Jamie Lee Curtis has made a name for herself in showbusiness, first with 1978’s famous John Carpenter horror flick Halloween and then going on to star in numerous movies. Her most recent role, in the 2019 mystery crime romp Knives Out, garnered her critical attention, staking her claim as one of Hollywood’s best known and perhaps most beloved actresses.
Fans may not be aware, however, that Jamie was born into a very famous family, calling A-list movie stars of the ’50s and ’60s Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis parents. Find out more below about Jamie’s memorable mom and dad and the careers they made in tinsel town.
Born on July 6, 1927 in Merced, California, Janet Leigh was an actress, singer, dancer, and author who had a decade-spanning career. The West Coast native initially made her place in radio before a foray into acting, where she made her film debut in The Romance of Rosy Ridge (1947) and signed with MGM. After appearing in numerous films in various genres, including the crime-drama Act of Violence (1948), Little Women (1949), the sports comedy Angels in the Outfield (1951) and the noir drama Touch of Evil (1958), directed by Orson Welles.
Janet went on to achieve breakthrough success with perhaps her most memorable role in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho (1960) where she was famously stabbed to death in the shower after the first 47 minutes of the film’s start. For her role in the now iconic horror flick, Janet won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She continued her acting career in movies like Bye Bye Birdie (1963) and Boardwalk (1979) and went on to make her Broadway debut in 1975 in the production Murder Among Friends.
As her daughter followed in her scary movie footsteps with the original Halloween (1978), Janet also appeared with Jamie in the 1980 supernatural horror flick The Fog (also directed by Carpenter) as well as in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) as Emma Watson.
As for her personal life, Janet was married twice as a teenager (one of which was annulled) before marrying Tony Curtis in 1951 in a private ceremony in Greenwich, Connecticut. Since they were both big hitters in Hollywood, the pair had a highly publicized union and were often written about in gossip columns. The couple appeared in numerous home movies that were directed by their friend, comedian Jerry Lewis, which Janet noted helped her expand her acting abilities in new roles. After giving birth to Jamie’s older sister Kelly Lee Curtis in 1958 and then Jamie, Janet and Tony got divorced in 1962. Janet went on to marry Swedish director and writer Helmer Robert Wilhelm Brandt.
Janet died in Beverly Hills in her home on October 3, 2004 at age 77 after a battle with vasculitis, a disorder affecting the blood vessels. Her death was apparently somewhat of a surprise to many as she hadn’t really disclosed her ailments with the public.
Much like his ex-wife, Tony Curtis made a name for himself in the ’50s and ’60s — although he went on to have a Hollywood career spanning decades. Born June 3, 1925 as Bernard Schwartz, Tony grew up in New York City and snagged some of his earliest roles mostly due to his good looks and charm. After a slew of mediocre comedies and “swashbuckler” pictures, he then starred in Houdini (1953) with his former wife Janet, and many critics noted it as a critical breakthrough for his future success.
The East Coast native went on to star in The Sweet Smell of Success (1957) with Burt Lancaster and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor the following year for his performance in The Defiant Ones (1958) alongside Sidney Poitier. Tony gave perhaps one of his most memorable and noted performances in Some Like it Hot (1959), co-starring with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon in the Billy Wilder-directed comedy. He then starred in 1959’s Operation Petticoat with Cary Grant and played a supporting role in Spartacus (1960), which became a major hit for him.
Although he was recognized for his dramatic take in 1968’s The Boston Strangler, his film career declined significantly after the ’60s, and he then took on painting in the ’80s as a second career.
As for his marriage to Janet, Tony was quoted saying, “For a while, we were Hollywood’s golden couple. I was very dedicated and devoted to Janet, and on top of my trade, but in her eyes that goldenness started to wear off. I realized that whatever I was, I wasn’t enough for Janet. That hurt me a lot and broke my heart.” The actor went on to marry five more women: Christine Kaufman, Leslie Allen, Andrea Savio, Lisa Deutsch, and Jill Vandenburg.
Tony died on September 29, 2010 of cardiac arrest. A few days before his death, the photographer with whom he met for a photo shoot at his home recalled him saying, “I’m not in a good way at the moment but can I ask you one thing? Can you make me look like an icon just one more time?”