Ah, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis! The IDEAL Hollywood couple. (Read on)
Hello everybody. Morella and Segers back with more on Janet and Tony
Beautiful young movie stars such as Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, although supposedly living the life of marital bliss with two young daughters, were certainly susceptible to temptation and Hollywood gossip. One name popped up as a real point of contention between them —Bob Fosse.
Although married at the time to actress Joan McCracken, Fosse maintained a lady’s man reputation. He was hired as actor-choreographer to help Janet prepare for her costarring role in the 1955 musical, “My Sister Eileen,” her first movie assignment under a new Columbia Pictures contract.
Janet and Fosse worked together for nearly a month before shooting began. “I was walking on air.” An innocent kiss “turned out to be a little more than either of us bargained for,” Janet later wrote. “Still there was no denying that our friendship courted more than a business affiliation.”
Says Tony in his recent autobiography: “One weekend I came home and found a letter from Fosse to Janet. ‘I can’t wait to see you,’ it said. ‘When you’re coming, please let me know.’
“I couldn’t be absolutely sure, but it certainly looked like Fosse had written a love note to my wife. I was wrecked. Even though Janet and I were distant, I became obsessed with the thought of Janet and Fosse in bed together; I imagined it over and over again, getting more upset each time.
“Sure, I had had affairs myself, but for one thing they always made me feel very guilty, and for another I made damn sure Janet would never find out about them.” (Remember, all this was occurring only about four years into Janet and Tony’s marriage.)
To make himself feel better about things, Tony says he took off for a week at the Playboy mansion, located then in Chicago. “That weekend I met some very friendly Playboy bunnies, and I had not even the slightest pangs of guilt about having sex with them.”
In her book, Janet’s handling of the couple’s increasingly serious marital troubles is more general, describing their overall predicament as an emotional tumor that eventually metastasized. “Eventually” finally arrived at the time Tony signed on to costar with Yul Brynner in a dreadful costume drama, “Taras Bulba,” about Cossack life in 16th century Ukraine.
Among the “Taras Bulba” cast members was newcomer, Christine Kaufmann. Her effect on Tony was intoxicating. He wrote that his love scenes with the 17-year-old daughter of a German air force officer were for real. They were indeed. (Kaufmann became the second Mrs. Bernie Schwartz in 1963, a year after “Taras Bulba” was released.)
When shooting completed Tony returned to New York via ship and was greeted by Janet. “A different person came off that liner, someone distant, removed, polite but not in touch. The journey on the train (back to California) with him was like being in solitary confinement,” she wrote.
The finale came in March 1962, the same year that Janet costarred in “The Manchurian Candidate.” Janet recalls Tony’s words: “’ I think we should get a divorce. I don’t want to be married anymore.’
Said Janet — “So the great love affair was finished, kaput, over. After ten and a half years this Cinderella and her Prince Charming didn’t ‘live happily ever after.’”
Said Tony — “I packed a few clothes, and after I walked out the front door to my car, carrying a small valise, Janet came and stood in the doorway, holding Kelly by the hand and Jamie in her arms. She didn’t say much, but she was crying, and when I saw the two girls, my heart was torn apart.
From Tony’s point of view, the end was bitter. “Janet and I had parted, and not on good terms. Sad to say, Kelly and Jamie have always held it against me. It’s understandable. Janet had full custody of the girls… I’m sure she filled their heads with all sorts of negative stories about me.”
Janet’s second marriage to businessman Robert Brandt, begun almost immediately after the divorce became final, was a happy one. The couple remained together until she died in 2004 at age 77.
Curtis’ marriage to Kaufmann ended badly. By the time he died in 2010 at 85, he had gone through a total of six Mrs. Bernie Schwartzs.
The final words go to Tony: “When I look back at all the challenges we faced,” he said, “what amazes me is not that Hollywood marriages fail at such an overwhelming rate; it’s that any survive at all.”
For awhile, though, Curtis and Leigh were one of the top 10 celebrity couples.