Janet Leigh, who took the most famous shower in movie history – in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho – died at her Beverly Hills home on Sunday, a publicist for her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, confirmed Monday morning to the Associated Press. She was 77.
Leigh’s husband (since 1962), Robert Brandt, and her daughters, actresses Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis, were at the star’s side when she died, according to representative Heidi Schaeffer, who said of Leigh: “She died peacefully at home.”
The actress had suffered from vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels, for the past year, according to AP.
The blonde beauty, a northern California native, was discovered by former MGM star Norma Shearer, who spotted Leigh’s photo on her father’s desk at a ski resort and asked if she could show it to the studio. Leigh, whose real name was Jeanette Helen Morrison, always credited Shearer with starting her career. Leigh’s first movie (the studio changed her name) was 1947’s “The Romance of Rosy Ridge,” in which she played the ingenue.
Although the studio system was dying out as Leigh’s star rose – helped by her high-profile, but rocky, marriage to Tony Curtis, which lasted from 1951-62 and produced the two daughters – she enjoyed a long and at-times distinguished career, highlighted by the 1962 political thriller The Manchurian Candidate and Orson Welles’s 1958 film noir classic Touch of Evil, with Charlton Heston.
But like the recently deceased Fay Wray, who was associated with hanging off the Empire State Building in the hand of King Kong, Leigh will be forever associated with being stabbed by Anthony Perkins’s Norman Bates in the Hitchcock thriller 44 years ago. The role earned her an Oscar nomination.
As Leigh wrote in her 1995 book, Psycho: Behind the Scenes in the Classic Thriller, the toughest part of doing the scene (which was composed of 70 short takes) was expressing the final horror of being slashed to death.
The result, besides a classic movie scene: She could not take a shower again. “It’s not a hype, not something I thought would be good for publicity,” she claimed. “Honest to gosh, it’s true.”