Janet Leigh’s Own Story
“Tony and I have separated—to save our marriage. We are too fond of each other to end it. We haven’t even considered divorce, or spoken to lawyers. We still like—still love each other. No matter what you may hear, there is nobody else.
“Even this separation isn’t a legal step. We didn’t want to do anything unmendable to our marriage. We’re apart so we can think how to come together again. I think of it as taking separate vacations. If we weren’t in the limelight, if people didn’t insist on everything having a definition, I wouldn’t have dreamed of announcing a separation.
“In eleven years, Tony and I have had fights—like any married couple. We’ve had crises. We’ve had problems. But in the past we’ve always been able to absorb them, get over them and go on. We’ve been able to help each other when one of us had troubles. But in the last couple of years a lot of things have hit us all at once, they’ve come too fast.
“We’re both under strain at the same time. Instead of helping each other we precipitate arguments, blow up little things, jump at incidents we would ordinarily pass off with a shrug. We’re hoping that by being apart for a while we can each calm down within ourselves, start to breathe again. The only way we can help each other at this point is by helping ourselves. We can’t do it under the same roof—because then nothing would be changed, the tensions wouldn’t be eased.
“What are the crises of the past two years? Tony’s father died, just as I was having Jamie. Tony has always felt a great deal of responsibility for his parents and family, and his father’s death increased it greatly. It went very deep. Then when Jamie was brand new, she had to have a hernia operation. A while later we learned that Kelly had to have one also. And there was the mess over ‘Lady L.’ We had gone to Palm Springs after the inauguration to rest, stayed ten days having a ball, and wanted to stay longer—but we couldn’t; Tony had to be back for ‘Lady L.’ We came back post haste—and seven months later work on the film still hadn’t begun. They were seven months of pure hell for Tony.
“If we could have gotten away, just the two of us, for part of those seven months it might have helped. But we couldn’t. And then—my father died. My mother and I were wrecked. Tony wanted to be a rock of strength for me, but he was weighted down with his own troubles.
“My mother moved into our home and brought her grief with her. We wanted her, but it made a third troubled person under our roof. Then we went to South America. It was a wonderful trip, but the strain was terrific. It isn’t easy to travel with two children, a nurse, eighty pieces of luggage, the knowledge that you’re representing your country and can’t afford to be anything but your best at every moment.
“But the troubles that hit us! Both children came down with measles. And Jamie broke her clavicle—that was the worst.”
This—everything—was one more thing in the tension between Janet and Tony. But even before South America—before the tragedy of Janet’s father—friends knew that her calm in public was from desperation . . . that she tried to smile as “well-wishers” told her bits about Tony they “thought she ought to know.” Those who loved her noticed the uncontrollable quivers that shook her in the middle of laughter and her pitiful attempts to keep the tears in her eyes instead of overflowing. And one night an unexpected visitor unintentionally overheard her cry out with all the misery and loneliness of a woman whose heart was breaking.
“Oh my God, Tony! Don’t you know what you’re doing? You’re tearing me to pieces!”
Time and again, Tony’s “excessive friendships” with beautiful young girls were cited as the cause of Janet’s unhappiness. Yet the rumors were always vehemently denied—by Tony and Janet.
Then last year Tony met Christine Kaufmann in Argentina and worked with her in the movie, “Taras Bulba.” Christine is a 17-year-old German actress whose face, figure and sexiness is said to have such instant impact on men as to make her irresistible. And though Hollywood was thousands of miles away, Hollywood soon heard rumors that Tony’s friendship for Christine had become more than friendship. At the same time a great bag of publicity was released on Janet’s presence in Argentina with her husband. What was not released, however, was any mention that she was not at all happy about the talk linking Tony with Christine.
Janet took the children home from South America and Tony followed. She met him in the East when he returned. But then she went on to Hollywood, and Tony stayed in New York. He was seen everywhere in public with Christine until the frequency of their “togetherness” prompted a columnist to print “Christine is just about the answer to everything” for Tony.
Janet has always insisted, rather gallantly, that she never pays any attention to gossip about Tony, she’s used to it. But apparently the scandalous scuttlebutt about Christine got too much, even for a fighter like Janet. For two-and-a-half months she bore it as best she could. Then Christine came to Hollywood.
The night of the Foreign Press Awards, Janet came with a girl friend. Christine came with her mother. Tony was “busy.”
Quite by accident, Janet passed Christine’s table. Hundreds of people held their breaths.
But so far as Janet was concerned—the table and Christine were not there. Janet walked on and ignored her completely.
This is what Janet said in her interview with a Photoplay reporter in New York:
“The first rumors about Tony and me started while we were cutting the wedding cake. (June 4, 1951.) Regularly since then, we’ve been either splitting up or having a baby. One columnist announced my pregnancy every few months for five years, and when I finally—thank God—did get pregnant he wrote, ‘Remember, I had it first.’
“Every time we had a fight, reports came out that we were splitting up. But the rumors were always false. We never contemplated parting before. Never!
“İbis time the rumors started when I came back from South America without Tony. They came up again when Tony went to New York. There was talk about him and Christine Kaufmann even before we separated. Tony was very upset about that, because he thought I would be. But I don’t get upset about that sort of thing. I know it isn’t true. He just finished making a movie with her, and then they both happened to be in New York at the same time—he with his director on business, she with her mother. Naturally they had dinner together.
“Then the papers started linking me with people. It’s like a game—which one will it be next? It’s getting hysterical! Not that it’s a funny situation, but you’ve got to laugh or go crazy. So far it’s been Frank Sinatra. John Gavin, Van Johnson and—not in the papers, but my friend Marilyn Reiss at Rogers and Cowan has had half a dozen phone calls about it— Nelson Rockefeller! And I’m a Democrat!
“I haven’t been seen alone with Frank. I haven’t even spoken to him since the separation, though I’m sure he’s heard about it. He’s left the country on a round-the-world tour—it would be a pretty bad time for a romance! The rumors started. I suppose, because I worked with Frank on location, and one night we had dinner together—along with about a dozen other people from the cast.
“As for Van, he’s a dear old friend with whom I made my first movie. When Marilyn found out he would be in New York while I was, she invited him to have dinner with us and my doctor and his wife. Now it’s been in a column that we ‘made a date.’
“The result of all this is that I will be very careful about going out while Tony and I are apart. If I’m invited to a premiere, for example, I probably simply won’t go. If I do, I’II make sure to go with a couple, or someone like my agent, whom everyone knows wouldn’t be a romantic interest. I don’t know whether Tony will be equally careful—we didn’t discuss it. But I suspect he will also be very quiet. I won’t worry about items I see about him; as I told him. ‘Let’s keep in mind who we are, and why we did it and not let it ruin us.’ ”
Then why did they separate? Janet answered without a moment’s hesitation.
“By the time we came back from South America, the tension had gotten unbearable. Neither Tony nor I is predictable under tension—we react in various ways, from withdrawing to snapping. We knew we had to relax or something serious would happen to our marriage. Everyone could see these tensions—everyone but the children. We managed to conceal it from them, though I’m sure the atmosphere wasn’t good for them, anyway. But there was no one particular fight that brought us to the separation. If there had been, if there had been a big battle that ended in one of us yelling, ‘Let’s split up,’ I’d be scared. That way there’s anger and bitterness, the feeling that someone should apologize first. There was nothing like that. That’s why I feel this is an optimistic, a healthy decision. It was simply that we knew we had to do something.”
Others knew it too—maybe even before them. Friends felt that no woman, not even Janet, could long endure as a human being with her heart in shreds and her mind in torment. That you can take just so much from a marriage and then something—or someone—has to give. They point out that both are spirited, strong-willed and sensitive individuals. And that it takes two to save a marriage.
“Tony Curtis,” a friend said, “is a man almost overwhelmed by a zest for living, for experiencing, for participating. His insides scream to be a vital force in his world. He wants to stimulate, to help, to be dynamic. When something hits him his mind jumps on it and his thinking goes off in all directions. I believe he wants to do too much too fast.”
Janet’s the opposite of her impetuous mate.
“I cannot go off emotionally aroused about something without knowing exactly what I intend to do. I want the time to make up my mind. There has to be some intelligent course of action.”
Janet’s passion for method and meticulousness also created a situation. She is a spotless housekeeper. “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Tony understood but didn’t always comply.
“I like to see a house rumpled a little,” he has grumbled. “It makes you feel as though it’s been lived in.”
Trivial differences? Compared to the heat and joy of love, yes. But it is those very differences, lying dormant in a marriage until the temperature of the romance has cooled, that threatens love. And the manner in which they are settled is a tip-off to whether the marriage will last. Tony once gave the tip-off.
“In the years we were together,” he said, “we yelled at each other, slammed a hundred doors in anger and even worse. But I always believed that there are times when a man could get angry at his wife and times when a woman could cry over her husband. The trouble is, perhaps, that I got angry, and Janet cried, too often.”
In her interview. Janet tried valiantly to explain Tony—and herself.
“Tony has always been a man of moods,” she said. “Sometimes I’d discover that he had withdrawn from me, from everyone.
“One time it took me four long days to break one of his moods, and after all the anguish I discovered that he was simply unhappy because he had committed himself to a movie that would take him thousands of miles from me, on location. He was afraid to tell me because he felt that it would make me unhappy.
“But trips of any length have always bothered Tony. He is afraid to fly and ashamed of his fear. I know that this disturbs him greatly. He is a man and he does not want to be afraid of anything. Even a woman can understand that. I have tried to convince him that we are all a little afraid of something.
“But he is not easy to convince. Neither am I. We are always determined to have our own way. Apparently we’ve never learned to really compromise. In an argument each of us was concerned more with who was going to win than in resolving the bone of contention.”
Tony is well aware of his moods. “I have what I call great moods—soaring highs and bottomless lows,” he once admitted. “I tried psychoanalysis. That’s where I learned that my restlessness was caused by a strong but sub-conscious disbelief in my own capabilities. tell me I’m great and I’d fly. Tell me I’m bad and I’m terrible.
“In the end I guess none of those self-improvement gimmicks helped very much. The one thing that threatens all Hollywood marriages finally got to ours. Too much success. When a husband and a wife devote most of their time to careers, the marriage gets hurt. I’ll tell you one thing. Almost every so-called star I’ve known has been an unhappy human being.”
Which brings us back to the separation. Janet said, “We talked about it briefly before Tony went to New York. We knew we’d talk more when he got back. The night he arrived home (March 13) we were both very conscious of the strain. We began to talk. Neither of us was the first to say ‘Let’s be apart for a while.’ No one said, ‘I’ve got it—let’s split up!’ We just quietly discussed the fact that something was wrong. But both of us knew where the conversation would end.
“When it was over, when we had come out and admitted that being apart was something we had to try, I felt relieved. If it had been a final decision, I know I would have panicked, my heart would have dropped to my stomach. But it wasn’t. Even so, it wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I felt better for having faced it.
“Tony left that night for our house in Palm Springs. I went to bed. The next morning at nine all three of our phones started ringing. I was on the phone, literally, from then until I left for New York. I had to call a few people myself, of course—my mother had moved out two weeks before and had gone to stay with my grandfather, so I wanted to tell her. She wasn’t exactly surprised; she had seen it coming. But mostly people called me—our friends, who all wanted to know if there was anything they could do; reporters; columnists.
“I hadn’t realized what it would be like. I suppose that for once I was so wrapped up in our personal affairs that I forgot our lives are public property. The same thing happened to Tony. We had told everyone that he would be ‘staying with friends,’ hoping to keep people off the track, but it didn’t work; our house in Palm Springs was besieged, too. He had to come back to the city.
“I don’t know how we’ll go about getting back together again. We don’t have any signal worked out to let each other know we’re ready, and I can’t see myself calling Tony to say ‘Let’s try again.’ I think it will come out of a discussion, just as the separation did. In fact, I think when we both feel better, we’ll both somehow know it. Tony and I often think of the same thing at the same time—I think it will work out that way this time, too. In any event, I’m not afraid of both of us sitting around waiting for the other to say something first. We talk on the phone all the time—I spoke to Tony only half an hour ago. We’ll be able to tell.
“How have the children reacted? They don’t know anything about it. I haven’t told them anything because there’s nothing to tell. Tony and I haven’t left them often. but they’re used to the idea that occasionally one of us goes away.”
Janet picked up a piece of paper and her hand began to shake violently. Suddenly, she looked as if she might burst into tears. She was obviously under terrific strain, but she tried to conceal it—she talked and gestured with animation, acted out little scenes as she described them. And she looked very pretty—somehow younger, for all the problems. She wore a flowered hostess gown, low-cut and high-waisted, with floating panels that she had to keep arranging around herself as she curled up on the sofa.
But—she ordered a sandwich for lunch and then hardly ate any of it. And at one point, toward the end of the interview, she started to answer a question, wandered away from the topic, stopped and said, “Where was I? I’m getting groggy.” Nobody was surprised. She had obviously gone over her story at least a hundred times that week.
A few nights later she was found unconscious on the bathroom floor of her New York hotel suite and taken to the hospital with a slight concussion and a very black eye. Five hours later she came out of her coma—and was most apologetic. “I feel so stupid about this,” she said, “putting people to so much trouble. But my friends all know I have three left feet.”
Her story was that she had taken two tranquilizers with coffee at a late supper with friends. Later, she slipped on the rug in the bathroom, fell and struck her head on the sink or the tub.
Reporters telephoned Tony in Hollywood. He was all sympathy and concern but added, “An accident won’t solve our problems. After the accident we still have the problem.” And because Tony won’t fly, it would have taken him three long days to come from Hollywood to New York to see Janet—and by then she’d be completely recovered. So, Tony didn’t come.
The accident forced Janet to cancel her trip to an Argentine film festival in which she’d been invited to participate. She rested in New York ten days, then flew back to work on “Bye, Bye Birdie.”
In talking with Janet, it was obvious that she feels she and Tony have done the right thing to save their marriage. They feel it is better to work out their problems apart—rather than together. For them, it might be the right solution. We hope it is!
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1962