Anthony Perkins was arguably one of the most well-respected performers of his time. Cinema fanatics may remember him for his film FRIENDLY PERSUASIONS; his second film which earned him an Academy Award Nomination. Horror fans, especially those here at Terror Time, fondly remember Perkins for his portrayal of Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO as well as its three sequels.
He was a prolific actor; appearing in well over 50 films in his decades-long career. However, in 1992, at the age of 60, Perkins passed away due to AIDS-related pneumonia; leaving behind a legacy not easily forgotten. Today, on the anniversary of his death – we wanted to take some time to look back on him and his career (both in film and out) and explore a bit of the man behind the Mother.
Anthony Perkins was born in New York City. His father, Osgood Perkins was a renowned stage and film actor. His mother, Janet was a hard working stay-at-home mother. At the age of five, his father passed away. He attended the prestigious Columbia University and eventually Rollins College after moving to Boston in 1942.
In 1953, Perkins made his film debut in THE ACTRESS, which earned him a Golden Globe Award as “New Star of the Year.” His second, FRIENDLY PERSUASIONS, earned him an Oscar nod. And the young Perkins quickly became a household name after his portrayal of Boston Red Sox Player Jimmy Piersall in the 1957 film FEAR STRIKES OUT.
Perkins was also a member of the infamous Actor’s Studio, performing on and off Broadway in several stage productions. In 1958, he found himself nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in “Look Homeward, Angel” which ran on Broadway from November of 1957 to 1959 when the show opened in Wilmington, Delaware. His role was taken over by John Barrymore; and eventually Johnathan Bolt.
In 1960, he infamously starred as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO which gained him both critical and commercial success. His performance earned him the Best Actor award from the International Board of Motion Picture Reviewers. Throughout his career, he revisited the role of Norman Bates in the three sequels that followed the original PSYCHO film.
He received additional acclaim in 1961, after starring in GOODBYE AGAIN, opposite Ingrid Bergman. He received the Best Actor Award from the Cannes Film Festival due to his performance.
The following year, Perkins worked with Orson Welles in his adaptation of Kafka’s THE TRIAL and travelled abroad to star in UNE RAVISSANTE IDIOTE alongside Brigitte Bardot.
After returning to America, he starred in PRETTY POISON (1968) opposite Tuesday Weld.
From there, he went on to either star or be featured in several prolific films such as CATCH-22, THE LAST OF SHEILA, PLAY IT AS IT LAYS, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Disney’s THE BLACK HOLE, PSYCHO II, PSYCHO III (which he also directed), and PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING. In 1988 he also directed a horror/comedy film, LUCKY STIFF.
Despite his many film accolades, there are aspects of Anthony Perkins that some fans may not be aware of.
To start, Perkins was an accomplished singer/songwriter and in 1957 and ’58 released three pop albums through Epic and RCA Victor under the “pseudonym” Tony Perkins. He released a hit single, titled “Moonlight Swim” which peaked at number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1957.
He also flexed his songwriting muscles with notable composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim.
In 1991, Perkins was awarded the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival; he also earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Sadly, Perkins passed away on September 12th, 1992 due to complications from AIDS-related pneumonia. He left behind his wife, Berry Berenson (a photographer) and their two children, Oz and Elvis Perkins.
Anthony Perkins is one of those actors that people look upon with awe. Accomplished in several areas, his career continues to remain one to admire and his sheer talent will be revered for years to come. From his work on and off Broadway to his extensive film catalogue, Perkins will be forever remembered as a powerhouse; someone capable of being as tender and wholesome as they were terrifying.
Thank you, Mr. Perkins, for your art and contribution to the film industry both past and present. Without your influence and inspiration, the industry would undoubtedly be very different today.
Rest in Peace.