Monday, 4 October 2004

Janet Leigh 1927-2004

Janet Leigh died yesterday at age 77. She had fought vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels) for a year. She is perhaps best known as the victim Norman Bates murdered in the shower in the classic Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho (1960); however, Leigh made many more movies than Psycho.

Janet Leigh was born in Merced, California as Jeanette Helen Morrison, an only child. Her film career began in 1946 when actress Norma Shearer saw a picture of then teenage Leigh at the ski resort at which her mother was working. Shearer directed Leigh to the talent agency MCA. MCA got her a contract at MGM for a mere $50 a week. She made her film debut in The Romance of Rosy Ridge, opposite Van Johnson, in 1947. Soon she was one of the actresses in the most demand at MGM.

Leigh would go on to make a number of classic films. Besides Psycho, she appeared in Little Women, Holiday Affair, Scaramouche, Touch of Evil, The Vikings, and The Manchurian Candidate. Her last appearance in a feature film was in A Fate Totally Worse than Death in 2000. She also made numerous appearances on television, guest starring in such series as Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Laugh In, and the Eighties version of The Twilight Zone. She last appeared on televison in
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes & Villains in 2003 and in an A&E Biography of herself that same year.

I always did like Janet Leigh as an actress. Of course, as a child the first thing I noticed about her was that she was breathtakingly beautiful. It was hard not to notice her in such roles as Aline in Scaramouche and Morgana in The Vikings. As I grew older, I also realised that she was a very talented actress. She was quite convincing as the wife of police officer Vargas (Charlton Heston) in Touch of Evil and as Marion Crane in Psycho. She could play roles that required her to be vulnerable, strong willed, and often both. I must say that I am truly saddened by her death. In fact, she may well be my favourite actress of all time. I doubt that there will ever be another actress quite like her.

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