Updated: 4th October 2004

      Janet Leigh died on Sunday 3rd October 2004 at her home in Beverly Hills; she was 77. According to a spokeswoman for Leigh's daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, Leigh "died peacefully" at her home on Sunday afternoon, and had been battling vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels, for the past year.

      Leigh is survived by her fourth husband, Robert Brandt, and daughters Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis.

      In the UK, her death made all the news bulletins with much of the attention being, inevitably, on her 40-odd minute role in Hitchcock's Psycho.

      Marlene Dietrich tried to seduce her.
      Kirk Douglas fantasised about her breasts.
      But Janet Leigh will always be remembered for the scene that put her off showers for life

      The shower scene in Psycho is part of cinematic legend. A beautiful young woman, glimpsed in naked silhouette through a shower curtain, is slashed by an unseen killer.

      She screams in terror, her hands tearing vainly at the curtain in a desperate but vain effort to save herself as her blood spirals down the plughole.

      For Janet Leigh's character it was all over in 45 seconds - and the 'blood' was actually chocolate sauce. But in real life the actress neber took a shower againm always preferring baths.

      Leigh, who died on Sunday 3rd October 2004 aged 77, was one of the most beautiful stars in the heyday of movies, with just the sort of busty, blonde looks that Psycho's director Alfred Hitchcock, liked in his leading ladies.

      Years of bulimia and a blood disease eventually saw her weight plummet to four stone. Her actress daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, had to curtail a recent visit to London and rush back to her bedside.

      Leigh was already looking frail and gaunt in her last public performance as one of the 15 black-clad bridesmaids attending Liza Minelli's ill-starred 2002 wedding to David Gest.

      Gone were the amazing breasts, the mere thought of which, according to Kirk Douglas (her co-star in the 1958 film The Vikings), kept him alive after his recent stroke.

      Gone, too, the platinum curls that seduced actor Tony Curtis, who became her third husband.

      The couple married in 1951 when Leigh was already an established star while Curtis was a bohemian new arrival in Hollywood.

      For a while it was hailed as the town's happiest marriage. 'We are going to be a family,' Janet confided in her diary in 1956.

      Their daughter Kelly was born shortly after, followed two years later by Jamie Lee.

      By the time Hitchcock sent her the novel Psycho - which formed the basis of the script - she and Curtis were Hollywood's most star-dusted couple and had made six movies together.

      Psycho was based on the true-life story of Wisconsin psychopath Ed Gein, who murdered and mutilated women and pranced around at night, draped in their skin.

      The part of doomed heoine Marion Crane appealed to Leigh immediately, even though the role called for her to be murdered only 40 minutes into the film. She didn't ask Hitchcock what the salary would be - it turned out to be a paltry 15,000.

      The British-born director wanted to prove he could make a quality film on a TV budget. The whole enteprise cost little more than 500,000 and made an immediate 10million.

      In true Hitchcock fashion, he teased his beautiful star mercilessly while shooting. He particularly enjoyed testing various mummified skeletons created by his special effects department for the role of Mrs Bates, the mother of the film's killer, Norman Bates (played by Anthony perkins), who keeps her corpse sitting upright in a rocking chair.

      While Leigh was out at lunch, Hitchcock would leave the latest ghastly monstrosity propped up in the chair in her dressing room.

      Most of all, he enjoyed shooting the shower scene, making Leigh - who for modesty's sake had to wear strategically placed skincoloured moleskin - repeat over and over for a week before he was satisfied. The actress was never actually seen naked on screen, yet the result was so realistic that the U.S. censors asked Hitchcock to cut out the nudity. He agreed, did nothing and returned several days later with the print untouched. This time they passed it.

      Leigh later recieved an Oscar nomination for the 1960 film. She was a superstar, but her marriage was on the rocks because of Curtis's philandering.

      On one occasion, the glamourous couple went to see Marlene Dietrich perform in London's Cafe Royal. Marlene did her best to seduce them both. Tony was delighted but Janet was horrified, claiming she was an innocent in such matters. Their 11-year marriage finally ended when Leigh found a stash of marijuana and told her husband to get rid of it because of the children.

      Within 24 hours of the divorce, she had married her fourth and final husband, stockbroker Bob Brandt - who was at her bedside on Sundat - while Curtis moved on to his second bride, a German actress half his age.

      From then on, Leigh dedicated herself to being a wife and mother while continuing the political activism that had begun when she and Curtis became close to John Kennedy.

      At one point, she was asked by President Lyndon Johnson to become American Ambassadour to Finland. She declined because of family commitments.

      Her glamourous career as actress and campaigner was far removed from her beginnings as plain Jeanette Morrison, the daughter of a poor Californian family forced to move all round the state looking for work during the depression.

      At the age of 14, she ran away to Reno with her childhood sweetheart, lied about her age and wed him. The marriage lasted only one day before her mother caught up with er and had it annulled.

      By the time she was 19, she was on to her second marriage, to a struggling musician. Her big beak came when the actress Norma Shearer saw a picture of Leigh at the Californian ski lodge where her father had found work and showed it to studio heads.

      Leigh had been discovered. Six months later she had a new name and a seven-year contract with MGM. She made more that 50 films altogether, three of which have been acclaimed in a recent poll as among the 50 greatest movies ever - Psycho, Touch Of Evil and The Mabchurian Candidate.

      But Psycho was Leigh's seminal moment on screen. 'Wherever I go it's all anyone wants to talk about,' she said.

      In 1995 she wrote a book about the making of the film and revealed that she'd endured letters from assorted weirdos who fantasised about dispatching her in real life as Norman Bates had done on screen.

      As to the truth about her refusal to take a shower ever again, she said: 'It's not hype, not something I thought would be good for publicity. Honest to gosh, it's true.'

      However, she treasured the famous shower curtain, donating it complete with her autograph two years ago to an auction to benefit families of the World Trade Centre victims with a reserve price of 1.4 million.



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