Renown for his role as the shy innkeeper, Norman Bates, in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, Anthony Perkins was a case of life imitating art after 1960.
Born on April 4, 1932 in New York City, Anthony was the son of Janet Essestyn and stage and film actor James Ripley Osgood Perkins who sadly passed away while performing on-stage when Anthony was only five. Five years after his father's passing, Anthony and his mother moved to Boston where he attended The Brooks School, The Browne & Nichols School, Columbia University and Rollins College.
His career didn't begin until 1953 in the film The Actress. For his work, Anthony received the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the year (Actor). Three years later, Anthony landed an Academy Award nomination for his role in Friendly Persuasion(1956).
Standing at 6'2, Perkins was the ideal height to play the troubled former Boston Red Sox baseball player, Jimmy Piersall, in the 1957 true story, Fear Strikes Out.
But what some might not know about Anthony Perkins was just how talented he was. After Fear Strikes Out, he released three pop music records under 'Tony Perkins.' His single 'Moon-Light Swim' was quite a hit in the US, peaking at the #24 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1957.
Aside from film and music, Perkins followed his father and hit the stage. In 1958 he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in Look Homeward, Angel on Broadway. It was during this time that he worked with two of the loveliest women in show business: Sophia Loren (Desire Under The Elms 1958) and Jane Fonda (Tall Story 1960).
It was in 1960 where Perkins went from romantic lead to horror movie icon when he was cast as the shy innkeeper, Norman Bates, in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. The film was a critical and commercial success, and gained Perkins international fame for his performance as the homicidal owner of the Bates Motel. Perkins' performance would garner him the Best Actor Award from the International Board of Motion Picture Reviewers. Psycho has also held up over time, with it's infamous shower scene, and still ranks in the top twenty must see horror movies. (It landed at number 2 on my Top 13 Must See Horror Movies list for www.trulydisturbing.com)
Perkins played the role of Norman to perfection. He was handsome, sweet, seemed like a good egg. But as we all know, you can't judge a book by it's cover. Norman Bates was deranged, and those lovely young women that crossed his path found themselves dealing with a watery grave. There was something dangerous and unsettling lurking beneath the exterior of Norman Bates. Something so sinister that it caused fear to escalate among cinema goers.
After Psycho, Perkins starred opposite Ingrid Bergman in Goodbye Again which earned him a nomination and a win for Best Actor at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival.
In 1968, Perkins starred in Pretty Poison, opposite Tuesday Welds. The role saw Perkins play a disturbed young murderer. His performance was almost a mirror image of his role in Psycho. (It's also no surprise that I enjoyed the film)
In 1973, Perkins co-wrote, along with composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, the screenplay for the film The Last Of Shelia. Both gentlemen received a 1974 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.
Also in 1974, Perkins starred in Murder On The Orient Express. Once again, his performance seemed to mirror his performance as Norman Bates.
In 1983 Perkins did the unthinkable. He returned to The Bates Motel. Psycho II was a monster of a success more than 20 years after the initial film terrified the world. He followed up the sequel in 1986 with Psycho III that he not only starred in but also directed. (Fun Fact: Anthony Perkins landed himself a nomination for a Saturn Award for Best Actor)
Despite being Norman Bates on film, Perkins rejected the chance to reprise his role in the failed television pilot Bates Motel, famously boycotting the project in a very ardent, and well-received, oppositional public campaign. However, in 1990, Norman Bates did return in a made for cable sequel entitled Psycho IV: The Beginning. While he had a lot of creative control over Psycho IV, he was turned down for directing.
While Perkins is best known for his role in Psycho, it's pretty evident that the role of Norman Bates never really left him. Crimes Of Passion (1984) with Kathleen Turner as well as the Hungarian-produced Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde remake Edge Of Sanity and Daughter Of Darkness saw Perkins return to the disturbed state of mind that made him a household name the world over.
Despite fighting AIDS, Perkins appeared in eight television productions between 1990 and 1992 including the TV movie, I'm Dangerous Tonight. (Which is a must see film) His final appearance was with Rosanna Arquette in the film In Deep Woods.
Sadly, on September 12, 1992, Anthony Perkins passed away from complications with AIDS. Before he died, Perkins had agreed to provide the voice for the role of the dentist, Dr. Wolfe in The Simpsons episode 'Last Exit To Springfield' after both Anthony Hopkins and Clint Eastwood passed on it. He died before he had a chance to record the role. (Fun Fact: The role of Dr. Wolfe ended up going to Hank Azaria)
Since his death, there have been many reports about Perkins' personal life, from tales of homosexuality to deranged interviews that made the reporters feel like they were indeed talking to Norman Bates. Even Anthony's wife, Berinthia 'Berry' Berenson couldn't prevent the rumour mill circling. It also didn't help that Perkins had turned down advances from Jane Fonda and Brigitte Bardot.
Some say that life had imitated art when it came to Anthony Perkins. That his role of Norman Bates had played so gallantly on his mind that he in fact became Norman. Some even went as far to say that when his wife was killed in the September 11 attacks on New York City that the Psycho curse had finally claimed its last victim. But as far as I'm concerned, those are nothing but rumours.
Regardless of his personal life, Anthony Perkins was a damn good actor with the ability to be whoever he needed to be. From a shy innkeeper, to a playboy, to a seedy police detective, to a loner on a train, Anthony Perkins delivered it all, with style and flare reserved for old Hollywood.
Anthony Perkins. Talented, handsome, and generous, his legacy will live on through his works in stage, cinema, writing and music. He is one legend that time will never forget.