Jamie Lee Curtis Parents

The Story of Jamie Lee Curtis' parents, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis

Jamie Lee Curtis was born into Hollywood royalty as the daughter of two legendary stars, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Her parents’ illustrious careers spanning five decades made Jamie Lee’s entry into show business almost inevitable. But she forged her own path, becoming a renowned actress in her own right.

Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee’s mother, was one of the biggest stars of the 1950s and 1960s. She is best known for her iconic role as the doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” a performance that earned her an Academy Award nomination. Born Jeanette Helen Morrison in Merced, California, Janet changed her name and moved to Hollywood in the late 1940s. She landed roles in films like “Little Women” and “Houdini” before breaking through with “Psycho.”

Janet met Tony Curtis on the set of the film “The Vikings” in 1957. Tony, born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx, had already achieved major stardom in films like “Sweet Smell of Success” and “Some Like It Hot.” The couple married in 1962 and had two children together: Jamie Lee and Kelly Lee. Their marriage lasted 13 years before ending in divorce.
Despite their fame, Janet and Tony tried to give Jamie Lee and Kelly Lee as normal a childhood as possible. They forbade the girls from watching their parents’ films and limited their exposure to the Hollywood scene. Janet was a stay-at-home mother for many years while Tony continued to act. But their hectic schedules and numerous affairs put strain on the marriage.

Jamie Lee was born on November 22, 1958. She grew up primarily in Beverly Hills and attended private schools. As a child, she had a stutter and suffered from severe asthma. Her parents encouraged her creative pursuits, enrolling her in dance and theater classes at a young age. Jamie Lee made her film debut at age 9 in the Disney film “The Apple Dumpling Gang.”
Jamie Lee’s relationship with her mother was complex. Though close as a child, they grew more distant as Jamie Lee entered young adulthood. Janet struggled with alcoholism for years, which strained their bond. Jamie Lee also felt overshadowed by her glamorous mother and sought to forge her own identity in Hollywood.
After graduating high school, Jamie Lee began acting in television and film in earnest. Her big break came in 1978 with the horror film “Halloween,” which launched a successful franchise for Jamie Lee. She became known for her comedic roles in the 1980s with films like “Trading Places” and “A Fish Called Wanda.” She also starred on the sitcom “Anything But Love” from 1989 to 1992.
Jamie Lee’s parents divorced in 1974 after 13 years of marriage. The split was acrimonious, with infidelity and irreconcilable differences cited as reasons. Both Janet and Tony went on to have multiple subsequent marriages. Jamie Lee said the numerous divorces in her immediate family made her initially wary of commitment and love.
Despite their divorce, Janet and Tony remained supportive of Jamie Lee’s career. Janet attended the premiere of “Halloween” and was proud of her daughter’s success. Tony also gave Jamie Lee advice about acting and navigating Hollywood. But Jamie Lee struggled at times with living up to her famous last name, saying she had to “work twice as hard to not be considered just Tony Curtis’ daughter.”
Jamie Lee maintained a close relationship with both of her parents in their later years. She cared for Janet during her battle with leukemia in the early 2000s. Janet passed away in 2004 at the age of 80. Tony Curtis died of a cardiac arrest in 2010 at the age of 85. Jamie Lee said she inherited both of her parents’ work ethic and passion for acting. She credits them for instilling in her a strong sense of self at a young age.
In addition to her film career, Jamie Lee has become an advocate for various causes. She has been open about her struggles with body image and an eating disorder as a young actress. She has since become a vocal proponent of body positivity. Jamie Lee has also campaigned for breast cancer awareness following Janet’s diagnosis and lobbied for funding for the disease.
Jamie Lee remains one of the few second-generation stars to have a successful career that rivals or exceeds that of her famous parents. She has appeared in over 100 films and television shows spanning four decades. Her accolades include Golden Globe nominations, Emmy nominations, and a Grammy win. In 2009, Jamie Lee received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Though Jamie Lee’s parents launched her career, she has said they also taught her the importance of being her own person and staying grounded. Their fame and multiple marriages showed her what to avoid in her own life and relationships. Jamie Lee has been married to Christopher Guest, also an actor and director, since 1984. They have two adopted children.
In reflecting on her famous parents’ legacy, Jamie Lee says she is proud to carry on their tradition of storytelling through film and television. Though she struggled at times with living up to the Curtis name, she has undoubtedly made it her own through talent, hard work and perseverance. Jamie Lee’s decades-spanning career is a testament to her parents’ influence and the values they instilled in her from a young age.

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