Janet Leigh Poster

Biography

Janet Leigh was the only child of a couple who often moved from town to town. Living in apartments, Janet was a bright child who skipped several grades and finished high school when she was 15. A lonely child, she would spend much of her time at movie theaters. She was a student, studying music and psychology, at the University of the Pacific until she was "discovered" while visiting her parents in Northern California. Her father was working the desk at a ski resort where her mother worked as a maid. Retired MGM actress Norma Shearer saw a picture of Janet on the front desk and asked if she could borrow it. This led to a screen test at MGM and a starring role in The Romance of Rosy Ridge (1947). MGM was looking for a young naive country girl and Janet filled the bill perfectly. She would play the young ingénue in a number of films and work with such stars as Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, James Stewart, Orson Welles and Judy Garland. She appeared in a number of successful films, including Little Women (1949), Angels in the Outfield (1951), Scaramouche (1952), Houdini (1953) and The Black Shield of Falworth (1954), among others. Janet would appear in a variety of films, from comedies to westerns to musicals to dramas. Of her more than 50 movies, she would be remembered for the 45 minutes that she was on the screen in the small-budget thriller Psycho (1960). Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this 1960 classic would include the shower scene that would become a film landmark. Even though her character is killed off early in the picture, she would be nominated for an Academy Award and receive a Golden Globe. Her next film would be The Manchurian Candidate (1962), in which she starred with Frank Sinatra. For the rest of the decade, her appearances in films would be rare, but she worked with Paul Newman in Harper (1966). In the 1970s she appeared on the small screen in a number of made-for-TV movies. In 1980, she appeared alongside her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis in The Fog (1980), and later, in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998). Janet Leigh died at age 77 in her home in Beverly Hills, California on October 3, 2004.