The Fiery Love Story of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis

Hollywood has some of the best stories that have touched a significant part of everyone’s heart, and, of course, they are beyond the beautiful storyline. These stories happen beyond what is seen on the set and onscreen. The tumultuous story here is about Janet Leigh, the young actress who became Tony Curtis’s sweetheart.

Source: Flickr

Janet Leigh is one of the few actresses to have entered Hollywood young, sweet, and innocent. But away from her stunning looks, she also stole the spotlight with her brilliant acting skills. During her time as an actress, she had the opportunity to work with some of the top directors and had quite a lot of eyes on her, including those of Tony Curtis.

Jane, Janet, or Jeanette

Janet Leigh is one actress known to have gone through some sort of identity crisis in her career, especially while she was filming her first-ever movie, The Romance of Rosy Ridge. The actress is widely known as Janet Leigh, but her real first name was, in fact, Jeanette. It doesn’t just end there. Many people do not know this, but the leading actress was born Jeanette Helen Morrison.

Source: Wikimedia

At first, the credits named the stunning young actress Jeanette Reames after her second husband’s surname. The name then changed completely to Janet Leigh, which was very similar to the name of the superstar Vivien Leigh. To date, some people still think that these two ladies are related, even though they are not. The producers attempted to use Jeanette Morrison before everyone agreed that Janet Leigh was much easier to remember.

Her Childhood Days

Janet Leigh’s childhood days were not filled with glitz and glamour as they were in her later years. The actress, the only child of Helen and Fredrick Morrison, was born on July 6th, 1927, in Merced, California. Janet grew up during the Great Depression, and her parents had to struggle financially.

Source: Wikimedia

Both her parents worked very hard to save and were frugal. Her father worked in a factory and came home with very little pay each week, barely enough to sustain the family. While at the college, Janet would work during the holidays to have money to send back home. During the terms, she also had a small job of manning the information desks at school.

A Journey into Acting

Janet was no stranger to hard work right from her little days and had learned to count every penny, but her actual journey into acting was all thanks to her hardworking parents. Her father, Frederick, who worked as a receptionist at the Sierra Nevada mountain ski lodge, had a picture of his daughter with a beaming smile on his desk, right where every guest entering could see it.

Source: Wikimedia

One of the guests at this mountain ski lodge happened to be the retired Canadian-American actress Norma Shearer. As expected, she saw the photograph of Janet right up on the reception desk, beaming with smiles. Right there, she saw the future of an actress in Janet Leigh. Talking about this experience later, Shearer had to admit that the smile was one of the fascinating faces she had seen in years.

Janet’s Contract with MGM Studios

Norma Shearer’s discovery of Janet Leigh eventually led to her signing a contract with MGM studios even before she had any significant experience in acting. The studio was so entranced by the young woman that they offered her a contract almost immediately. This experience made Janet’s entrance into Hollywood one of a kind.

Source: Wikimedia

Janet Leigh was a polite and professional actress, but not everyone agreed with her kind of personality. Some were displeased with her sweet demeanor and have made a series of comments about this actress. None of these comments seems to affect her from having such an amazing acting career.

Actress, Singer, Dancer, and Many Other Things

When Janet got the opportunity to sign a contract with the studios, she was attending

the College of the Pacific studying music and psychology, where she also worked to help out her parents. Once the filming for her first role in The Romance of Rosy Ridge wrapped up, Janet enrolled at the University of Southern California.

Source: Wikimedia

At university, she had not only shown that she had beauty and brains but had also displayed a multitude of talents. Janet, who could sing and dance, starred in several musicals during her career. She was also a published writer with two non-fiction books and two fiction novels.

Her Rough Marriage Experience

Although Janet Leigh claimed that her first marriage occurred when she was 18, the truth is that she married John Kenneth Carlisle when she was 15 years old. The marriage was short-lived and was annulled within the first few months of the union. Her second marriage was shortly after the first one. She got married to a sailor, Stanley Reames, which lasted four years. At age 23, she had already divorced twice.

Source: Flickr

It was much later in her acting career that Janet met and got married to Tony Curtis. The union with Tony was a public and sometimes toxic relationship that resulted in two children and many years of ups and downs. After their divorce, Janet married stockbroker Robert Brandt, with whom she was married for over 40 years until death separated them.

Howard Hughes Was an Admirer Whose Luck Failed

Janet was particularly charming and had a lot of admirers in all her acting years. Among these numerous admirers was the infamous industry financier and eccentric inventor, Howard Hughes. Howard was well-known in Hollywood for his ways with young stars, and he had his sights set on Janet. The actress, on the other hand, was uninterested in his advances.

Source: Pinterest

Howard didn’t seem to get the message and kept on nagging the actress. When he was producing films like Two Tickets to Broadway, Janet acted in, demanding extra takes to keep the actress longer on set. It was a perfectionist act to some, but Janet knew it wasn’t and avoided his antics.

How Janet and Tony’s Love Story Began

Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis’s first encounter was when they met at a fancy Hollywood party that they both attended. Leigh and her charm caught the attention of Tony Curtis, but he also enchanted the actress. The meeting was quite an exquisite one and led to Tony staring at the face of his future wife.

Source: Tumblr

Tony asked for Leigh’s number at the party, and she was more than happy to give it to him. She didn’t care about Howard Hughes, who wanted to date her. Tony had called Janet after the party, pretending to be someone else. From that moment on, the duo struck a relationship.

A Fiercely Jealous Lover

Janet and Curtis’s relationship had a good start. The duo had plenty of good memories between them, particularly in the first few months of their relationship. They were inseparable and were together quite a lot of times. Tony was known to visit Janet a couple of times, even when she was filming. Their problems started when he became fiercely jealous that the actress was receiving attention from other men.

Source: Reddit

One occasion that caused a stir between the two was when Pittsburgh Pirates baseball player Ralph Kiner carried Janet off the Pittsburgh Outfield after she got stuck in the mud. The moment was captured by tabloid reporters as a romantic scene, with subsequent rumors of a romantic relationship between Janet and Ralph. Tony saw the picture and got offended, but she had to calm her boyfriend by convincing him nothing was between them.

The Media Strained their Relationship

Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis were young stars in Hollywood and were getting a lot of attention. This was good for their careers, but it affected their relationship negatively. Most of the problems the duo suffered were caused by constantly being in the public eye. The media were constantly having their fill of the couple’s relationship, which caused a strain on the actors.

Source: Pinterest

The two eventually had to discover that only they could save their relationship and took steps towards that. They knew staying true to love in Hollywood amidst all the gossip and camera life would be hard, but they were willing to work past that. They never knew that Hollywood would be capable of tearing them apart, eventually.

The Choice between Love and Money

The couple were madly in love and tried their best to hold on to each other. When Tony Curtis was promoting the movie The Prince Who Was a Thief, Universal Studios tried to pressure him into marrying another young star at that moment, Piper Laurie. He was only still dating Janet Leigh at this time, and the studio felt it would be good. The young star felt torn between choosing the promised wealth if he did what Universal Studios wanted him to do or staying with the love of his life.

Photo by VCG Wilson/Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

As love would end up being the winner, he chose Janet. Although he admitted being tempted by the money, having also grown up in poverty like Leigh, the young star realized that marrying Janet Leigh would make him happy and chose her. He wasted no time in making his intentions known and phoned Janet to propose straight away.

The Fight for Love

The couple’s engagement was not one received with open hands. They were both pestered by their families and bosses about getting married. Janet Leigh was signed with MGM while Tony Curtis was signed with Universal Studios, making them employed by rival companies who were unimpressed with the engagement.

Source: Wikimedia

It wasn’t only their employers who were unimpressed with the idea of the two getting married; even Leigh’s father was against their union. The discouragement almost led to the duo’s canceling the wedding, but instead, they managed to stay together and eloped to avoid the ensuing drama. They got married in a private ceremony on June 4th, 1951, with their friend Jerry Lewis and a local judge present.

The Psycho Movie Experience

Janet Leigh had several impressive roles on her resume, but one she was particularly famous for was the role of Marion Crane, which she played in the movie Psycho. The actress was so excited about working with the famous Alfred Hitchcock that she signed on for the movie before checking the pay. This movie ended up being her lowest-paying job.

Source: YouTube

The movie included so many of Janet’s pictures in its marketing efforts that many would think she was the show’s star. That was why it was shocking to viewers to see the star die in the shower scene. Viewers were not the only ones in shock, but Janet was in shock herself, as she ended up putting off showers at home for the rest of her life.

A Movie Backed with Controversies

Marion Crane’s shower death, acted by Janet Leigh, was not the only shocking experience from the movie that viewers had to sit through. The movie rocked quite a few boats in the 1960s and was also the first big release film in North America to have a toilet flushed on-screen.

Source: Twitter

The toilet flushing scene might seem tame considering the things we see in movies today, but audiences in those days were unfamiliar with such levels of indecency. The toilet scene was just one part of the horror. The movie also showed an unmarried man and woman in bed together and a naked woman’s backside.

The Shower Scene Took Several Retakes

The infamous shower scene from the film Psycho would live on in the minds of all who saw it. The scene lasted only about 45 seconds, but many would be shocked to learn that the director, Alfred Hitchcock, took an entire week of filming to get the perfect angles.

Source: Tumblr

The perfect angles weren’t the only concern, as Janet Leigh had to postpone the shower scene twice. The first time she postponed the scene was because she had a head cold, and the second time was due to her period coming during an inconvenient period. By the time she completed the scene and was ready to be added to the movie, Janet had already developed wrinkly skin.

Fun Time on Set

The Psycho film was Janet Leigh’s lowest-paying role, but she had a fantastic time on set, as director Alfred Hitchcock ensured. Beyond his perfectionism, while directing, he also loves bringing laughter to his set. Director Hitchcock loved pranking Janet with the mother’s corpse props and would hide them in closets and other places to give her quite a fright when she happened upon them.

Source: Wikimedia

Hitchcock would use all of Janet’s frightful screams to determine how terrifying the different corpse props were. Thankfully, the actress was also open-spirited and good at sports and didn’t take any of the director’s pranks or jokes to heart. She would also laugh along with the director during all of his pranks.

Her Parent’s Troubled Marriage

Janet is one actress known for her big smiles, but she also had family troubles. In the early days of her career, just after her massive Hollywood success, her personal life hit a wall when she heard her father committed suicide. Her father, Fredrick, was poor and suffering from depression, but apparently, he was also unhappy in his marriage.

Source: Pinterest

Janet was on holiday in the Riviera when she got the call about the unfortunate incident. She rushed home to her father’s corpse only to see that he had also left behind a hateful suicide note. In the note, he mentioned many horrible things about the actress’s mother and blamed the marriage for his depression.

A Real Director’s Actress

In all her acting days, Janet was admired by more than one director. Not in a sexual way, but for her ability to adjust to any directing style. Janet Leigh was more than just a sweet-faced actress; she was also talented and could fit into just about any style of movie-making. This ability earned her the title of being a real director’s actress.

Source: Pinterest

This title was especially true when she worked on Touch of Evil with director Orson Welles, particularly known for his improvisation technique. Inexperienced actors usually avoid this style because it makes them nervous, but Janet has stated that she enjoys it because it forces her to develop her lines.

Not a Fan of a Director

Janet is one actress we all know to be a great fan of director Orson Welles and his improvisational directing style. She had also shown interest in and respected Alfred Hitchcock and his work, even though he was particularly warm and fuzzy. Hitchcock was more about the job to be done, and she respected that.

Source: Wikimedia

But one director she wasn’t pleased with and didn’t like his directing style was Josef Von Sternberg when they filmed the movie Jet Pilot. She had gone ahead to describe the director as an unbearable dictator. While we are unsure what transpired between the two, it couldn’t have been a pleasant experience.

Embattled Love Experiences with Tony Curtis

Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis had a great start, and Janet got pregnant with Tony’s first child in 1953. Unfortunately, she miscarried the baby. About three years later, the couple had their first daughter, Kelly. One would have expected the couple to settle into their love and continue their family expansion, but the pair had some troubles in their relationship instead.

Source: Wikimedia

The couple had their second daughter, Jamie, in 1958, but by then, the Hollywood couple were already drifting apart even as they moved up in their careers. Their second daughter, Jamie, claimed she was supposed to be a “save the marriage” baby, but her birth did not save the embattled couple’s love affair. She added, “My parents hated each other my whole life.”

Janet’s Popularity Outweighed That of Her Husband

The duo constantly had a lot to argue about all the time. Still, part of what led to the troubles in their relationship was Tony’s constant insecurity about his career and Janet’s confidence in hers. He had severally agreed that one of the few people he knew with great confidence was his wife, and he wanted her to admire him as much as he did her.

Source: Flickr

Tony expressed his great insecurity when he was offered a role that put Janet as his wife in the movie. The roles would put them both in the spotlight, but he wasn’t happy about this. He went ahead to write in his memoir, “I was thrilled for Janet and happy to have her play my wife… but I wasn’t so sure this was the best thing for my own career”. He must have felt this role would make him more subservient to his wife and harbored some resentment.

Always Been a Supportive Wife

Tony had been quite jealous of his wife and held a bit of resentment, but Janet remained supportive nonetheless. The actress, who was old-fashioned about her thoughts of marriage, continued to support Tony and agreed to take a second billing role in the film Houdini of 1953.

Source: Pinterest

The actress remained confident about her abilities. When she was asked why she agreed to take on a questionable role, she answered: “I will always take second billing to my husband. I don’t care if he’s made one picture and I’ve made a hundred”. We are uncertain why she said that statement. It remains unclear if she meant the words or just said that to make her husband happy.

Both Reportedly Had Affairs Outside Of Their Marriages.

Janet was quite popular in Hollywood and received lots of attention from other men, which her husband didn’t handle well. But as it turns out, Janet should have been the insecure one instead. Tony had once dated the famous Marilyn Monroe, and both had gone their separate ways before he met Janet. The next time they ended up on set together, Marilyn was married, and so was Tony.

Source: Pinterest

Even though they were both married, Curtis admitted that they had an affair while filming Some Like It Hot, which lasted until Marilyn came clean to her husband.

Curtis claimed he wasn’t the only guilty person as Janet also had an affair with Frank Sinatra. It remains unclear if these accusations were right or if he was just trying to deflect the blame.

Tony Divorced Janet for a Younger Actress

The couple tried to patch up their differences. Still, after a few years of the recurring marital battle, Tony served Janet with divorce papers in 1992 while she was filming The Manchurian Candidate. He had gone ahead to describe his marriage to Janet as a “torrid, hot-mess of a romance.” What broke the actress wasn’t his words nor the divorce papers, but what he did after.

Source: Pinterest

Shortly after he filed to divorce Janet, Tony Curtis was seen running off almost immediately with an actress filming the movie Taras Bulba with him. He ran off with the German actress Christine Kaufmann, who was 17 years old and was half Janet’s age. The media ran crazy with the story, and this caused much pain and embarrassment to Janet Leigh.

Different Versions of Why They Divorced

Janet and Tony’s marriage was troubled, but they both had different reasons for what led to their eventual fallout. When asked about why the marriage finally fell apart, Janet claimed that it was due to the negative influences caused by outside problems like the death of Tony’s father and perhaps his affairs with Marilyn Monroe.

Source: Twitter

Tony Curtis, on the other hand, chose to go with the broken-hearted husband story. He claimed the reason behind their divorce was due to Janet’s extramarital affairs with other men, which hurt and broke his heart a lot. Either way, it was indeed certain that the pair loved each other, but the actual reason behind their failed relationship is still unclear. The couple are not the only ones negatively affected by the divorce; their children are as well.

The Divorce Led To a Severed Father-Daughter Relationship

Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis’s divorce affected the pair, but the entire family was thrown into darkness, which they rarely got out of. Janet got depressed from experience and fled to a hotel to try and numb the pain. The actress was seen to overdose on pills and was found passed out severally. She remarried quite quickly in a rebound relationship.

Source: Reddit

Tony reacted to the divorce by distancing himself from Janet and, sadly, from his children. This got worse when Janet got full custody of the children. As he recounts, not that Janet was stopping him from seeing his kids, but he claimed he was suffering a lot and couldn’t be bothered with anybody. The couple’s second daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, also reaffirms that she barely knew her father.

Drugs Damaged His Health and Much More.

Tony’s career never remained the same after the whole turn of events. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, his career began to plunge, and he found himself in a free fall. He started using cocaine while filming the movie Lepke in 1974, which grew into a full-blown addiction. This he also used to affect his daughter, who admitted to doing drugs with him in 2019.

Source: Twitter

As Tony’s Curtis addiction grew worse, it also heavily damaged his health and personality. In 1984, he was severely hospitalized for advanced cirrhosis due to his alcoholism. Fortunately for him, he was able to find some help at the Betty Ford clinic. In a recent interview, the actor recalls how the drugs made him unmanageable while also weirdly changing his personality. Hopefully, he has been able to grow past them.

The Film She Regretted

Janet Leigh featured in many movies during her days of acting and had an amazing film resume. But by the time she retired, there were also some movies that she wasn’t particularly happy about having featured in. One of those movies was the 1972 horror movie Night of the Lepus.

Source: Tumblr

Janet had initially signed on to this project because it was close to home. This meant for the young mother of two young girls that she wouldn’t need to be far away from her kids for too long. After the film started, she realized that it was extremely violent and even refused her daughter’s request to make a cameo.

Bloodline of Acting Talent

Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis were not the only ones in their bloodline to take up an acting career. The second daughter from their union, Jamie Lee Curtis, also followed in her parents’ footsteps and took an interest in acting. The young actress took up roles in some movies and even did a horror movie similar to her mom’s.

Source: YouTube

In the 1998 film Halloween H20, directed by John Carpenter, Jamie has teamed up with her mother and played alongside her. In the movie, Janet starred as Jamie’s character’s secretary, and anyone who gets to look closely can see the family resemblance.

A Perfect Replica for a Star

Janet Leigh had found her way into Hollywood while she was young, but she was also pretty, polite, and professional. Her voluptuous body and low voice, combined with her innocent look, had made the actress nothing less than a star. So it just made sense that they chose a star like Scarlett Johansson to play Janet Leigh in the 2012 biopic Hitchcock.

Source: YouTube

The Biopic Hitchcock movie was meant to tell the story of Alfred Hitchcock and his relationship with his wife while he was the director of the movie, Psycho. The star actress, Scarlett Johansson, portrayed Janet Leigh perfectly and was even made to look like the stunning actress. Scarlett, in her version, depicted a sweet yet sexy personality.

Numerous Awards in Her Name

Janet Leigh had a wonderful acting career but also had numerous awards to her name. Unfortunately, none of the movies Janet Leigh featured in were ever nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. She has some other notable nominations and has won quite a few awards. Her first award was named “Number 1 Glamour Girl” in Hollywood by critics in 1948.

Source: Twitter

In 1960, she was nominated for her role in Psycho at the Academy Awards as the Best Supporting Actress, but this award went to Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry. However, she also won the same award the same year at the Golden Globes. This was also the year she got her star on the famous Walk of Fame.