Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh were one of the biggest celebrity couples of the ’60s. They married against the advice of all those around them, some claiming their union would be ‘career suicide’ but proved them all wrong.

When they got together Janet was an in-demand actress making her film debut in the drama The Romance of Rosy Ridge, crime-drama Act of Violence, and playing March sister Meg in Academy Award-winning Little Women.

She’d also caught the attention of eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes who was so wealthy he had the power to potentially wreck both their careers if he wanted to.

Tony was also facing pressure from movie studio bosses and even offered $30,000, an equivalent of almost $350,000 today, to marry his then frequent co-star Piper Laurie, in the hope that it would further enhance their box office appeal.

Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis : r/OldSchoolCool

His career wasn’t as established as Janet’s when they met. He was new to Hollywood and wasn’t taken as seriously largely due to his New York accent.

But Tony had fallen in love with Janet. Recalling in his autobiography of the moment they met and how taken he was with her beautiful face and sweet personality.

“It just devastated me to look at this woman… I noticed how everybody responded to her, and I said, ‘I want her. I want her to be mine,’” he said.

Although tempted by the offer of so much money he refused and despite his friend Jerry Lewis telling Curtis he was “committing career suicide” in 1951 he and Janet eloped.

Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh at a formal event, circa 1955 | Source: Getty Images

The couple, arguably the most attractive couple in Hollywood, proved Lewis wrong and were offered the best movie parts of their careers during the time they were together.

Leigh appeared in one of the most famous scenes in film history in the movie Psycho, earning her a Golden Globe award, as well as Touch of Evil and Manchurian Candidate, while Tony found success in; The Defiant Ones, where he gained his only Oscar nomination for his turn opposite Sidney Poitier; Some Like It Hot (featuring Tony’s old girlfriend, Marilyn Monroe) and Spartacus. Janet and Tony even appeared in five movies together.

By the end of the 1950s they were stars in their own right with two beautiful girls. But two years later they divorced.

Jamie Lee Curtis, the couple’s second child, described herself as a “save-the-marriage baby.”

Married American actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh on a carousel, circa 1955 | Source: Getty Images

Jamie said, “By the time I came along… my parents’ bond had deteriorated precipitously as their stardom grew. And like any other save-the-marriage baby, I failed.”

Tony filed for divorce in 1962 and his two daughters largely sided with their mother.

He had been jealous of other men throughout their marriage and even alleged that he’d found a “love letter” to his wife Janet from one of her co-stars, the future choreographer and director Bob Fosse.

He would use this to justify his frequent visits to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion and a tryst with actress Natalie Wood.

“I was 30 years old, in my prime and… beautiful girls with fantastic figures were constantly throwing themselves at me… I decided that from that point on I would partake more fully of the bounty being offered me,” he said.

Tony reportedly had an affair with Gloria DeHaven, his co-star in the musical So This Is Paris in 1955. The following year Janet and Tony’s first daughter Kelly Lee Curtis was born. But Tony still claimed to be in love with Gloria as late as 2008.

He was also rumored to be dabbling in drugs and having an affair with Natalie Wood.

The couple began to grow increasingly distant. Speaking of the state of their marriage, Tony recalled, “We settled into a functional but unromantic marriage, the kind of life that was less unusual in Hollywood than you might think.”

Kelly Curtis Followed in Acting Footsteps of Famous Father - CBS News

Tony eventually left Janet for Christine Kaufmann, a 17-year-old actress, but the couple separated in 1968. Before his death in 2010 from congestive heart failure, the actor married four more women, all much younger than him.

Janet went on to marry her fourth husband Robert Brandt in 1962 and was married to him for 42 years before she died in 2004 from Vasculitis, a group of disorders that destroy blood vessels by inflammation. 

Tony was married six times and had six children but he was distanced from all of them at the end, reportedly not leaving them a cent of his estimated $60 million fortune.

His daughter Jamie Lee Curtis has said that Tony wasn’t much of a father to her, and Tony passed on creativity to her while Brandt showed her love.

The 63-year-old Hollywood star has briefly talked about the effect her parents’ divorce had on her saying she “struggled with the idea of love.”

Releasing an Instagram picture of her parents earlier this year she wrote:

“Once in a while when their images find me unexpectedly, I’m caught by not only their extreme beauty but their deep love and ambition.”

“As the product of 13 divorces in my immediate family I have often struggled with the idea of love, what happens to it? There are only a couple reminders to me that I was born from love and not resentment, competition, jealousy and rancor which are the cornerstones of any unpleasant divorce. I also forget that they were famous and loved worldwide,” she added.

Jamie has been married to Christopher Guest for over 30 years and they have two adopted daughters together.

By admin