"Psycho" Legend Leigh Dies
Posted: Oct 6th 2004, 8:30 am
well at least she was at home with her family
The steely blonde actress infamously assaulted in the act of washing in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho died Sunday of a blood disorder. She was 77.
Leigh had suffered from vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels, for about a year, a spokeswoman for Jamie Lee Curtis (news), her daughter, told the Associated Press.
"She died peacefully at home," Heidi Schaeffer told the wire service. Lee, her sister and Leigh's husband, Robert Brandt, were at her side.
Leigh earned a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for Psycho as Marion Crane, the woman gone wrong who is done wrong at the knife of motel-hell owner Norman Bates, played with beady-eyed intensity by Anthony Perkins.
In director Hitchcock's most famed thriller twist, Leigh's undoing in the shower occurs early in the 1960 movie--he killed off his star with more than half the story to go.
If the violent sequence--taking up less than a minute of screen time--was enough to give moviegoers second thoughts about running water, think what it did to the actress.
"The shooting was stretched out over seven days and with all the water I was a prune," Leigh once told DVDFile.com. "But the full impact did not hit me until I saw it [on screen]."
In 1995, Leigh told People that after Psycho she showered only as a last resort--when a bath was unavailable. And even then, she took precautions. "I make sure all the doors and windows in the house are locked, and I leave the bathroom door and shower curtain open so I have a perfect, clear view," she said in the magazine.
If Leigh was best known for Psycho, she was not only known for Psycho, a la King Kong's Fay Wray.
She starred in more than 50 films, including Touch of Evil and the original Manchurian Candidate, costarred in a high-profile Hollywood marriage with Tony Curtis (news), and, with Curtis, produced modern-day movie star Jamie Lee Curtis.
Born Jeanette Helen Morrison on July 6, 1927, in Merced, California, Leigh's Hollywood career began the Hollywood way: She was discovered.
In 1945, former MGM diva Norma Shearer was vacationing at the California ski resort where her parents worked. Shearer spotted a picture of the teenaged Morrison, showed it to power agent Lew Wasserman and--voila!--Janet Leigh was born.
In 2003, Leigh told the Associated Press that not even MGM's own head of publicity believed the story.
"But it's absolutely true," Leigh said to the wire service.
Leigh's first film was 1947's The Romance of Rosy Ridge, a Civil War-era drama; her last, the horror spoof, A Fate Totally Worse Than Death, as-yet unreleased.
In between, was memorable stuff such as 1953's The Naked Spur, the James Stewart Western/adventure; 1953's Houdini, a biopic on magician Harry Houdini, costarring then-husband Curtis; 1958's Touch of Evil, the now-acclaimed Orson Welles noir classic; 1962's The Manchurian Candidate with Frank Sinatra; 1963's Bye Bye Birdie, the Technicolor musical; and, 1966's Harper, the Paul Newman detective drama.
Leigh worked mainly in TV from the 1970s on, though she did endear herself to cult-movie fans with 1972's Night of the Lepus, a cautionary tale about gigantic bunny rabbits.
In all, four of Leigh's films--Psycho, The Manchurian Candidate, A Touch of Evil and The Naked Spur--have been designated preservation-worthy works by the National Film Registry.
"That's really gratifying. I'm in such good company. There are very few others who have four or more of their films in there. I'm very proud," Leigh said of the film registry designations to DVDFile.com.
Leigh's personal life became the stuff of tabloids with her 1951 marriage to Tony Curtis. It was her third marriage after two short-lived ones in the 1940s.
With Curtis, she had two daughters. Her youngest, Jamie Lee Curtis, born in 1958, would go on to echo her mother's Psycho screams starting with the 1978 horror flick Halloween.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Leigh appeared together on screen in 1979's The Fog and 1998's Halloween H20.
Leigh and Curtis divorced in 1962. That same year, she wed stockbroker Robert Brandt.
In later years, Leigh penned novels (The Dream Factory, House of Destiny), her autobiography (There Really Was a Hollywood) and an account of the shower scene seen around the world (Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller, written with Christopher Nickens).
While Psycho loomed large in her career, Leigh never begrudged its place in her life.
"How can anyone not be grateful for that kind of opportunity?" she told the A.P. in 2003. "...That's what the [movie] business is all about: Creating images."