THERE REALLY WAS A HOLLYWOOD by Janet Leigh

THERE REALLY WAS A HOLLYWOOD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As you might guess from the title, 1950s movie-star Leigh takes a mostly nostalgic, sweet-natured approach in this likable but pallid memoir--saying something nice about virtually everybody, divulging no nasty details about her marriage to Tony Curtis. The book's first, pre-stardom section is written in the third person, as Leigh follows 1940s California teenager Jeanette Morrison: a brief, annulled marriage at 14, leading to years of guilt-ridden secrecy (when the story came out in 1960 ""no one gave it a passing thought""); a little college performing, another marriage; and then the big break--when Norma Shearer saw a photo of gorgeous Jeanette in 1946, leading to a screen-test and a movie with Van Johnson, who created her new name. Then, as Leigh switches to first-person, she recounts the breakup of her marriage, her affair with Barry Nelson (""Wisely, tenderly, he opened a fresh depth of feeling in me""), first films and friends--and, more divertingly, her attempted seduction by creepy, sneaky, persistent Howard Hughes (a similar story to those in other 1950s actress-memoirs). With Tony, however, came true love, plus a grand circle of show-biz friends and a new, close-knit Jewish family to be part of--satisfying Janet's ""insatiable need to belong."" She resisted the extramarital temptation of Bob Fosse, while working on the My Sister Eileen remake. She turned down a Rodgers & Hammerstein B'way musical to put wifedom first--berating herself for even considering the separation from Tony. (""Priorities, girl, what are your priorities?. . . Never fear, I swore, it won't happen again. And it didn't. Ever!"") Tony's career soared; Janet, now devoted mother of two, continued to star--in Safari (grueling location-work), Touch of Evil with Orson Welles (""Dazzling!""), and above all Psycho--with a few shower-scene details and nothing but admiration for Hitch. But ""our sun together was setting on the horizon"": Janet became jealous of Tony's family ties; the suicide of Janet's unhappily married father cast dark shadows; and Tony ""didn't want to be Bernie Schwartz any longer""--while Janet, unlike Tony's new European love Christine Kaufman, remained ""too much the plebeian. . . a constant reminder of the beginnings he would have liked to forget."" So--divorce, followed by Janet's happy-ever-after remarriage circa 1962. All in all: nice lady, dull book--thick with platitudes and awkward prose, very skimpy on Hollywood glow or savvy.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday