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Janet Leigh (July 6, 1927 – October 3, 2004) was an American actress.

Discovered by the actress Norma Shearer, Leigh secured a contract with MGM and began her film career in the late 1940s. She appeared in several popular films over the following decade, including Houdini (1953), in which she co-starred with her husband, Tony Curtis.

From the end of the 1950s, she played more dramatic roles in such films as Touch of Evil (1958) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962), but she achieved her most lasting recognition for her performance as the doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). For this role she was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Her acting career declined from the mid 1960s. However, she continued to appear occasionally in films and television, including two performances with her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis in The Fog (1980) and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998).

Early life

The only child of Helen Lita (née Westergard) and Frederick Robert Morrison, Leigh was born as Jeanette Helen Morrison in Merced, Californiamarker, and grew up in Stockton, Californiamarker. She was discovered by the 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 Bowlmarker, the ski resort where the girl's parents worked. Leigh left the University of the Pacificmarker, where she was studying music and psychology, after Wasserman secured a contract with MGM.


Leigh made her film debut in The Romance of Rosy Ridge in 1947, as the romantic interest of Van Johnson's character. 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.

Janet Leigh in Touch of Evil (1958).
Leigh's best-known role was as the morally ambiguous Marion Crane in the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho (1960), featuring its iconic shower murder scene. She received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Leigh had starring roles in many other films, including the Orson Welles film-noir classic Touch of Evil, 1962's The Manchurian Candidate with Frank Sinatra and the 1963 musical Bye Bye Birdie based on the hit Broadway show.

She co-starred with third husband Tony Curtis in five films, Houdini (1953), The Black Shield of Falworth (1954), The Vikings (1958), The Perfect Furlough (1959) and Who Was That Lady? (1960).

In 1975, Leigh played a retired Hollywood song and dance star opposite Peter Falk and John Payne in the Columbo episode Forgotten Lady. 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).

Personal life

At the age of 14, Janet Leigh married John Kenneth Carlisle. The marriage was annulled in 1942. She married Stanley Reames in 1946 and they were divorced in 1948.

Leigh married her third husband, Tony Curtis, on June 4, 1951. They had two children, actresses Kelly and the more well known Jamie Lee. Following their divorce in 1962, Leigh married stockbroker Robert Brandt in Las Vegasmarker. They remained married until her death.

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 Pacificmarker in Stockton, Californiamarker on May 14, 2004.

Leigh died at her home on October 3, 2004, after suffering cardiac arrest. She suffered from vasculitis and peripheral neuropathy, which caused her right hand to become gangrenous.



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


  1. Maltin, Leonard, ed. Leonard Maltin's 2006 Movie Guide (NAL, 2005 edition), p.1096.
  2. Maltin, p.613.

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