|
She was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures.
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