Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Resort honors valley icon, actress Janet Leigh

'Leigh Lane' ski trail established on Bald Mountain

Express Staff Writer

Actress and part-time Wood River Valley resident Jamie Lee Curtis poses next to the sign for Leigh Lane, the ski trail Sun Valley Resort has renamed after her mother, Janet Leigh. Photo by Michele Schwartz

Sun Valley Resort this week will bestow high honors on one of its longtime friends, the late actress Janet Leigh, a Hollywood icon who kept a second home in the Wood River Valley for more than 30 years.

Resort officials have decided to dedicate a ski trail on the Seattle Ridge area of Bald Mountain in memory of Leigh, who is best known for her role as the victim of a crazed killer in "Psycho," the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock thriller that captivated audiences for decades.

A beginner's trail called Seattle Ridge—which runs from the Seattle Ridge Lodge to the top of the Broadway ski trail—has been renamed "Leigh Lane." A sign designating the new trail name was installed on the top of Seattle Ridge Friday, Dec. 16, the first day the Seattle Ridge area opened for the 2005-2006 ski season.

The new trail name will be officially dedicated during a public ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, in the Sun Valley Opera House, in Sun Valley Village. Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis, Leigh's daughters from her 11-year marriage to actor Tony Curtis, will attend. Jamie Lee Curtis, an actress who with her family maintains a part-time residence north of Ketchum, will speak before a free showing of "Psycho." The entire event is free and open to residents and visitors alike.

Jamie Lee Curtis visited Leigh Lane on Sunday, viewing the new sign before skiing down the trail. She said her mother would be greatly honored to gain an everlasting place in the rich history of Sun Valley Resort.

"I was very moved by it, to see her name on the run up there," Curtis said Monday at Dollar Mountain, in Sun Valley. "My Mom would have just been, in her words, tickled pink ... to have her name be a permanent part of Sun Valley."

Curtis said Leigh was very proud of being a resident of the Wood River Valley.

"My mother was an actress and a public figure for a long time. She fit the Sun Valley image," Curtis said. "She became an ambassador, I think, for what Sun Valley is, a paradise for families. Sun Valley is a place she loved deeply for 40 years."

Curtis added: "She really walked the walk of being a celebrated member of the community here. She would always pose for pictures with people in the street. She epitomized the glamour of Sun Valley and was as good of an ambassador as it ever had."

Leigh appeared in more than 50 movies during her illustrious acting career. In addition to "Psycho," she had roles in "Little Women" (1949), "Touch of Evil" (1958), "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) and "Bye Bye Birdie" (1963). She played a major role in "The Naked Spur" (1952), with James Stewart and Robert Ryan.

In 1960, Leigh won the role of Marion Crane in "Psycho," which co-starred Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. The scene in which Crane is brutally murdered in a shower at the Bates Motel, which reportedly took Hitchcock a week to film, set the standard for Hollywood thrillers. Leigh earned an Oscar nomination for the role.

Later in life, Leigh starred with Jamie Lee Curtis in "The Fog" (1980) and "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later" (1998). She died in October 2004 at the age of 77.

Leigh's long association with Sun Valley started in the 1960s, Curtis said.

"My stepfather, Robert Brandt, brought us here," she said. "My parents were very close with all of the Sun Valley families and have been very close with Earl and Carol Holding (the owners of Sun Valley Resort)."

The idea to name a ski run after Leigh was hatched last year at the new Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge, shortly after Leigh's death, Curtis said.

"Carol and Earl were at the grand opening of the lodge, and I walked in and saw a picture of my Mom on the wall and just burst into tears," she said. "It really moved me."

Curtis told the Holdings she would like to see her mother honored in some way, perhaps through a scholarship for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. Eventually, a decision was made by the Holdings to establish Leigh Lane.

And, Curtis said, the idea for the scholarship has also come to fruition. She and her family have established the Janet Leigh Memorial Scholarship Fund, which will benefit the programs of the SVSEF.

Donations for the scholarship fund will be solicited Thursday night at the Opera House event.

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