Castle With A Redwood Fence—Janet Leigh & Tony Curtis
They call her Cinderella Girl so much she almost forgets her name is Janet Leigh. And even if she still hasn’t married her prince, this Cinderella has a castle—a modern castle that’s more beautiful than spacious, although it suits her family fine. Around it there’s a redwood fence, but it doesn’t keep the world from her door, or Tony Curtis, either. Janet doesn’t mind. Her only regret is that she didn’t think of buying that castle sooner.
She got the idea over one Sunday’s breakfast. She was tired that morning. There was no sparkle in her eyes, no lilt in her voice, no enthusiasm. She’d just divorced Stanley Reames and had finished her eleventh consecutive movie.
Suddenly, Janet turned to her father. “Tell me, Dad,” she said. “Why am I knocking myself out? When I’m not in front of the cameras, I’m taking ballet lessons. When I’m not taking ballet, I’m studying lines. When I quit studying lines, I’m off on publicity junkets. I don’t even have time to spend the money I’m earning.”
Her father told her, “All that is the price of fame.” Her mother told her that what she needed was a nice house to come home to.
“It was a wonderful idea,” says Janet now. “It gave my career, all the hard work, a purpose. And for my parents, well, it was the dream of a lifetime.”
The Morrison family launched their house-buying project immediately. But it took more than a year to find a place that suited their tastes as well as the size of their pocketbooks.
“The first house we saw was beautiful,” Janet recalls. “It would have been perfect if I had discovered oil instead of having been discovered myself by Norma Shearer. It was a modest California bungalow. I think it cost around $37,500.
“That’s a lot of money, but it was the upkeep that really bothered us. We would have needed a hotel staff. The real estate agent didn’t even believe me when I told her we wanted a house without a maid’s room.
“She looked at me as if to say, ‘Sister, you can’t be much of an actress if you don’t even have a maid.’
“After a few false starts, she gave up calling us. I guess she figured that the commission she made on any house we bought wouldn’t fill her thimble.
“For months, Dad and, Mom and I spent our Sundays driving through residential districts we liked. It got so that I used to ask my dates to drive me home ‘the residential route’ so that I’d be sure to spot the latest ‘for sale’ signs.
“We looked at a lot of beautiful homes, but we’re sort of an idealistic family, and we decided to hold out until we found something every one of us liked.”
Persistence paid off. One Sunday when Janet was driving around Brentwood in her Buick convertible, she spied a new sign. She and her parents hopped out of the car and inspected the house.
It seemed to have everything they wanted, everything they needed. But then came that awful moment when they had to ask the price.
“You won’t believe it,” Janet says, “but even the price was right. We saw the house on Sunday and bought it on Monday. Maybe you won’t believe this, but honestly, I knew the house was right for us just as soon as I saw the cute fence out front. No fooling.”
The fence that first caught Janet’s eye is a series of redwood batons woven horizontally in and out between redwood posts. It’s particularly efficient because it’s trim, it’s modern-looking, and it’s relatively inexpensive to build. It also provides more privacy than a picket fence, without offering a solid barrier between neighbors. If you’re interested in fences you might eon Janet’s in mind.
The house behind the fence is also made of California redwood. Like so many houses in southern California, it’s built around a patio.
To insure as much outdoor living as possible, one whole wall of the living room and one wall of Janet’s bedroom is a series of glass doors opening on the patio.
“This outdoor living,” Janet says, “was a little hard for us to get used to. I mean that for years—in fact, all our lives—my parents and I had lived in apartments, and for the first few weeks, I had the feeling that the neighbors were looking in on us. I knew it was impossible for anyone but a giant to see over our fence, but I worried.
“When I got over it, I started to leave all the doors open, and one day a bird flew in. We had one crazy time trying to shoo him out again. I’ve decided that you can live just so close to nature, before nature moves in and takes over.”
Janet and her family, however, are genuinely enthusiastic about the patio principle. Matter of fact, they were explaining it—at least Janet was to Tony Curtis—the other day. Tony is a frequent visitor. He spends all his spare time at her house. Well, Janet was giving Tony the lowdown about patio living. “If you buy any kind of house, a good patio acts as a second living room,” Janet explained. “It also makes the house seem twice as large and it’s wonderful for parties. When we have company we simply roll the portable barbecue onto one corner of the patio and a bar onto the other. Then we set up card tables, and presto!—we’re set.
As a sort of house warming, Janet only recently invited two dozen of her friends over to the house for a buffet dinner. She and her mother arranged the tables. Her father barbecued a turkey, and the small house took care of the crowd with ease.
Although Janet’s new redwood house lends itself to parties, she is no veteran party-thrower. Actually, she’s a home body, who is sold on family-living.
One large room takes care of that—the living-dining room. At one end, there’s a dining area which looks like a separate room because of the arrangement of the living room furniture. The furniture turns its back on the dinner table and chairs.
The rest of the high-ceilinged room is arranged for comfort and home entertainment. The over-scale- modern furniture (all pieces from a former apartment) is grouped in front of a corner fireplace. The particularly comfortable chairs and the large couch face the television set. Against the wall and behind the couch stands a Magnavox record player and Janet’s collection of albums.
“It’s so pleasant sitting here listening to records,” Janet explains, “that lots of times I hate to go out at night. Unless there’s something really special taking place in Hollywood, I find that I can coax my date to sit at home with me—you know—just in front of a fire listening to some good music. And there’s never any trouble about the use of the living room, either. If a few kids drop in, as they do once in a while, Mother and Dad move into their bedroom or into the ‘office.’ ”
“The office” is another reason why the house suits Janet and her family so well. Mr. Morrison is an insurance broker, and he conducts his business from the house. In addition, Janet’s increasing popularity has given her a lot more fan mail to answer, and there’s a good deal of office work to be done by a movie star.
Thus the room nearest the street became “the office.” It has its own entrance onto the street, an adjacent lavatory and two desks. Janet uses one desk and her father uses the other for insurance matters. Recently, a secretary came to help them both.
Janet’s bedroom, of course, is the room that really reflects her personality. The furniture is the exact set she owned when she first came to Hollywood five years ago. So is the blue and yellow color scheme. Only the draperies and the view are new.
Sitting on Janet’s bed is a doll given her by Naomi Jaffee Carroll. Naomi happened to be visiting in Santa Cruz when Janet was on location with her first picture. They met, and as far as Janet can tell, Naomi was her first real fan.
Above Janet’s bed is a bulletin board crammed with snapshots. Janet used to tuck these around her dressing table mirror, but with more and more success the amount of available mirror space grew smaller and smaller. Finally, her father made this good-sized bulletin board for her candid collection. He also constructed the extra shelves for shoe storage. Janet has a weakness for shoes. She takes good care of them, too—shoe trees, polish, heel repairs, all of that. She owns seventeen pairs of high heels, twelve pairs of flats.
In a prominent place over her dressing table hangs a color portrait of herself with Van Johnson. It was taken during the making of Romance of Rosy Ridge, her first picture. Van had it enlarged and gave it to her. The pictures on Janet’s bulletin board reveal the whole amazing chronicle Janet Leigh in Hollywood.
When Janet was asked what would happen to the house in case she should suddenly get married, she answered quite frankly that she would have to look for another home. Her parents own this one.
“But I’d want it to be practically a duplicate of this one,” she insisted. “You see, the architect who designed this place intended to live in it himself, so he included all the practical features. For example, there’s radiant heating in all the rooms. The garage door is made of aluminum and lifts like a feather. The kitchen has a garbage disposal. The snack bar is loaded with cupboard space on both sides of the counter. Even the clothes line is a handy gadget called a Bocaroy. When it’s not in use it rolls shut with a snap.
“Yes, when and if I get married again, my home is going to be a lot like this one—small and simple and full of happiness.”
Oddly enough, a young, dark-haired actor at Universal, named Tony Curtis, says the same thing.
BY MARVA PETERSON
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 1951