Janet Leigh Biography

Janet Leigh was a famous American actress, dancer, author and singer. This biography profiles her childhood, family life, film career, achievements and timeline.

Janet Leigh
Quick Facts

Birthday: July 6, 1927

Nationality: American

Famous: Actresses American Women

Died At Age: 77

Sun Sign: Cancer

Also Known As: Jeanette Helen Morrison

Born in: Merced, California, U.S.

Famous as: Actress

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: John Carlisle (m. 1942; annulled 1942), Robert Brandt (m. 1962; her death 2004), Stanley Reames (m. 1945; div. 1949), Tony Curtis (m. 1951; div. 1962)

father: Frederick Robert Morrison

mother: Helen Lita (née Westergaard)

children: Jamie Lee Curtis, Kelly Curtis

Died on: October 3, 2004

place of death: Los Angeles, California

U.S. State: California

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

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Jeanette Helen Morrison, widely known as Janet Leigh, was a famous American actress, dancer, author and singer. She was awarded the world famous Golden Globe awards for her performance in the thriller movie named ‘Psycho’. She also received an Academy Award nomination for her role in the movie. She was the mother of Kelly cutis and Jamie Lee Curtis. Leigh got her initial break with the help of actress Norma Shearer. She made her debut in acting in the year of 1946 on radio following which she grabbed a contract with MGM in the year 1947. During her early life as an actor, she made a significant appearance in many major box-office hit movies of various genres such as Little Women, Act of Violence, Angels in the Outfield, The Naked Spur, Scaramouche and also Living It Up. Her marriage to actor Jamie Lee Curtis made headlines several times and finally, it ended up in a divorce in 1962. The same year, she decided to put a halt to her acting career. Though she did appear in some notable movies later but those were few and far between. Leigh died in 2004 after a year-long battle with a disease caused due to the inflammation of a blood vessel.

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Janet Leigh
Childhood & Early Life
  • Janet Leigh was born Jeanette Helen Morrison in Merced, California, on July 6, 1927. She was the only child of Frederick Robert Morrison and Helen Lita. She spent all her childhood growing up in California. Her mother had Danish blood whereas her father had a mixture of German and Scottish ancestry.
  • Her acting talent was discovered in 1945 by Norma Shearer, who offered her an MGM contract. Shearer showed a picture of Leigh to a talent agent, Lew Wasserman. This picture was taken when she was spending her holidays at Sugar Bowl, in a ski resort where her parents used to work.
  • Leigh was studying Psychology and Music at the College of the Pacific, which she left after securing a contract with MGM. She ventured into the acting world without any prior experience under the mentorship of the famous drama coach, Lillian Burns.
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Acting Career
  • Leigh was a guest star on a local radio show before she began her acting career. It was a very small dramatic anthology called ‘The Cresta Blanca Hollywood Players’. The first radio show appearance was in a production called ‘All Through the House,’ which was aired on December 24 in the year 1946.
  • Leigh starred opposite Van Johnson, as his romantic interest, in her debut role in a big budget movie called ‘The Romance of Rosy Ridge’ in the year of 1947. She grabbed this role while performing Phyllis Thaxter's long dialogue in the script of ‘Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo’.
  • During the shooting, Leigh's had her named changed to ‘Jeanette Reames’ initially, after which it was changed to ‘Janet Leigh’. But since this name resembled Vivien Leigh, it was again changed back to her birth name - ‘Jeanette Morrison.’ But Johnson was not appreciative of her maiden name and as a result, it was changed back to ‘Janet Leigh’ for good.
  • After making her film debut, Leigh decided to leave her college, but after few days she enrolled into night school at the University of Southern California in the year 1947.
  • After ‘The Romance of Rosy Ridge’ was released, she was cast in a film named ‘If Winter Comes in the year 1947’, starring opposite Deborah Kerr and Walter Pidgeon.
  • After the success of ‘The Romance of Rosy Ridge’, Johnson and Leigh decided to team up again for a role in ‘The Life of Monty Stratton’ in August 1947. But the project was never materialized and eventually in the year 1949, it was released as ‘The Stratton Story’, which starred artists such as June Allyson and James Stewart.
  • One of the most famous roles that Leigh played was that of a morally ambiguous person called Marion Crane, in Alfred Hitchcock's thriller ‘Psycho’ in the year 1960. In this movie, she starred opposite Anthony Perkins and John Gavin.
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  • She was the star of the most iconic scene of ‘Psycho’ where her character died in an iconic murder scene in the shower. It was a major violation of the general convention of the time where the stars, if necessary, died much later in the movie. She received a Golden Globe Award and also won nomination as best supporting actress for the Academy Award for her role as the actress in a supporting role.
  • In the 1960’s her career began to fade away and she started playing small insignificant roles in some movies. She co-starred in ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ in the year 1962 opposite Frank Sinatra and opposite Paul Newman in ‘Harper’ in the year 1966. She also appeared in some minor movies and also few made for the television series.
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An Author
  • Leigh also was an accomplished writer. She wrote four books which received good reviews from critics. Her first work ‘There Really Was a Hollywood’ was published in the year 1984 and went on to become a New York Times bestseller.
  • She also published a non-fiction book ‘Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller’ in the year 1995.
  • In the year 1996, she wrote and published her very first novel called ‘The House of Destiny’. The story of the novel revolved around the lives of a couple of friends who were successful in forging an empire which was able to alter the course of the history of Hollywood.
  • ‘The House of Destiny’ was very successful and its success motivated her to write a follow-up novel in the year 2002 which was named as ‘The Dream Factory’. The plot of the story was set in Hollywood in a period which was dominated by the studio system
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • Leigh got married to John Kenneth Carlisle on August 1, 1942. While John was 18 at the time of marriage, Leigh was only 15 but falsely claimed to be 18-year-old. As a result of this, the marriage lasted only four months and was annulled on December 28 in the year 1942.
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  • Sshe again got married to Stanley Reames on October 5, 1945. This time she reached the age of 18 and the marriage lasted for almost 4 years and finally, she was divorced on the 7th of September in 1949.
  • Leigh got married for the third time when she decided to get hitched with actor Tony Curtis. She gave birth to two children, Kelly and Jamie Lee. Both of their daughters later went on to become successful actresses. In 1962, her marriage to Curtis ended in divorce when he sent her the divorce papers on the set of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’.
  • Thereafter, Leigh got married to Robert Brandt, who was a successful stockbroker in Las Vegas. She was married to him for 42 years until she died in the year 2004.
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Awards and Achievements
  • Apart from her Golden Globe award for best-supporting-actress and her nomination for the same role for Academy Awards, Leigh also won several other notable awards.
  • Leigh served as a medical service provider for actors named the Motion Picture and Television Foundation, as a member of the board of directors.
  • She also received an honorary degree in Doctor of Fine Arts from the University of the Pacific located in Stockton, California.
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Trivia
  • The movie theater on the campus of the University of the Pacific was renamed as the Janet Leigh Theatre in 2010. The theater has a number of movie posters, stills, family and college pictures and a special display cabinet that has various mementos dedicated to Janet Leigh. The gown worn by Leigh to the Academy Awards in 1961 is at display in these cabinets.
  • Leigh was 2 months into her pregnancy with Kelly when she acted for the film ‘Safari’ and was also 5 months into her pregnancy when she appeared on the ‘The Rosemary Clooney Show’.
  • She was selected as one of the ‘100 Sexiest Stars in the Hollywood’ by the Empire magazine.
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1. Psycho (1960)

  (Horror, Thriller, Mystery)

2. Touch of Evil (1958)

  (Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller)


3. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

  (Thriller, Drama)

4. Scaramouche (1952)

  (Romance, Action, Comedy, Adventure, Drama)



5. The Naked Spur (1953)

  (Thriller, Western)

6. Act of Violence (1949)

  (Film-Noir, Thriller, Drama)




7. Little Women (1949)

  (Romance, Drama, Family)

8. Holiday Affair (1949)

  (Comedy, Drama, Romance)





Awards

Golden Globe Awards
1961 Best Supporting Actress Psycho (1960)

See the events in life of Janet Leigh in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Janet Leigh Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/janet-leigh-30205.php
Last Updated
- February 28, 2017

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