The Truth About Tony Curtis' Relationship With Janet Leigh

In the Hollywood of the 1950s, there was no hotter couple than Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Leigh, best known for her performance as Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film "Psycho," and Curtis, whose films include 1959s "Some Like It Hot" — in which he co-starred with Marilyn Monroe — seemingly had it all: love, fame, and two beautiful daughters. But like a Hollywood movie facade, what the world saw and what went on behind the scenes were very different.

While both Curtis and Leigh are equally as famous today (as is their daughter Jamie Lee Curtis), in 1950, when the two met at an RKO Pictures publicity event, Leigh was the "it girl," and Curtis was still struggling career-wise, per 9Honey. This was just one of several differences between Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh that would surface in the coming years. The couple fell for each other immediately, but there were powerful roadblocks in the way of their relationship.

Billionaire Howard Hughes Nearly Derailed Their Relationship

Eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, who was the producer of "Jet Pilot," the 1957 film starring Janet Leigh, lavished attention on the beautiful actress, but the attraction was anything but mutual (via Salon). She told him it wasn't going to happen, but he continued to pursue her and even hired private detectives to follow her around and tap her phone. Curtis was initially wary of dating Leigh since the all-powerful Hughes could wreck his career with a single phone call, and the actor also believed the somewhat unstable Hughes might actually try to have him "bumped off," the actor recounted in his 2008 book, "American Prince: A Memoir."

Curtis was having issues of his own. This was still the era of the Hollywood studio system when film companies ruled with nearly unlimited power over their stars, and Universal Pictures "suggested" that Curtis marry Piper Laurie, who was often cast as his costar. They tried to sweeten the deal with $30,000 (nearly $370,000 today), according to Curtis' memoir. Curtis refused. He wasn't attracted to Laurie, and the feeling was mutual. He also felt Laurie was "very suspicious of everybody," according to "American Prince." Besides, he'd already fallen for Janet Leigh. Against the advice of Curtis' friend Jerry Lewis, who told the couple they'd be committing "career suicide," they eloped on June 4, 1951, with Lewis acting as witness, per Yours.

Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh Came From Different Backgrounds

Tony Curtis, who was born in the Bronx in 1925, grew up so poor his parents placed him and his brother in an orphanage for several weeks. They believed the young boys would have a better chance in the care of the state than with the meager existence that a poor immigrant Jewish tailor amidst the Great Depression could provide, per IMDb. Curtis had a sporadic education and joined the Navy while still in his teens before slogging through the New York theater and then heading to California, per Britannica. His rise to becoming a Hollywood star was a slow and painful process and very different from Leigh's rise to fame.

Janet Leigh, who was born in 1927, grew up in California, but her working-class parents often moved from place to place, according to IMDb. Even so, they sent her to college. "She was better educated than me," Curtis recalled in "American Prince." It was while Leigh was home from the University of the Pacific that her life changed. Her parents were working at a resort when Norma Shearer, a retired film star, discovered Leigh and helped her secure an MGM contract, kicking off a career that quickly rocketed her to the top, per the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While Curtis and Leigh's lives were very different, they shared a childhood love of movies that they both used to escape their problems. They also both jettisoned their real names, Bernard Schwartz and Jeanette Morrison, when they became actors, per Yours.

The Golden Couple Was Very Different in Private

Tony Curtis was incredibly jealous of any male attention paid to Janet Leigh right from the start. This first time Curtis called her, he pretended to be Cary Grant to see if she'd go on a date with the more famous actor, but Leigh saw through the ruse and turned "Cary Grant" down, saying she was going out with Curtis, per 9Honey. Then, when Curtis and Leigh first began dating, Curtis would sit outside her house waiting for her to come home from dates with other men before the couple cemented their engagement, according to Vanity Fair.

The lopsided power dynamic also came into play before Curtis' rise to fame. He felt Leigh "dictated all the moves" in their relationship at the beginning, according to "American Prince." From the outside, everything appeared perfect. The couple was in five films together — starting with 1953's "Houdini" — both their careers flourished, and they had two daughters, per Yours. In reality, the passionate relationship they once shared had cooled considerably by the birth of their first daughter, Kelly, in 1956. "We settled into a functional but unromantic marriage, the kind of life that was less unusual in Hollywood than you might think," Curtis recalled in his memoir, per the Daily Express.

Jamie Lee Curtis Suffered As A Result of Her Parents' Relationship

Jamie Lee Curtis was only 3 years old when her parents divorced, and she told More in 2002 that her childhood with parents who were at odds with each other negatively affected her, leaving her with feelings of inadequacy. "My parents hated each other my whole life," she said on "The View." "I was raised in a house of hatred." Jamie Lee Curtis believed her birth was a last-ditch effort to save her parents' marriage, according to the Daily Express.

A year after divorcing Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis married Christine Kaufmann, which also ended in divorce in 1968 (per CBS News). Curtis would marry four more times. He told Reuters that divorcing Leigh hurt his career, between the bad press and Hollywood producers siding with Leigh for how he treated her. Tony Curtis died in 2010. Leigh also remarried: Just one day after her divorce was finalized, she and Robert Brandt, a stockbroker, wed. They remained together until her death in 2004, per 9Honey.