Books by Janet Leigh

Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Racy title for a pedestrian book: Actress Leigh's fiction debut is a well-intentioned and sweetly plodding Hollywood saga. Poor Jude Abavas! Happiness keeps eluding him. Jude is the son of Basque parents, Noah and Willamina, who immigrated to Idaho and instilled in their four children the old-fashioned virtues of hard work, family, and love of God. And Jude learned well. In the '30s, he goes to work in the newly built resort of Sun Valley as a bellboy and guide. He watches and learns; he networks. But just when he thinks his future is rosy, he gets poor Thelma pregnant and has to marry her. Jude comes to very much love Thelma and his son, the ``lil' guy,'' but, sadly, loses them in an avalanche. And so, grief-stricken, he moves on to Hollywood, where a rich buddy, the star Wade Colby, makes him his personal assistant. Jude follows the development of TV, is savvy enough to form a studio with Wade, then falls for actress Penelopeexcept that Wade gets there first, and he and Penelope marry. Though afraid to dream anymore, Jude now marries wild and reckless Madge, who smokes ``magic'' cigarettes and takes little pills to stay awake. Later, ecstatic to learn that Madge is pregnant, Jude also finds her in the arms of two different menat the same time. Madge aborts the baby and dies, and with her goes the only character with a little oomph. Finally, Wade also dies noblyof lymphatic cancerand Jude gets his shot at fame. At a lifetime-achievement awards ceremony, he celebrates his Sun Valley upbringing and the family that made him a success. To literature what primitive art is to painting. Regrettably, virtue is a little boring. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1995

Movie star Leigh (There Really Was a Hollywood, 1984) teams with freelancer Nickens (Brando, not reviewed) to give the real dish on the making of her most famous film, one of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces. Of all Hitchcock's films, perhaps none has engendered more interest, more imitators, or more misconceptions than Psycho. Leigh, who was top-billed in the film although she is killed off after only a third of its running time, determined to set the record straight. To that end, she and Nickens interviewed a few of the surviving participants, including assistant director Hilton Green, screenwriter Joseph Stefano, and actor John Gavin. (Conspicuous by their absence are actors Vera Miles and Martin Balsam.) In the Leigh-Nickens version of the making of the film, Hitch set out to reclaim his title as king of fright after seeing a series of low-budget black-and-white films made by the likes of William Castle and Roger Corman. He was intrigued by Robert Bloch's novel, acquired the rights, and set about making a film on a small budget and short shooting schedule, using his television show's crew for that purpose. Understandably, Leigh chooses to focus much of her attention on the parts of the filming for which she was present, including the famous shower scene, but that leaves the book rather lopsided. Along the way, readers do pick up some amusing tidbits—the model for the Bates mansion was a house on the Kent State campus that would later serve as home for its SDS chapter; virtually all of the shots of Marion Crane in the shower are Leigh, not a body double as some have claimed. Unfortunately, too much of the book reads like a transcript of interviews, and Nickens's prologue, giving the background to the film's making, is hackneyed and awkward. For Hitchcock buffs a boon, but a disappointing effort that should have been better. (50 b&w photos) (Author tour) Read full book review >