BiographyShe was born Jeanette Helen Morrison on July 6, 1927, in Merced, California, and grew up in Stockton, California. She was a headstrong child and, in 1941, at the age of 14, she eloped and got married but the marriage was annulled the following year. She married again in 1946 but divorced two years later. Thus Tony Curtis, whom she married in 1951, was her third husband.
Janet Leigh was a student at the University of the Pacific, studying music and psychology when she was discovered while visiting her parents in Northern California, where they were working at a ski resort. Retired MGM star Norma Shearer, widow of ex-MGM boss Irving Thalberg, saw a photo of her and recommended her to talent agent Lew Wasserman. She was offered a contract by MGM following a screen test, and went on to make her screen debut as a lovely ingénue in 'The Romance of Rosy Ridge' in 1947, with Van Johnson.
She worked steadily, first in sweet teenage roles such as Meg March in 'Little Women' in 1949, and then in colorful costume pictures such as 'Scaramouche' in 1952. In her starlet phase, Leigh landed a few good dramatic parts:in very tight jeans as the Western wildcat of 'The Naked Spur' in 1953, a 1920's flapper in 'Pere Kelly's Blues' in 1955, and vivacious in 'My Sister Eileen', co-starring Jack Lemmon, in 1955.
After Howard Hughes's bizarre production 'Jet Pilot' in 1957, in which she is a Russian lady flier, she played starring roles in a variety of major films including the Orson Welles film-noir classic 'Touch of Evil' in 1958, 1962's 'The Manchurian Candidate' with Frank Sinatra and the 1963 musical 'Bye Bye Birdie' based on the hit Broadway show.
Leigh's most notable part, however, was as the iconic Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho' in 1960. At the end of her 45 minutes onscreen she was unforgettably stabbed to death in the shower by cross-dressing lunatic Norman Bates. The role earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and a place in movie history.
After her star years, she gamely faced giant killer rabbits in 'Night of the Lepus' in 1972 and wrote some books.
Leigh was the mother of actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis by her third husband, actor Tony Curtis whom she married in 1951. Leigh worked with Jamie Lee in her last two films, 'The Fog' in 1980 and 'Halloween H20:20 Years Later' in 1998. Following her divorce from Tony Curtis in 1962, Leigh married stockbroker Robert Brandt and they remained married until her death.
Janet Leigh suffered a cardiac arrest and died at her home on October 3, 2004.
Janet Leigh Academy AwardsNo Wins:
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Supporting Actress ... Psycho (1960)