There is a reason why Janet Leigh's sweater was so tight...



Janet Leigh's film career began when retired actress Norma Shearer saw a photograph of the young Leigh dressed in ski-wear. Shearer was so impressed with the picture that she used what persuasive powers she had left with MGM and helped get Leigh a contract. Some years later, MGM loaned Janet Leigh out to RKO for a three picture deal. This arrangement made Leigh uncomfortable considering her previous dealings with RKO owner Howard Hughes. We all know Hughes was a notorious womanizer who set his sights on many actresses with a ferocity that would terrify your average woman.  Hughes was as impressed Leigh's beauty as Shearer was but in a totally different way. He arranged for a date with Leigh, whisking her off to a surprise rendezvous in Las Vegas (he flew of course). She was terrified of his aggressiveness and was turned off by his power and his age.  So you can imagine how terrified she was when she learned that MGM practically sold her off to RKO for three movies without her permission or asking for her opinion. 

In July of 1949, Leigh started filming the movie Holiday Affair (1949) with Robert Mitchum. Hughes put as much sex into his films as possible and he loved to complicate plots at whatever cost necessary to get the final product he wanted. But Holiday Affair was a bit tricky. It's a sweet film: a romance, a family movie and a Christmas film all in one. Janet Leigh plays Connie Ennis, a widower and single mother who works as a secret shopper for a department store. She meets Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum), a toy department clerk at a competitor's store, when she accidentally gets him fired. Mason and Ennis hit it off platonically and romantically but there are obstacles in the way, notably the memory of her deceased husband and her lawyer boyfriend. However, her son Timmy is the catalyst that keeps Connie moving in the right direction even when she's very reluctant to leave her past in the past.
Frankly, Howard Hughes was kind of bored by the idea of this film. No sex, no violence, no exotic locales, no intrigue, no malleable plot, no nothing. He knew the film would mean instant money in the bank because of the stars, the plot and the holiday hook. So he left it well enough alone which is why this film is one of the least convoluted productions from the RKO library during that time period. However, he did leave his mark by means of one very very tight sweater.  In Lee Server's Robert Mitchum biography Baby I Don't Care, he states "[Hughes] had them make Janet Leigh wear a shoulder-length fall [for hair] and in one scene a sweater so tight it made her breasts stand out like traffic cones." It was Hughes way of getting back at Leigh for her for rejecting his advances as well as injecting some sex into a pretty much sexless film. 

13 comments:

  1. That look on Mitchum's face is classic. Great screen shot!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tommy - I'm sure Mitchum didn't mind the tight sweater.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oooo a vintage film blog! Why are things like this so hard to find?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Colleen- Hi there. Thanks for stopping by. We are not hard to find. If you Google "classic film blog" I come up pretty quickly in the search results.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh my goodness! Wow! What a horrible guy. I feel completely terrible for Janet Leigh now. It's funny how things have changed since then. Fantastic post!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Always interesting to see what were the boundaries in popular culture in terms of sex and violence back in the day, especially in comparison to today, where violence seems more extreme than ever, but any hint of sex still scares the Moral Guardians.

    BTW, I gave you a shout-out in my blog today (click on my name). I finally got around to watching a Kazan movie after you talked about that awesome box set.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Janet Leigh was my favourite when I was just a boy. Particularly in such swashbuckling classics such as 'Prince Valiant' and 'The Black Shield of Falworth' as well as in 'My Sister Eileen'. How could a 10-y-o not be impressed by such a sweetheart? I wish I had seen her in that tight sweater!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Maybe it's just me (and I consider myself pretty modest), but that sweater doesn't seem all that tight. Not that I'm disputing your story. I could just be tainted by modern styles. Poor Janet Leigh, though, to have to endure Hughes' bullying.

    I really want to see this film, though. I love Mitchum (just watched Out of the Past last night).

    ReplyDelete
  9. As tight as the sweater is, I am surprised Mr. Hughes didn't try to make it tighter! I recall he was well known for being a "breast man"!

    ReplyDelete
  10. In addition to the sweaters, the undergarments in movies back then made a woman seem as though she's concealing projectile missiles in her chest cavity.

    [Also those 1950s Maidenform print ads do the same thing.]

    Considering Hughes' invention of the prototype push up for THE OUTLAW, I don't wonder poor Janet Leigh wasn't made to wear something else even more daring.

    ReplyDelete
  11. when i read the title of this post, i instantly thought to myself "well actually, i can think of TWO reasons"

    and that's all i'm gonna say :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hu! I never knew Norman Shearer helped start Janet Lee's career! How sweet of her...

    ReplyDelete
  13. oh gee Hughes, why am I not surprised?
    Well, whatever Janet wears, she is so pretty!

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails