anet Leigh, the demure but sexy blond movie star of the 1950's who will always be remembered for the 45-second shower scene in which she was slashed to death in Hitchcock's "Psycho" in 1960, died on Sunday at her home in Beverly Hills. She was 77.
The cause was vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels, said Heidi Schaeffer, a spokeswoman for the family.
"Psycho" was a landmark in Hollywood moviemaking, both controversial and shocking, partly because of its violence and partly because the director did the unthinkable and killed off his star one-third of the way through the movie.
As Marion Crane, an embezzler on the run with $40,000, Ms. Leigh made the mistake of stopping for the night at the Bates Motel and taking a shower. She was apparently stabbed dozens of times, although the movie never showed the knife touching her flesh. Bernard Herrmann's shrill music underscored the slashes; the scene is beloved of both serious movie scholars and parodists.
"It took us seven days to shoot that scene, and there were 70 camera setups for 45 seconds of footage," Hitchcock said in "Hitchcock" by the filmmaker François Truffaut.
After "Psycho," for which Ms. Leigh received her only Academy Award nomination, was released, Mr. Hitchcock told his star that they could never work together again.
In a 1998 interview, Ms. Leigh remembered the director's words: "Whatever I put you in, the audience would immediately think of 'Psycho.' It wouldn't be fair to the picture or the character."
In a career with many forgettable films, Ms. Leigh starred in two other classic movies. She was the woman who met Frank Sinatra on a train in John Frankenheimer's thriller "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962), and Susan Vargas, the threatened American bride of the Mexican narcotics cop Charlton Heston in Orson Welles's film noir "Touch of Evil" (1958).
She played the role in "Touch of Evil" with a broken arm masked by a coat. "I broke my arm doing a TV show the week before we started," Ms. Leigh told the interviewer Patrick Giles in 1998. "I had it set at a 45-degree angle, not a 90-degree angle."
When she told Welles, he said: "Oh, that's no problem. When I heard you'd broken it, I thought about showing it like that in the picture. But Susan's on her honeymoon, so that's too weird, even for me."
One of the first of a crop of post-World War II ingénues, Ms. Leigh was the love interest of Van Johnson in her debut film as a mountain girl in "The Romance of Rosy Ridge" (1947).
She became the darling of the fan magazines with her marriage to Tony Curtis in 1951. Ms. Leigh and the good-looking boy from the Bronx were the perfect embodiment of the young Hollywood of the 1950's, as they starred together in four films, including "The Black Shield of Falworth"(1954) as a medieval lady and her would-be knight suitor. They were divorced in the early 1960's, and Ms. Curtis soon married Robert Brandt.
She was born Jeanette Helen Morrison on July 6, 1927, in the Central Valley town of Merced, Calif. Her parents moved from apartment to apartment and town to town. At the age of 14, Ms. Leigh escaped from home by eloping. The marriage was later annulled, and Ms. Leigh returned to high school, graduating just before her 16th birthday.
The 19-year-old Jeanette Morrison became a movie actress in classical old-Hollywood fashion. The MGM star Norma Shearer saw her photograph at a ski lodge where her parents were working as desk clerk and maid. A screen test at MGM was followed by a contract at $50 a week.
By 1949, a second marriage had ended in divorce, and Ms. Leigh was making five movies a year. The most memorable were the all-star "Little Women" (1949) - in which June Allyson played the tomboyish heroine, Jo, Elizabeth Taylor played the selfish Amy; and Ms. Leigh was the nurturing, practical Meg - and Anthony Mann's rough western "The Naked Spur" (1953), which pit the bounty hunter James Stewart against Robert Ryan, with a crop-haired Janet Leigh in the middle.
After 1966 Ms. Leigh turned to television, although she did appear with her younger daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, in John Carpenter's horror film"The Fog" in 1980.
Ms. Leigh is survived by her husband Robert Brandt and by Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis, her daughters with Tony Curtis.
Ms. Leigh's own reaction to "Psycho" was visceral. After she saw the movie, she said many times, she never wanted to take a shower again.