Guest Author - Amber Grey
There once was a little girl, born Jeannette Helen Morrison, who never really knew whether she wanted to be a movie star or not. As she grew up, Morrison attended school, participated in multiple plays, and eventually went to college for music. When this young lady was nineteen years old, her entire future would be forever changed by the accidental discovery of a legendary icon, Norma Shearer.
One day at the Super Bowl Ski Lodge, Jeanette’s father, who worked as the receptionist for the lodge, encountered the formerly-known actress Norma Shearer at his desk. Shearer was flipping through his family photo album when she came across a picture of Jeanette. She said, “My, what a pretty face. She ought to be in pictures.” Shearer asked to borrow the photo, and taking it with her, showed it to her talent agent Lewis Wasserman. A screen test was quickly arranged for Shearer’s discovery, and despite not being in front of a single camera film her whole life, Jeanette’s screen test passed with flying colors. She was immediately signed to a seven-year contract at MGM Studios and Jeanette’s name was changed to a more suitable one. We know her as Janet Leigh.
Shearer paid exclusive attention to her ingenue, making sure Janet was surrounded by the best people to ensure a long and healthy career in Hollywood. As a result, Janet’s first film was starring opposite actor Van Johnson in “The Romance of Rosy Ridge” (1947). The casting for an “ingenue” type of girl was yet to be filled and Janet Leigh was perfect. Two years later, in a second film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” (1949), Leigh was a part of a great ensemble cast when she played the role of “Meg March.” The rest of the“March Sisters” were played by June Allyson as “Josephine,” a seventeen year old Elizabeth Taylor as “Amy” and Margret O’Brien as “Beth.”
As the beautiful blond’s credits grew considerably over the next few years, Leigh married fellow actor Tony Curtis and together they starred in a bio-film about the famous magician and contortionist Harry Houdini in “Houdini” (1953). Leigh also gave birth to famous actress Jamie Lee Curtis who would grow up to follow in her mother’s footsteps of the “horror” film genre with the “Halloween” Franchise.
In 1960, Janet Leigh would propel herself into cinematic history when she teamed up with Alfred Hitchcock to create “Psycho.” Leigh claimed that role changed her life because if there was anyone more scared of taking a shower after that horrific scene, it was Janet Leigh herself. She swore off showers from that day forward because Leigh said, “And not because of the shooting of it. It was the seeing of it. It never dawned on me how truly vulnerable we are.” Janet received a Golden Globe nomination and an Academy Award nomination for her “brief” portrayal of “Marion Crane” in “Psycho” (1960).
Janet never officially retired from acting and took every opportunity to thank Norma Shearer in her interviews and acceptance speeches. In fact, on Turner Classic Movies Channel, Janet Leigh filmed a short five to ten-minute tribute to Norma Shearer which they show every so often in between their films.
It is worth noting that before her death in 2004, Janet appeared with her daughter in two “horror” films – John Carpenter’s “The Fog” (1980) and in “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” (1998).