Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy Birthday: Janet Leigh!

Janet Leigh, was discovered by the actress Norma Shearer, in the winter of 1945. Shearer's 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 Bowl, the ski resort where the girl's parents worked. Shearer said that "that smile made it the most fascinating face I had seen in years. I felt I had to show that face to somebody at the studio".

From the end of the 1950's, she performed in the films: Touch of Evil (1958) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Janet Leigh, is best known for her performance as Marion Crane, in one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock's films, Psycho (1960). The film is based on the screenplay by Joseph Stefano, who adapted it from the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The novel was based on the crimes of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein. The film is a about the meeting between a secretary, Marion Crane, who stopped at a motel to rest after stealing money from her employer and the motel's caretaker, Norman Bates.... Psycho at first received mixed reviews, but the box office returns were so positive and led to four Academy Award nominations. Psycho is now considered one of Hitchcock's best film.

Her acting career declined from the mid 1960's. However, she continued to perform occasionally in films and television. In 1975, Leigh played a retired Hollywood song and dance star opposite Peter Falk and John Payne in one of my favorite Colombo episodes, Forgotten Lady. She also performed in two performances with her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis in The Fog (1980) and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998).

Fun Facts:

Leigh married her third husband, Tony Curtis, on June 4, 1951. They had two children, actresses Kelly and Jamie Lee. Following their divorce in 1962, Leigh married stockbroker Robert Brandt in Las Vegas. 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 Pacific in Stockton, California on May 14, 2004.

Leigh is also the author of four books. Her first, the memoir "There Really Was a Hollywood", was a NY Times bestseller. This was followed by the novels "House of Destiny" and "The Dream Factory", and the non-fiction book "Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller". Interestingly, daughter Jamie Lee Curtis is also an actress and popular author.

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