1 Oscar Actors: Perkins, Anthony–Background, Career, Awards

Updated May 16, 2022
Anthony Perkins Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: Yes; father actor

Social Class: Middle (or upper-middle)

Race/Ethnicity/Religion

Family:

Education:

Training:

Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut: The Actress, 1953; aged 21

Breakthrough Role:

Oscar Role: Friendly Persuasion, 1956; aged 24

Other Noms: Tony Nom, 1959

Other Awards: Cannes Fest Best Actor, Goodbye Again

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image: matinee idol, lead and character actor, Psycho

Last Film:

Career Output:

Film Career Span:

Marriage:

Politics:

Death: 1992; aged 60; AIDS

Born in New York City, Perkins got his start in adolescent summer stock programs, although he debuted in films before he set foot on a professional stage.

His first film, The Actress, costarring Spencer Tracy and Jean Simmons and directed by George Cukor, was a disappointment save for an Oscar nod for its costumes, and Perkins returned to the boards instead.

He made his Broadway debut in the Elia Kazan-directed Tea and Sympathy where he played Tom Lee, a “sissy” cured by the right woman. He was praised for the role, and after it closed, he turned to Hollywood once more, starring in Friendly Persuasion (1956) with Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire, which earned him the Golden Globe for Best New Actor of the Year and Best Supporting Actor nomination. Rushes of the film led to Perkins landing a 7-year, semi-exclusive contract with Paramount. He was their last matinee idol.

Although Friendly Persuasion earned him praise, Perkins solidified himself as a powerful actor in Fear Strikes Out the following year, which caused many to name him “the next James Dean” and “the greatest American actor under thirty.”

However, Paramount was concerned with heterosexualizing Perkins’s image, which led to a string of romantic roles alongside Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and Shirley MacLaine.

He was able to score the occasional serious role in the Broadway play Look Homeward, Angel (for which he was nominated for  Tony) and the 1959 film On the Beach with Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, and Ava Gardner.

Although he was once again cast as a romantic lead in Jane Fonda’s film debut, Tall Story, he was cast as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), which established him as a horror icon and garnered him nominations for a Bambi Award and a Saturn Award.

This also led to him being typecast, and in order to escape the same villainous roles, as well as the brutal homophobia he was being subjected to, Perkins bought himself out of his Paramount contract and fled to France, where he debuted in Goodbye Again (1961). Even when paired with Oscar-winning actress Ingrid Bergman, he still distinguished himself as talented performer, and the film won him the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actor.

Born April 4, 1932 – September 12, 1992) was an American actor, director, and singer. Perkins is regarded as an influential figure in pop culture for his work in horror films, where he often played villains, though he was also renowned for playing romantic leads.

He represented an era of vulnerable actors who straddled the line between masculinity and femininity, and he distinguished himself by playing unconfident characters.

After some European films with the likes of Sophia Loren, Orson Welles, Melina Mercouri, and Brigitte Bardot, Perkins returned to America in 1968 with his first American film after an eight-year hiatus, Pretty Poison. He costarred with Tuesday Weld, and the film became a cult classic.

In the film’s wake, he starred in commercially and critically successful films, such as Catch-22 (1970), Play It as It Lays (1972), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), and Mahogany (1975), the latter of which broke box-office attendance records.

During this time, Perkins went through conversion therapy and married Berry Berenson in 1973.

Psycho Sequels

He also conceded to typecasting, starring in Psycho II (1983), Psycho III (1986), and Psycho IV: The Beginning.

He was involved in numerous television excursions, and his last film, In the Deep Woods, was TV movie, broadcast one month after his death in September 1992, from AIDS.

Before his father’s death, 1932–1937

Infant Perkins with his mother Janet at the beach, circa. 1933

Perkins was born April 4, 1932, in Manhattan, the son of stage and film actor Osgood Perkins (1892–1937) and his wife, Janet Esselstyn (nee Rane; 1894–1979).

His paternal great-grandfather was wood engraver Andrew Varick Stout Anthony. Perkins was descendant of Mayflower passengers John Howland, Myles Standish and William Brewster as well as Roger Conant. Through an entirely paternal line he was descended from John Perkins, who arrived in Boston from England in 1630 as part of the Puritan migration to New England.

Perkins did not see much of his father, who was busy in film and stage roles. His supporting role in the original picture adaptation of Scarface, which was released the year Perkins was born.

Perkins’s only fond memories of his father came primarily from a 1937 summer excursion to Fire Island, although they did little together on the trip. During this time, the Perkinses hired French nanny Jeanne to look after their son. This led to Perkins learning French just as well as English, which would be useful years later when he moved to France.

Between his father’s absences, Perkins was surrounded by a feminine presence, esp. his mother. “I became abnormally close to my mother,” Perkins recalled to People in 1983, “and whenever my father came home I was jealous. It was the Oedipal thing in a pronounced form, I loved him but I also wanted him to be dead so I could have her all to myself.”

On September 21, 1937, Osgood Perkins died of heart attack  after a successful opening night of his newest play, Susan and God. He is said to have told his wife after coming home, “I like that role. I hope the play never closes.” His death caused Perkins to feel intensely guilty. “I was horrified,” he said later. “I assumed that my wanting him to be dead had actually killed him. I prayed and prayed for my father to come back. I remember long nights of crying in bed. For years I nursed the hope that he wasn’t really dead. Because I’d see him on film, it was as if he were still alive. He became a mythic being to me, to be dreaded and appeased.”

After his father’s death, 1937–1947

Perkins in a school photograph, 1940s

With the last masculine presence gone, Perkins was surrounded wholly by women once again. He was raised alongside a repulsion of religion and constant feminine presence, which manifested in the sexually-ambiguous way he carried himself. Besides his mother, a consistent female companion in Perkins’s life was young, burgeoning playwright Michaela O’Harra, whom his mother had taken an acute liking to. “My mother said–I don’t know if she used the word lesbian … but that was just what it felt like to me: ‘Oh, they’re having a lesbian relationship.’ You know, something like that,” recalled Perkins’s childhood friend, John Kerr, about the relationship between O’Harra and Perkin’s mother. Although her sexuality has been disputed, Perkins’s mother was not heterosexual.

During this time, Perkins’s mother began to sexually abuse him. “She was constantly touching me and caressing me. Not realizing what effect she was having, she would touch me all over, even stroking the inside of my thighs right up to my crotch.” This behavior continued on into his adulthood.

In 1942, when Perkins was 10, the family moved to Boston. Due to her connections in the theatre industry, Janet gained position at the nearby American Theatre Wing’s Boston Stage Door Canteen. It had been successful in numerous other cities, including the country’s capital, and experienced similar growth in Boston. Janet, who managed much of the canteen’s activities, shared in this abrupt yet steady wealth, which gave them money to live off of. On days when she was busy, Perkins was sent to stay with his grandmother, whom he had affectionately taken to calling Mimi

The feeling of a parent’s absence was too much for Perkins, who began to rebel at his overcrowded public school–he was labelled a “gifted drifter.” To quell his rebellious habits, Janet shipped him off to Brooks School, 40 minutes outside of Boston.

The placement was disastrous: Perkins’s childhood habit of stuttering returned again and he shied away from all athletics. Janet, however, forced him into baseball. It was the first time in his life where Perkins was overwhelmed by solely masculine presence and therefore singled out for being “different.”

 The pressure bore down on him, leading him to leave school in long absences during his second year after he came down with back-to-back cases of scarlet fever. After missing many classes, Perkins sunk to the bottom of his class in grades. This led Perkins and Janet to make a deal: if he got good grades, she would allow him to return to Boston the next year for schooling. Perkins stayed true to his promise, ranking in the top third of his class and inspiring his headmaster to comment, “Tony Perkins is considerably more mature than the rest of his contemporaries, and is impatient with many of their schoolboy interests.”

Summer stock, 1947–1950

During this time that Perkins’s absence of a father began to bear down on him again. “As Tony grew older and saw other boys with their fathers,” Janet remembered, “he badly missed his own father. And the only identification he could have with his father was through theater … I began to realize that he was acquiring an unusual interest in performing … A friend was running a summer stock company, and I approached him to ask whether Tony might play some small parts.”

 This launched Perkins’s adolescent summer stock career. The first summer stock company Perkins played for was at the Brattleboro Summer Theater in Vermont, where he played some minor parts in the plays Junior MissKiss and Tell, and George Washington Slept Here, and manned the box office. This earned him both twenty-five dollars a week and an Equity card.

Janet sent Perkins to Browne & Nichols School. At the time, it was an all-boys school located in Cambridge, with a high percentage of football players and overly-masculine types. With smaller classes, Perkins stood out more, leading him to earn a reputation as the class magician and piano player. He was also renowned for his lisping Roddy McDowall impression, which he performed in the halls between classes, to his fellow students’ delight.

 Around this time the public was first introduced to the groundbreaking yet controversial Kinsey Reports exploring the layers of human sexuality.

In summer 1948, Perkins again returned to summer stock, this time under a different company. Janet had found a job as a manager for the Robin Hood Theatre in Arden, Delaware, where Perkins once again manned the box office and earned stage experience. His most memorable performance was in Sarah Simple where he played a near-sighted twin, though it was at the Robin Hood Theatre that Perkins first met Charles Williamson, who would later have an important impact in Perkins’s life.

In 1949, Perkins was in school activities. He joined the varsity tennis team and the glee club, and was made co-literary editor of the school paper, The Spectator. Occasionally, he contributed articles.

Perkins began to question his sexuality–he felt singled out as the “other.”

College, 1950–1953

Perkins (top row, center) in a summer stock company, c. 1950

Many Browne & Nicholas alums were interested in Harvard, but  Perkins, whose grades were too low , was the only student persuaded to attend Rollins College when a representative toured the school.

He returned to Delaware that summer, where he once again worked at the Robin Hood, one of the most important summer stock programs in the country. There he grew reacquainted with old friend Charles Williamson, going out to lunch with him and swimming together during breaks. Perkins developed a crush on Williamson, who recalled, “He never expressed his homosexuality during the summer of 1950. He did not act on it at all. At the time, I was very much in the closet and repressed. We both shared that.”

Perkins played Fred Whitmarsh in the play Years Ago, who he’d perform again a few years later in Cukor’s screen adaptation.

Perkins did not experience camaraderie at Rollins College. Known as a Christian, all-American school, Rollins College was in the heart of Florida, and Perkins had arrived after Congress had named homosexuals and Communists enemies of equal danger.

Perkins appeared in stage productions at school and moved around fraternities constantly. It was at Rollins that Perkins first started experimenting with sex with other men.

Some homosexual students, Perkins’s friends, were expelled from Rollins and even arrested after a fellow student beat one of them. However, due to Perkins’s connections with the theater professor, he was spared. This led to tension between him and the rest of the students, who knew of Perkins’s sexuality. It motivated Perkins to transfer to Columbia University.

Career

Film and Broadway Debut

While attending Rollins College, Perkins went out to California over summer vacation, hoping to make it into the movies. Having heard that MGM was making a screen adaptation of Years Ago, he lingered on the lot, hoping a casting director would spot and test him. As Perkins later recalled: “I hung around the casting gate all summer, running errands and picking up sandwiches for the guards.

One day they were testing Margaret O’Brien and they needed the back of someone’s head. They didn’t know who to use. Then someone piped up and said, ‘How about that kid that’s always hanging around here? We could use the back of his head!’

“They called me in and I stood right in front of the camera, almost obliterating poor Margaret O’Brien’s face and causing a director to say, ‘Please move a little to the left.’ When he said this, I turned around and said, ‘Who, me?’ and I was in the test.”

Perkins then learned he had been cast as Fred Whitmarsh in the film, now renamed The Actress (1953), alongside Jean Simmons and Spencer Tracy. He was directed by Cukor, who was a friend and collaborator of his late father. In the film, he played a fumbling Harvard student who chases the interest of Ruth Gordon Jones (Simmons), who wants to perform onstage despite her family’s disapproval. The film was a commercial disappointment, although it scored Oscar nomination for Costume Design.

Perkins was first noticed when he replaced John Kerr on Broadway in Tea and Sympathy in 1954 (age 22), directed by the legendary Kazan, who had been a friend of his father’s. In the play, he took on the role of Tom Lee, a college student who is labelled as a “sissy” and fixed with the love of the right woman, in an almost autobiographical role.

Perkins said later, “It was the best part ever written for a young guy. I felt so involved with that particular play. In many ways, I was Tom Lee.” Although homophobically written and resolved, the play was the only explicit work to hit Broadway depicting homosexuality and garnered a large gay following, therefore establishing Perkins in the gay-dominated theater world.

Through this audience the production became a success, and many people thought Perkins was substantially better than his predecessor, John Kerr, who went on to play the role in the film adaptation. Joan Fickett, who played Perkins’s love interest in the play, commented, “He was that boy. I’d seen John Kerr do it before, but Tony had a quality that was fantastic for the part–all the rawness and the hurt and the confusion, he just had. I found his performance tremendously poignant.”  The play’s success and Perkins’s tremendous performance renewed Hollywood interest in him.

During Tea and Sympathy, Perkins was drafted despite (or perhaps because of) the recent end of the Korean War. Without consulting anybody, he decided to tell the Selective Service he was a “practicing homosexual,” an eligible way to be deemed unfit for service, rather than enter the military. This had disastrous results, leaving Perkins traumatized.

Perkins (left) and Gary Cooper, Friendly Persuasion (1956)

When his run in Tea and Sympathy ended, director William Wyler sent out his assistant Stuart Millar to search out talent on Broadway for his upcoming film, Friendly Persuasion. It centered around a bristled family of Quakers during the Civil War, and he was scouting an actor to play the oldest of the Birdwell children, Josh. When Millar saw Perkins in Sympathy, he gave him a page of script and let him to audition. As Millar recalled: “About half a hour later, Perkins had the part. Wyler was thrilled with the reading, he saw everything instantly. It was really one of the best, if not the best, readings I’ve ever seen.”

Perkins was soon after shipped out to Hollywood, where he began shooting alongside Dorothy McGuire and Cooper, his screen mother and father.

Perkins, native New Yorker, did not know how to drive yet and regularly hitchhiked out from his hotel at Chateau Marmont to the set each day, something which became infamous and often talked about in fan magazines. His boyfriend, Tab Hunter, taught him how to drive.

 Perkins’s inexperience radiated childish naïveté, something which endeared him to Gary Cooper. “Coop was warm and gracious and kindly,” a man who worked on the film, said. “He liked [Perkins and I] a lot, and Tony loved to hear him talk.  The feeling was mutual between Perkins, Cooper, and even the director. Perkins was regularly praised by Wyler for his performance and Cooper began publicly endorsing Perkins’s abilities.

This led to Perkins and Cooper sharing the cover of the July 1956 issue of Life magazine. Cooper spoke about Perkins in a fatherly manner: “I think he’d do well to spend a summer on a ranch,” he commented about his younger costar. “It would toughen him up and he’d learn a lot from another kind of people.” Cooper’s daughter, Maria Cooper Janis, asserted that, although her father certainly admired Perkins, it could have been for other reasons: “He had friends in Hollywood in the acting community who were gay, and they couldn’t come out. He saw what emotional toll it took on them. I know my father adored Tony Perkins. My father felt he was a hell of an actor.”

After rushes of the film were shared, the advance praise of his performance became so strong that Paramount took an interest in him. They soon after signed him under 7 year semi-exclusive contract, which gave him room to return to Broadway.

He was their last matinee idol and was called the “fifteen million dollar gamble.”

Perkins’s 1957 biopic about Boston Red Sox baseball player Jimmy Piersall entitled Fear Strikes Out. It followed his father’s pressure to become legendary baseball player and how it led to his highly publicized mental breakdown, as well as detailing his efforts to get better in a mental institution.

The set of the film was hostile with homophobia, which put Perkins on edge so much that the cast and crew feared he was  having mental breakdown while filming the scene. Although he wasn’t nominated for Oscars, his performance was praised by critics. The HR proclaimed: “Every recent young star has been compared to James Dean. From now on the standard is Tony Perkins.”

Western: The Lonely Man

After this critical success, Perkins starred in the Western The Lonely Man (1957), with Jack Palance. Perkins played Riley Wade, whose father, Jacob (Palance), abruptly returns to his life after having abandoned his mother years before. Jacob fights with Riley’s hatred for him throughout the film, desperate to reconnect with his estranged son after years of separation.

KimStanley, previous costar of Perkins’s, was originally cast as his love interest but was replaced last-minute by Elaine Aiken in her film debut. The film set was riddled with tensions, most of which spawned from Palance’s ultra-masculinity and Perkins’s lack thereof.  This was only heightened when filming was put behind schedule by an abrupt weather crisis that prevented outdoor production for a number of days. Still, a feeling of vitality remained. “We all thought this was an important picture we were making.”

The Tin Star

Perkins’s next Western, The Tin Star (1957) was with Henry Fonda. Originally, despite his popularity, Perkins was not wanted: “The producers, Bill Perlberg and George Seaon, told someone who told someone who told someone who told me that they wouldn’t have me in their picture for a million dollars,” Perkins admitted during filming. However, he auditioned for them as soon as he heard the news.

In the film, Perkins played yet another pacifist, this time a sheriff named Ben Owens. After encountering an experienced bounty hunter, Morgan Hickman (Fonda), Ben has to prove himself worthy of his title in an ironic reflection of Perkins’s troubles with Paramount. Perkins and Fonda took the hours-long drive out to set together in the same car, during which they became closely acquainted and shared stories of their private lives. Cast members speculate that Perkins confided in Fonda about his sexuality during these drives. The film grossed over $1 million in the box office and was one of the biggest films of 1957. It is now considered a classic of the genre.

Friendly Persuasion opened globally to critical and commercial success. The film was largely praised by critics, who took a liking to Perkins. The film earned him the Globe for Best New Actor and nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Teen idol 

Perkins in a 1957 publicity still for Modern Screen

Perkins released 3 pop music albums and several singles in 1957 and 1958 on Epic and RCA Victor under the name Tony Perkins.

His single “Moon-Light Swim” was a moderate hit in the United States, peaking at number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1957. 1958’s “The Prettiest Girl in School,” though a flop in the US, was also popular in Australia.

He was inspired to pursue musical endeavors after the abrupt success of then-partner Tab Hunter, who had scored a number one hit on his debut record, “Young Love.”

Perkins was often heard joking “that his tremulous voice could make any happy love song sound sad.” However, Perkins was not committed to music career, though he produced full-length albums and a few EP’s until as late as the mid-1960s.

—–

Perkins did not choose to act in a musical when he exerted the freedom of his contract in 1957 and returned to Broadway in Look Homeward, Angel.

The play was an autobiographical coming-of-age story about its writer, Thomas Wolfe, and he took on the role of Eugene Gant, with his mother played by Jo Van Fleet. The play enjoyed a successful run, and in 1958, he was nominated for Tony for Best Actor in Play, though the rehearsals were tumultuous. Van Fleet developed reputation for her standoffish behavior and temper tantrums, leading to contention on the set.

A restrained performance from Perkins that Tab Hunter picked up on: Backstage, Tony asked what I thought of his performance, and I told him straight: “You’re afraid to give vent to what you’re truly feeling,” I said. “You’re only showing the side of yourself you want other people to see.” … When I saw Look Homeward, Angel the second time, in late January, Tony had stripped away all preconceived ideas and was mesmerizing.

 

Perkins with Jo Van Fleet in the Broadway play Look Homeward, Angel, 1957

Perkins, who had a dressing room far from the stage, often had to race between scenes in order to retrieve something so as not to miss his cue, something his costars utilized in practical jokes. They turned the backstage area into an obstacle course, seeing if Perkins could get back to the curtain in time. Reportedly, he never missed his entrances. On the day of his final performance, they went through with the prank as planned, watching Perkins leap over objects and dodge barriers. Once he made it through, he was greeted with a sign that said “We love you, Tony!”

Perkins teamed up again with Van Fleet in This Angry Age (1958), also known as The Sea Wall, for Columbia, replacing James Dean (Van Fleet had played Dean’s mother in East of Eden). The story followed a mother who, unlike her restless children, attempts to cling onto her dissipating rice farm in southeast Asia. He also starred Desire Under the Elms (1958) for Paramount with Sophia Loren and was her first American screen kiss. As Loren remembered in 2014 memoir, “Perkins was as neurotic and handsome as we all remember him in a later film Psycho. A gentle, polite, somewhat sullen young man, he didn’t know how to hide his restlessness. Between us there was  certain complicity. He helped me with my English, and I tried to make him laugh.”

Between Desire and his next movie, Perkins got offer to appear in the 1959 comedy Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe. He was given the role of Shell Oil Junior and Frank Sinatra was considered for the role of his companion. Both dress up in drag in order to board an all-women train car. Paramount, despite the appeal of a big star like Monroe, balked at the idea of having their already sexually-ambiguous heartthrob wear drag for film and forbade Perkins from accepting the role. It ultimately went to Tony Curtis instead.

Studio execs begged Perkins to return from Broadway to star in The Matchmaker (1958) alongside Shirley MacLaine and Shirley Booth, during which he and male companion dress up in women’s clothing to escape restaurant undetected. Perkins was given a salary of $75,000 for ten weeks’ work while MacLaine only got $25,000 for the same number of days. Although Perkins protested MacLaine’s smaller salary, no changes were made.

The Matchmaker was non-musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s stage play, where Dolly Gallagher Levi (Booth) attempts to set up rich businessman Horace Vandergelder (Paul Ford) with younger woman, Irene Malloy (MacLaine). Vandergelder’s employees, Cornelius Hackl (Perkins) and Barnaby Tucker (Robert Morse), tired of their poor wages and constant work, escape to New York City and meet Irene, who’s led to believe Cornelius is rich. Cornelius slowly falls in love with Irene while deceiving her. Morse had been a part of the original Broadway cast of the show, and he bonded with Perkins over the shared background. (Perkins would later disclose that Morse was bisexual, implying that they became confidants of sorts.)Perkins, however, intensely disliked MacLaine even after defending her from studio bosses and was put on edge by her intense drive and numerous pranks. “I’ve never been allowed that precious moment of seeing what Tony Perkins really is,” MacLaine later reported. “I don’t know what’s an act and what isn’t an act.”

Perkins and Audrey Hepburn in Green Mansions (1959)

Paramount took Perkins’s status as teen idol further and cast him as Hepburn’s love interest in Green Mansions (1959), one of her few flops.

It was based on an explorer who stumbles upon both a girl who lives in the woods and the Native Americans nearby who want to kill her. The film was originally intended for Elizabeth Taylor in 1953, though plans were abandoned.

In 1958, Mek Ferrer picked the film up for MGM, and Hepburn (his wife) was cast as the mystical Rima to secure funding. Perkins, still stinging after being forced to lose the role in Some Like it Hot, was then cast. It would be the only film in which Ferrer would direct his wife.

Paramount used the film to promote Perkins’s dwindling masculinity, showing him shirtless and exerting “ability” to kill men visually stronger than him. He received a reprieve to sing “Green Mansions,” the title song. Speaking about the movie Perkins said, “Hepburn was wonderful to work with, like a real person, almost a sister … The film was good but unusual.”

On the Beach (1959) did little to promote his teen idol status, and was his last serious film before the legendary Psycho Psycho performance later that year. He played a doomed father living in Australia after a nuclear war wipes humanity off all other continents. He supported legendary actors such as Peck, Gardner, Astaire. in first dramatic role. All filming took place in Melbourne on-location over the course of three months, and a soundstage was made out of a warehouse for the crew’s use.

Unlike other films, Perkins got on well with fellow cast members and even helped Astaire prepare for serious scenes. In infamous interview with People, Perkins would list Gardner as the first of many females who tried to put the make on him, although due to his sexuality, he declined.

Tall Story (1960) was best remembered for Jane Fonda’s film debut, and he had to play a college basketball champion. As a man who had never been talented in sports, he had to be trained to play basketball for his performance, but, unlike his teachings on the set of Fear Strikes Out, the lessons were able to stick. Perkins recounted to reporters, “I’ve been working out at the Warner gym, discovering what basketball is all about. I spend about an hour and a half a day dribbling, passing, shooting baskets, and going after rebounds … It’s a good game. Like chess in a way.”

Also unlike Fear Strikes Out, the set of Tall Story was hospitable to him from what he could see. Since Perkins had already worked with her father, he and Fonda had a connection, though not many could foresee the chemistry they would have both on- and off-screen.

As Fonda later recounted to P. Bosworth, “Tony Perkins told me, ‘Forget about the lights, just forget about the lights.’ And I did. And he taught me fascinating things, like the audience’s eyes always move to the right side of the screen so you should always try to get on the right side of the set.” Fonda also credits solely Perkins for helping her learn how to play before the camera when acting.

Fonda also developed a crush on Perkins. Perkins would recall  when she sat in his dressing room, completely naked, powdering her body.  Fonda, unlike others, was actually understanding of his homosexuality and became good friends with whomever he was seeing at the time. Behind the scenes, however, there was more turmoil: Fonda would recall, “Both Josh Logan (the director) and I were in love with Tony Perkins, and so that caused a problem.”

1960s

Publicity photos like these (taken in 1959) served only to heighten Perkins’s teen idol status

After being signed in 1955, Perkins became Paramount’s last matinee idol, and he was promoted as that image through string of leading man-roles on screen.

Once he had finished 3 films for the studio, they had already invested 15 million in him before any motion pictures was even released. This would begin the infamous tension between Perkins and Paramount.

Perkins believed Paramount was ruining his career. Although he was given the option to do Broadway performances, his fame stemmed from his performances on-screen, where Paramount was pushing him into leading-man roles. Perkins, however, wanted only to be serious actor, not a teen idol. The preoccupation with keeping Perkins’s masculinity intact led to him losing coveted roles, such as Shell Oil Junior in Some Like it Hot and Tony in West Side Story.

Barney Balaban, president of Paramount, strongly disliked Perkins due to his homosexuality and femininity. They constantly had arguments, mostly revolving around his sexuality and ongoing relationship with fellow actor Tab Hunter, which Balaban believed Perkins flaunted too much. He constantly pressured Perkins into breaking up with Hunter and going into conversion therapy for the five years Perkins was under contract with the studio. A later collaborator of Perkins’s remembered to Charles Winecoff in 1996, “Tony said one thing that always endeared him to me … that when he was a rising young star at Paramount, he was seeing a great deal of [Tab Hunter], they went around town together, and finally the big studio head called him in and said, ‘You cannot do this anymore. We’re going to make you a star, and you can’t be seen around town with this guy. You’ve got to get a girl, you’ve got to stop seeing him.’ Tony replied, ‘But I love him!”—which left the studio head speechless—and walked out”. Hunter remembered a similar scenario: “Warner never said a word about my sexuality, and that’s just the way I wanted it. However, Paramount did have something to say about my relationship with Tony, and they told him they didn’t want him to see me anymore … Despite the opposition we did continue seeing each other.”

Perkins, until 1959, withstood Balaban’s threats of expulsion and protected his homosexual preference from his studio boss.

It was not until between filming Tall Story and Psycho that studio execs succeeded in separating Perkins and Hunter, which many believe was major factor into Perkins buying himself out of his Paramount contract early, just like Hunter had done at Warner.

Psycho and Greenwillow

Perkins in a publicity still for Psycho (1960)

Perkins in youth had a boyish, earnest quality, reminiscent of the young James Stewart, which Hitchcock exploited and subverted when the actor starred in Psycho. Hitchcock would later say that he’d had Perkins cast ever since seeing him in Friendly Persuasion.

Marion Crane, a young woman who steals forty thousand dollars from her work and flees to the Bates Motel, run by Norman Bates (Perkins), where she is murdered in her room’s shower. The film culminates with the revelation that Bates’s mother has been dead for ten years and that Bates has been dressing up and even assuming her personality. This leads him to murder all young girls he’s attracted to, including Marion, under the “Mother” personality.

Perkins was involved in the 1960 Broadway musical Greenwillow, written by Frank Loesser. The plot followed the magical town of Greenwillow, where the men are meant to wander and women (if they can keep their husbands) are supposed to settle down and have children. Despite his call to isolation, Gideon Briggs (Perkins) wants to marry his sweetheart, Dorie (Ellen McCown). Loesser caught onto Perkins’s homosexuality fast and, disliking him for it, decided to upstage him, writing his main solo, “Never Will I Marry,” as something reminiscent of an opera ballad.

However, close friend Sondheim praised his performance of “Never Will I Marry”: “[Perkins was] wonderful. One of the things that makes ‘Never Will I Marry’ so brilliant [on the recording] is the crack of his voice when he reaches the tenth.” The show’s director, George Roy Hill, also called Perkins “remarkably good. It didn’t have the timbre of real Broadway voice, but it didn’t have the hard edge. ‘Never Will I Marry’ was a wonderful example of that.”

The song was later popularized due to its renditions by Judy GarlandBarbara Streisand, and Linda Ronstadt.

Perkins was nominated for another Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

Psycho was also a trial, although not due to homophobia. Even though Perkins would end the film in very sloppy drag (wearing a dress and wig in order to look like his mother), Paramount was more disgusted by the idea that the film would feature the first shot of toilet when Marion flushes evidence of embezzlement.

The film was also made cheaply: both Perkins and Leigh accepted low salaries, and the crew was reused from A. Hitch Presents. Even the famous shower scene, where Marion is stabbed to death, did not feature the two main actors, since Perkins was in New York for Broadway rehearsals and Leigh’s body-double was used for many of the shots.

Psycho was a critical and commercial success, and it gained Perkins international fame for his performance as the homicidal owner of the Bates Motel. His performance gained the Best Actor Award from the International Board of Motion Picture Reviewers.

The role and multiple sequels affected the remainder of his career.

European Films

Perkins and Ingrid Bergman in an advertisement for Goodbye Again (1961)

After buying himself out of his Paramount contract, Perkins moved to France and began making European films, the first of which was Goodbye Again (1961) with Ingrid Bergman, which was shot in Paris.

It centered around a May-December romance. Paula Tessier (Bergman) tries to resist the charms of Philip Van der Besh (Perkins), who is the son of one of her clients, while stuck in an unfulfilling affair with a cheating businessman (Yves Montand). It was originally entitled Time on Her Hands, although Perkins suggested the English title Goodbye Again after one of his father’s plays.[90] Perkins found himself subjected to the romantic attention of his female costar, although he customarily declined. Despite any off-screen tension this might have caused, Perkins’s role was greatly praised and earned him the Cannes Fest Award.

Perkins returned to America to appear in a short-lived Broadway play, Harold (1962), though returned to Europe shortly thereafter. He was cast in Phaedra (1962), in Greece with Melina Mercouri and directed by Jules Dassin, which was undoubtedly inspired by Mercouri’s recent success in Never on Sunday.

It was a modern retelling of a Greek tragedy where Alexis (Perkins) falls in love with Phaedra (Mercouri), who is also his stepmother. When asked about Perkins, Mercouri fondly said, “Ah, Tony. He is attractive to women. He is dangerous to women. When you touch him, he goes away a little. He is an eel. Raf Vallone [who played Perkins’s father and Mercouri’s husband in the film] is a good-looking man, but Perkins … Ah, I’d pick Perkins any time.” Perkins’s role in the film was met with praise.[91]

Five Miles to Midnight (1962), his second picture with Sophia Loren, Lisa (Loren), who believes her husband, Robert (Perkins), died in a plane crash. When he reveals he is still alive, he urges her to instead collect the life-insurance money from his death. The film was a major shift away from the romantic leads he’d played in Goodbye Again and Phaedra and leant more toward his Psycho persona. Filming began under the title All the Gold in the World, and Perkins reportedly only signed onto the picture after hearing Loren had replaced the previously cast Jeanne Moreau as his coerced wife.

The production process was captured on video for the documentary The World of Sophia Loren, where she and Perkins can be seen laughing between takes, practicing scenes, solving puzzles, and singing the popular “After I’m Gone” (ironically, Tab Hunter had covered the song in 1958). The film was a moderate success.

Perkins (right) with Orson Welles on the set of The Trial (1962)

Perkins continued with his mentally disturbed performances in Orson Welles‘s version of The Trial (1962), based on the Kafka novel about Joseph K, a man who’s arrested and attempts to figure out what his crime is and how to defend himself. Perkins did not mind the typecasting as long as he was able to work with Welles, who personally wanted him to play the lead. To discuss the possibility of Perkins taking on the role, the two met on the stairs of Welles’s hotel. Perkins remembered, “[Welles] paid me the great compliment of saying he would like to know whether I would make the picture because if I wasn’t going to make it, he wasn’t going to make it either.”[95] It is likely Welles was trying to make his runaway hit like Psycho, but even if that was the purpose, Perkins did not seem to mind. “He’s the best there is,” Perkins said of Welles. “He’s wonderfully sure of himself and his ability without being dictatorial and autocratic about it … [H]e isn’t inflexible.”[95] The film quickly went over-budget, although this did little to alter Perkins’s vision of his director. In fact, during the process of filming, his admiration for Welles only seemed to stiffen: during filming, he even considered writing a book about Welles and his career, even going as far as to carry a tape recorder in his coat pocket for weeks, though he abandoned it in fear of offending his boss. Welles later said to Perkins, “Oh, why didn’t you [do it]? Why didn’t you? I would have loved it!”

Besides Perkins’s abandoned plan to write a book about Welles, there was genuine affection between the two. Welles remembered Perkins fondly: “A strange thing happened with [The Trial]: it got wonderful press, all over the world, even in America. Even in Time and Newsweek. And Perkins got very bad press, all over the world, and the entire blame for that is mine, because he is a superlative actor and he played the character that I saw as K, and paid the price because nobody else sees it my way … I recognize that I did Tony–who is one of the best actors we have–a great disservice, because he deserved to have made a tremendous success and if he didn’t with the critics the blame is one hundred percent with me.”[97] Despite any regrets Welles might have had with his portrayal of Perkins and his character, the film was massive success and later became a cult classic. Welles stated after completing the film: “The Trial is the best film I have ever made”.[98]

It was first of 4 collaborations of Perkins and Welles.

Perkins embracing Brigitte Bardot in still for Une ravissante idiote

His final disturbed role before another romantic picture was in Le glaive et la balance (1963), shot in France. It had a very insignificant impact.[100]

His next film, however, would be in Une ravissante idiote (1964) with Brigitte Bardot, which was a comedy. It followed a Russian spy (Perkins) who employs a gorgeous but dim-witted woman (Bardot) as his accomplice in procuring secret documents. Perkins made history as the first American actor to play B.B.’s love interest,[101] although Perkins would later openly admit Bardot was his least favorite costar, calling her “Bardot-do-do.”[71] Bardot was another woman on Perkins’s roster of suitors, although Perkins always denied Bardot’s invitations to her penthouse. Perkins was incredibly uncomfortable around Bardot, [102] which was drastically different from his behavior around his previous (older) costars.

After Une ravissante idiote failed at the box office, Perkins made a movie in Mexico, The Fool Killer (1965). An art film, the motion picture followed a 12-year-old boy (Edward Albert) who wanders the Civil War-ravaged South with a philosophical axe murderer (Perkins), and was Perkins’s second film to about the American civil war. The film was well-received but was not overly popular at the box office,[104] and Perkins returned to France for a cameo in Is Paris Burning? (1966), a war film about the liberation of Paris in 1944 at the hands of the French Resistance. This was his second Welles collaboration and reunited him with director René Clément, who had had the same occupation over Perkins in 1957’s This Angry Age. In addition, Perkins’s friend, Gore Vidal, wrote the script.[105] The epic was star-studded and bore a hefty budget, which was partially the reason for its failure at the box office.

Return to the US

Perkins with Charmian Carr in Evening Primrose, 1966

In 1966, Sondheim began writing a horror musical Evening Primrose, which was set to be aired on ABC Stage 67, for Perkins.

 Perkins returned to America to star in the musical alongside Charmian Carr, fresh off her success in The Sound of Music. The plot followed Charles Snell, a struggling poet who decides to live in a department store by night and pretend to be a mannequin by day. He encounters a secret society, the Dark Men, that already had the idea, and falls in love with Ella Hawkins (Carr), who is the maid of the society’s leader and is forbidden from speaking to Snell. If they attempt to leave the department store, the Dark Men will kill them and turn them into mannequins.

Filming was quick and on a low budget, though they were able to shoot in color. The department store was originally set in a Macy’s, though the company decided they did not want to be associated with such a dark theme and the filming was moved to a Stern Brothers department store (which closed in 1969). Just like Idiote , Carr developed a crush on Perkins and flirted with him constantly. He, once again, demurred.[107]

The program was originally broadcast in full color, although the original color master has long since been lost. There are theories that an over-hyped Sondheim fan stole the master, though this is unconfirmed. Twenty minutes of silent color test footage exist and were released alongside a DVD in 2010. Sondheim referred to it as one of his favorite musicals he ever wrote, and announced Perkins as the lead of Company shortly thereafter. Perkins, however, withdrew from the role, though he would remain something like a muse for Sondheim for quite a few years.[107][108]

Perkins then went to Broadway to appear in a play by Neil SimonThe Star-Spangled Girl (1966–67). For a brief moment, he was able to once again shed his typecast role as a mentally disturbed man, instead playing a radical roommate vying for the attention of a young woman. Among his costars was Connie Stevens, and although they were both offered compliments for the performances they salvaged from the source material, the play was not on the whole well received.[109] Neil Simon later commented that The Star-Spangled Girl “was written ‘from an emotional identity rather than personal identity … I knew this one didn’t have the body of the others. I knew it never had a chance to be a powerful comedy … I didn’t make it'”.[110] Shortly thereafter, Perkins returned to his beloved Europe and he starred in another French film, The Champagne Murders (1967), for Claude Chabrol.[111] The film was well-received, with the New York Times saying, “Mr. Chabrol … has made a film that has the shape and structure of a murder mystery, but which is, essentially, a funny, sardonic social drama.”[112] Despite this, it was insignificant in the box office.[113]

Perkins made his first Hollywood movie since PsychoPretty Poison (1968) with Tuesday Weld, typecast in the role of a psychotic young man for a fifth time. The plot revolved around Dennis Pitt (Perkins), a man who is on break from a psychotic hospital on parole who meets Sue Ann Stepenek (Weld). He tells her he is a secret agent and they go on “missions” together, culminating in their attack on a factory. This was the first of two films with Weld, whom he had dated in the early 60s, and they were reportedly chilly but respectable to each other on set.[114] It wasn’t a box office success and Weld labeled it as her worst film,[115] but has become a notable cult favorite.

1970s

Supporting roles

In the 1970s, Perkins moved into supporting roles in Hollywood-feature films. The first was 1970’s Catch-22, playing Chaplain Tappman. Although never explicit in the film, Tappman inspires another male character to feel romantic attraction to him: “It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.”

This would mark the first of three films where Perkins played a homosexual character.

Filming Catch-22 proved to be a grueling endeavor, which left the cast stranded in Mexico for long periods of time. Perkins, however, attributed this experience with helping him open up and connect with people, especially those he didn’t know well.[8] He was not fully surrounded by strangers, though: the film reunited him with both Welles and Martin Balsam, who had played the doomed detective Aborgast in Psycho ten years earlier.

Perkins’s next film was WUSA (1970), starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, where he made brief appearance. Many attributed his fleeting role to the fact that Perkins had befriended Newman and Woodward in the 50s and socialized with them in Europe in the 60s, although Perkins was praised for his performance of anxiety. This marked the first of two collaborations with Perkins and Newman. Off-Broadway, he appeared in and directed Steambath (1970).[118]

Perkins shifted his focus away from movies briefly to star on the made-for-television film How Awful About Allan (1970), where he once again played a psychotic character. Although the film was insignificant at the time, it gained a cult following over the years.[119] He returned to motion pictures soon after, assisting Charles Bronson in the French crime drama, Someone Behind the Door (1971), playing yet another mentally disturbed man. This was also an insignificant endeavor.

Perkins (left) with Newman (right) in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)

Perkins could not escape his murderous image on screen, especially after he starred in Chabrol’s murder mystery Ten Days’ Wonder (1971), his third film with Orson Welles. It was also the third film where he fell in love with his step-mother (after 1958’s Desire Under the Elms and 1962’s Phaedra) in an odd twist of fate. Perkins was reunited with another one of his older costars when he supported Tuesday Weld in Play It as It Lays (1972), based on the Joan Didion novel. It follows Maria (Weld), a washed up model who pursues a meaning in life beyond her dull marriage. She is friends with B.Z. (Perkins), a closeted producer who is being paid by his mother to also remain in a loveless marriage. For both stars, their roles were almost autobiographical, resulting in stunning performances. The Chicago-Sun Times praised, “What makes the movie work so well on this difficult ground is, happily, easy to say: It has been well-written and directed, and Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins are perfectly cast as Maria and her friend B.Z. The material is so thin (and has to be) that the actors have to bring the human texture along with them. They do, and they make us care about characters who have given up caring for themselves.”[121] Weld received a Golden Globe for her role, and both actors were expected to be nominated for Academy Awards. Neither were.

However, Perkins would publicly label the film as being his best performance.

Perkins changed genres for his next film, a successful western The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972). In the movie, he plays a wandering minister who assists the title character (Newman), following him as he causes mayhem in the town. This was his second film with Paul Newman and his only film with ex-partner Tab Hunter, whom Hunter later recalled he bumped into at the Tucson location:”We hadn’t seen each other in nearly ten years … What I didn’t know at the time of our brief union was that Tony’s long-running battle with his personal demons had reached a breaking point. He was ending a long relationship with dancer Grover Dale and had started therapy with Mildred Newman … Newman convinced Tony that his personal problems stemmed in large measure from him being gay, and she prescribed a course of action–including electroshock therapy–to turn him straight.”[123]

According to Perkins, he had his first hetero experience on the set of the film with costar Victoria Principal.[5]

Sondheim-Perkins collaborations 

Perkins (left) with Stephen Sondheim (right), 1970s

In 1973, Perkins reunited with close friend Sondheim to co-write The Last of Sheila, a 1973 American neo noir mystery, directed by Herbert Ross. It was based on the games Perkins and Sondheim made up together and revolved around a movie producer who tries to discover who murdered his unfaithful wife by taking his rich friends on a maze through exotic locations, each with a piece of gossip applying to one of the other people aboard a yacht. The characters were influenced by people Perkins and Sondheim knew in real life:[124] Tom Parkman, a closeted homosexual who’s married to another participant in the games, was based on Perkins himself; Phillip Dexter, a fledging film director once popular in his heyday but now resigned to directing television commercials, was based on Perkins’s close friend and frequent collaborator, Orson Welles; Christine, an obnoxious woman who was once an informer to the House of Un-American Actives, was based on film agent Sue Mengers; and Alice and Anthony Wood were based on Raquel Welch (who played Alice) and her then-husband Patrick Curtis.

The film was a commercial success–the most “highly plotted murder mystery film of all time” by critics. Perkins and Sondheim went on to share the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay for the film, which led them to try to collaborate again two more times. The next project was announced in 1975, entitled The Chorus Girl Murder Case. “It’s a sort of stew based on all those Bob Hope wartime comedies, plus a little Lady of Burlesque and a little Orson Welles magic show, all cooked into a Last of Sheila-type plot”, said Perkins.[126] He later said other inspirations were They Got Me CoveredThe Ipcress File and Cloak and Dagger.[127] They had sold the synopsis in October 1974.[128] At one point, Michael Bennett was to direct, with Tommy Tune to star.[129] In November 1979, Sondheim said they had finished it.[130] However, the film was never made.[129] In the 1980s, Perkins and Sondheim collaborated on another project, the seven-part Crime and Variations for Motown Productions. In October 1984 they had submitted a treatment to Motown.[131] It was a 75-page treatment set in the New York socialite world about a crime puzzle. Another writer was to write the script. It, too, was never made.[132]

Perkins was one of many stars in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), adapted from a popular Agatha Christie novel. He played the suspicious McQueen, and was reunited with previous costars Ingrid Bergman (1961’s Goodbye Again) and Martin Balsam (1960’s Psycho), as well as being teamed up with legendary actors like Lauren Bacall. The film was a moderate success in the box office.[133] Also in 1974, Perkins co-starred with Beau Bridges and Blythe Danner in Lovin’ Molly, a drama film where Perkins was once again directed by close friend Sidney Lumet.[134] It had a budget of over 1.2 million dollars and was relatively well received.[135]

He enjoyed success on Broadway in Peter Shaffer‘s 1974 play Equus (where he was a replacement in the leading role originally played by Anthony Hopkins). In the show, he played a psychiatrist who attempts to rid his patient of their unnatural obsession with horses, shedding his stereotypical performance as a mentally disturbed man. His role was received to rave reviews, perhaps some of the best of his Broadway career.[136] He continued with his stage work and directed the Off-Broadway production The Wager (1974), which had an insignificant impact.[137]

Perkins supported Diana Ross in the romantic drama Mahogany (1975), where he played photographer bent on making a young model (Ross) into a star. Perkins and Ross were good friends on set, to the point where Perkins’s wife joked about them running off together, though this did not expel any strain from production. Perkins’s photographer character, Sean, was rewritten shortly before filming began to capitalize on his Psycho persona. This was made worse by the fact that the once explicitly gay character was now simply queer-coded, as well as being written in a homophobic way.[138] It was because of this and other factors that Perkins thought the film was mediocre, though it performed incredibly well at the box office, setting attendance records shortly after its release.

Perkins posing for the intro of Saturday Night Live 1976

Continuing in the vein of comedy appearances, Perkins hosted television’s Saturday Night Live in its first season in 1976. During his hour-long special, he poked fun at his serious image, crying out for his “good luck panties.” He briefly addressed the audience during his opening monologue, thanking them for seeing “the real Tony Perkins,” before launching into a skit about Norman Bates’s School for Motel Management, reprising his infamous role from Psycho. He also played a singing psychiatrist (perhaps influenced by Equus, something also mentioned in his opening monologue) and a victim in numerous pretend horror films. Towards the end of the program, Perkins posed and chatted with The Muppets.

Two years after his SNL appearance, Perkins co-starred with Geraldine Chaplin in Remember My Name (1978). Perkins plays the husband of his real-life wife, Berry Berenson. Perkins’ character is besieged by his ex-spouse (Chaplin) who has just been released from prison and is bent on getting him back.[141] Director-writer Alan Rudolph described it as “an update of the classic woman’s melodramas of the Bette DavisBarbara StanwyckJoan Crawford era.”[142]

The picture was surprisingly popular and well-received. They also praised both Perkins’s and Chaplin’s performances as “extraordinary.”[143] The film was nominated for and won numerous accolades and has developed cult following over the years.

After Remember My Names surprising success, Perkins had more roles on television, playing Mary Tyler Moore‘s husband in First, You Cry (1978),[144] a biographical drama film based on the 1976 autobiography of NBC News correspondent Betty Rollin recounting her battle with breast cancer.[145]

The film was nominated for numerous awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Made for Television and numerous Primetime Emmy‘s.[146] In 1979, it was parodied on an episode of SNL with a sketch entitled “First He Cries.” It follows a husband (Bill Murray) who’s distraught over his wife’s (Gilda Radner) mastectomy. The sketch was poorly received, resulting in over 200 calls and 300 letters of complaint.[147] However, it cemented the TV film’s popularity in the eyes of the public.

After the success of First, You Cry, Perkins continued on his television streak when he played Javert in Les Misérables (1978)[148] based on the famous 1,000-page novel about the French Revolution. The adaptation has received a cult following through the years. He projected a more kid-friendly light when he was featured in Walt Disney‘s science fiction film The Black Hole in 1979, where he reunited with crew members from Fear Strikes Out, whom he hadn’t seen in twenty-two years. Just like Les Mis, this film also developed a cult status with sci-fi fans.[149]

Shortly thereafter, Perkins returned to the boards in another Broadway success with Bernard Slade‘s 1979 play Romantic Comedy, who was the famed author of Same Time, Next Year. He played playwright Jason Carmichael who meets Phoebe Craddock (Mia Farrow) and falls in love with her, and they decide to work together on a production. The show was a wild success and ran for 396 performances.[150] The New York Post wrote: “A darling of a play … zesty entertainment of cool wit and warm sentiment.”

1980s

Perkins was villain in the actioner North Sea Hijack (1980), starring Roger Moore, and one of many names in Winter Kills (1980). The latter was a comedy based on the attempts to assassinate President Kegan in an (unintentionally) humorous parody of President John F. Kennedy. Other costars included Elizabeth Taylor and Dorothy Malone, as well as his wife Berry Berenson. The film was a box office bomb, losing four million dollars in performances. It was received somewhat warmly by critics.[151]

After the star-studded satire, he also starred in the 1980 Canadian film Deadly Companion (also known as Double Negative) with famous comic actor John Candy, with whom Perkins got on well on-set. It was largely disregarded by the public and even more so by critics.[152] The attention it did receive was bleak, save for some kind remarks for Perkins. Spies and Sleuths called the movie “a muddle film that cannot untie its tangled skein of a plot, although a Perkins performance is always worth watching.”[153] Another nice review for Perkins came from Starburst: “This convoluted thriller is not without its merits (not least some clever dialogue and well observed performances by, among others, Anthony Perkins.)”[154]

Perkins in 1983

Perkins reprised the role of Norman Bates in Psychos three sequels. The first, Psycho II (1983), was a box-office success 23 years after the original film, and followed Norman Bates’s life after being released from a mental institution.

Later that same year, former partner Tab Hunter met Perkins at his Mulholland Drive home, accompanied by the latter’s wife and children, asking him to star in Lust in the DustLust was a Western and spoof of Duel in the Sun, and Hunter’s love interest would be played by drag performer Divine, whom he had already caused a stir with in John Waters‘s Polyester. Hunter’s partner and future husband, Allan Glaser, who was a producer on the film, requested that Perkins should play the villain Hardcase Williams, something Hunter believed was influenced by the sudden success of Psycho II. Glaser knew nothing of Hunter’s past with Perkins. “I tried to convince him to [do the film],” Hunter remembered, “… but he denied I choose not to think about the reasons for his turning down what would have been a wonderful role. When Tony and I said good-bye that afternoon, I was sincerely happy for him … It would be the last time we ever saw each other.”

After turning down Lust, Perkins went to Australia to appear in TV mini-series For the Term of His Natural Life in 1983.

The show was produced in three-parts, with an overall runtime of 6 hours, following an educated, adventurous British aristocrat Richard Devine. The show was well-received by critics, becoming the eleventh highest rated Australian mini series on Sydney television between 1978 and 2000, with a rating of 37, and the third highest on Melbourne television with a rating of 45.[156] After that was The Glory Boys (1984) for British television, a thriller miniseries with Rod Steiger. There was an intense dislike between Perkins and Steiger after the latter received a larger trailer, and Steiger labeled Perkins as “so jittery and jinxed by the chemicals he was taking.”

However, there has been no evidence suggesting Perkins was on drugs while making the picture.

After his feud with Rod Steiger on the set of Glory, Perkins found more hospitable movie set when he made Crimes of Passion (1984) for Ken Russell.

The film centered around a minister who attempts to rid a sultry woman of her sexual ways, but the movie was proved so explicit that it retained an X-rating for its first cut. The motion picture was majorly edited and received an R-rating instead. Although Perkins believed the editing ruined the film, it has become a cult favorite.[159]

He then starred in and directed Psycho III (1986), in which Norman Bates falls in love with a nun who comes to the Bates Motel, which was less successful (critically and commercially) than its preceding sequel. This led to bouts of diminished self-confidence, though it did not mark the end of his directorial career.

After the disappointment of Psycho III, Perkins returned to TV and had supporting role in Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story (1987), based on Napoleon Bonaparte‘s romance with Joséphine de Beauharnais, where Perkins played diplomat Talleyrand. The show was poorly received,[161][162] but was nominated for two Emmys.[163]

Perkins drastically changed genres for his next project, the slasher film Destroyer (1988), where he once again had a supporting role. Perkins was praised for his role, but the overall film was deemed a disappointment.

Perkins disappeared briefly from the screen, directing but not appearing in the comedy Lucky Stiff (1988), which was a humorous take on cannibalism and incest. While a box office failure, the film developed a cult following due to its quotable dialogue and exposure in Fangoria, who did a feature on the film.

1990s

Following his directorial pursuit, Perkins starred in horror films, including Edge of Sanity (1989), Daughter of Darkness (1990), and I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990). He found a reprieve while filming the pilot for the light-hearted show The Ghost Writer about a horror novelist named Anthony Strack (Perkins) who is haunted by his deceased wife after he remarries. The pilot ended with Perkins finishing the manuscript of his next novel, which was based on a supernatural encounter he had with the ghost of his wife. The pilot never sold.[167]

He gave in to typecasting and played Norman Bates again in the made-for-cable film Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990). His first son, Oz Perkins, made his film debut in the prequel as a young Norman Bates.[168] It was on the set of this film that Perkins learned he was HIV-positive, though he hid the disease from the public.[169]

Perkins appeared in 6 TV productions between 1990 and 1992 while privately battling with AIDS, including Daughter of Darkness (1990) and hosting a 12-episode horror anthology series titled Chillers (1990).

He made his final appearance in In the Deep Woods (1992) with Rosanna Arquett, released posthumously.

These appearances tied back into horror, solidifying the typecast role.

Missed roles

Perkins was offered the lead role in Dancing in the Checkered Shade, a John Van Druten play. “I had little money and was practically set for Dancing in the Checkered Shade,” Perkins recalled in 1956. “My agents were split in their decisions. New York said I should stay and do the play. Hollywood said I should come out and do [Friendly Persuasion]. It was like flipping a coin. So I took the picture.” Dancing never made it to Broadway, while Friendly Persuasion earned Perkins an Oscar nomination and Hollywood stardom.

Perkins (right) in drag for The Matchmaker (1958), despite the fact that Paramount had just forbade him from doing Some Like it Hot for its flamboyance

Perkins tried out for the lead in East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, both of which went to James Dean.

There were rumors that Perkins’s East of Eden loss led Elia Kazan, the film’s director, to give Perkins the role of Tom Lee in Tea and Sympathy, the Broadway play he was directing, though Kazan himself dismissed those notions as “bullshit.”(Perkins, however, would be chosen over Dean for Friendly Persuasion and replaced him after his death in This Angry Age.)

Perkins was optioned as the lead in Harold Robbins‘s A Stone for Danny Fisher, but he was not interested in the film and turned it down. It would later be known as King Creole, a musical vehicle for popular teen idol and pop singer Elvis Presley, whom Perkins was sometimes mistaken for.[172]

Perkins was offered the role of Shell Oil Jr. in the 1959 comedy Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe, which Monroe was reportedly excited about. Perkins, however, was forced to decline the opportunity by Paramount Studios executives, who did not want Perkins, who was already sexually ambiguous, in drag for a film.[69]

  • Perkins, just as he was signed onto the commercially, critically, and culturally significant Psycho, was encouraged to take the title role in a 20th-Century Fox biographical film, Dooley, who just happened to be gay. Tea and SympathyRobert Anderson wrote the script, and GreenwillowGeorge Roy Hill and Tall StoryJoshua Logan had expressed an interest in directing the film. Jack Lemmon and Montgomery Clift were also strong contenders for the main role. Perkins, however, was not allowed to audition after Paramount balked at the production cost.[173]
  • Perkins was seriously considered for the role of Tony in the 1961 adaptation of West Side Story, although Paramount forced Perkins to rescind his audition as well. This instead would plant the seeds of Perkins’s lifelong friendship with West Side Storys writer, Stephen Sondheim.[81]
  • Perkins was the first choice of Tennessee Williams and the play’s director, Tony Richardson, in the 1963 Broadway revival of Williams’s play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore with Tallulah Bankhead. As Tab Hunter remembered, “Tony [Perkins] suggested me to Richardson after a scheduling conflict kept him from playing the part. This gesture meant the world to me … but in a very classy move, neither Richardson or Perkins ever let on that I wasn’t the first choice. It would be many years before I learned the truth, too many to be able to thank my old friend.”[174] The show, partly due to the then-recent assassination of United States president John F. Kennedy which kept people inside, closed after three performances.
  • Perkins was cast as Robert, the lead role, in the Stephen Sondheim-penned Company, which Perkins declined due to scheduling conflicts. Later in life, Perkins attributed his refusal to anxiety as well: “I had signed up to do the lead in Company and suddenly this specter rose up in front of me–of performing again for a year and a half–and I dreaded it.” Some people also believed his refusal was because Robert was a seemingly flamboyant character.[108]
  • Perkins, after cowriting the script of the movie with Stephen Sondheim, was encouraged to take the role of Clinton, the lead antagonist, in The Last of Sheila (1973). Sondheim was one of the major supporters of this casting, seeing Perkins as perfect for the role. Perkins, however, thought it played too much into his already-established deranged persona and passed it up to James Coburn instead.[175]
  • Perkins played a horror writer, Anthony Strack, in the television pilot for the show The Ghost Writer, which Perkins was enthusiastic about in terms of its prospects, believing it would be the perfect way for him to transition into more comical roles on both stage and screen. The pilot never sold.[167]
  • Perkins agreed to provide the voice for the role of the dentist, Dr. Wolfe, in The Simpsons episode “Last Exit to Springfield“, but died before the part could be recorded. The character was voiced by Simpsons regular Hank Azaria.[176]

Artistry

Influences

Perkins, having grown up in New York as the son of a theater performer, was heavily influenced by stage actors in the early stages of his interest in acting. Slowly, however, his influences shifted, especially with the new wave of Method actors on the big screen. In 1958, Perkins admitted to Holiday magazine that the single performance that he believed had impacted his acting the most wasn’t off the boards: “The single performance which influenced my own acting the most was [Marlon] Brando’s in On the Waterfront … That’s the direction I want to go as an actor. To convey the maximum with the simplest, barest means.” He also mentioned James Dean later on: “Well, I was certainly impressed with the originality of [Dean’s] talent. Of course, it was popular at the time of his emergence.”

Perkins himself was a lifelong member of the Actors Studio, an institution both Brando and Dean attended as well, which could have contributed to his interest in the Method. Perkins’s posthumous biographer, Charles Winecoff, though, dismisses any ideas that Perkins was a Method actor himself: “Young Perkins fell somewhere in between the mannered style of his father’s era and the new, seemingly organic style exemplified by Brando and Dean.”

To cite one person as Perkins’s influencer would be incorrect. Especially in his early years, Perkins took advice from a host of his costars, a majority of whom were experienced and revered actors in their own right. The most influential of his fellow stars were Cooper and H. Fonda.

Acting style

Despite his many celebrated performances, Perkins never discussed the method with which he acted. Many said he was somewhere between his father’s style of acting (building a character from the outside in) and the Method technique (building a character from the inside out).[177] Recalling how he prepared for his mental breakdown scene in Fear Strikes Out, Norma Moore said he was especially “serious, very intent, very nervous before shooting …–pacing, not talking to anybody, shaking his hands.” The film’s director, Robert Mulligan, said that Perkins was “riding on instinct, very giving and very trusting and very brave.”[48] A year later, when Perkins played Eugene Gant for Broadway in Look Homeward, Angel, not much had changed. “His approach was a purely pragmatic one,” friend George Roy Hill remembered. “He’d find a way to play it, and he had no theories to get in his way. I don’t know what devices he used internally, but he was always very concerned with acting as acting.”

There is evidence to suggest that Perkins used previous (sometimes traumatic) experiences to drive his performance. During his debut run on Broadway in Tea and Sympathy, Perkins was allegedly drafted into the army, which he dodged by admitting he was a homosexual. This backfired, leading to harsh mistreatment at the hands of the Selective Service that reportedly scarred him so much he wouldn’t speak about it. His boyfriend was there when he returned home, listening to him crying and whimpering. He later said that Perkins incorporated the same whimpering into his performance as Tom Lee in Sympathy.

Perkins, though, never hinted at this in a rare mention of his technique when speaking about the scene in Friendly Persuasion when Josh Birdwell decides to enlist: “That scene started [filming at] about 9:30 in the morning and by 1 o’clock the unions at that time declared that we had to go to lunch, right in the middle of the scene–just before my close-up. And [William Wyler, the director] came to me and said, ‘I’m really sorry about this. You’re doing a fabulous job and I want you to hold onto this if you possibly can. Why don’t you go back to your room and sort of concentrate and reread the script? I’m very very sorry; we’ll start again in an hour.’ Well, I went to the commissary and had two cheeseburgers and a malted and came back and sat down and started over again. I didn’t have the self-consciousness as an actor to find that that would be a difficult thing to do, so since I didn’t think it was gonna be difficult, it wasn’t … Well, youth can do anything.”

Either way, it worked. Many of Perkins’s films distinguished him as a powerful actor of the day, garnering numerous awards and nominations. As Turner Classic Movies summarized: “A masterful character actor, Perkins’ ability to convey mental instability in a fashion that was simultaneously disturbing, affecting, and darkly humorous made him a unique and valuable talent.”[170]

Public image

Persona

Anthony Perkins in his West Hollywood apartment during his Person to Person interview, aired October 18, 1957
Anthony Perkins in his West Hollywood apartment during his Person to Person interview, aired October 18, 1957
Perkins displaying his trademark body language in a 1957 episode of Person to Person

Throughout his career, Perkins often played shy, sensitive young men. Whether this was the morally-split Josh Birdwell or the unconfidently homicidal Norman Bates, they all distinguished him as one of the rare male actors unafraid to be vulnerable with the audience.

“He was supposed to be gawky,” costar Jean Simmons recalled, “with the sleeves too short and all that stuff.”

Former partner Hunter spoke similarly about Perkins: “Beneath the boyishness, however, there was a lot of tension–not news to anyone who’s seen Tony on-screen. The familiar body language wasn’t an act. He slouched around with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, and he jiggled his foot unconsciously–a nervous twitch.”

Despite his well-documented habits, the authenticity of them has been challenged by some of Perkins’s friends and colleagues. Alan Sues, who worked with Perkins on Tea and Sympathy, noted, “You know, if you play that kind of sensitive, I-don’t-know-if-I-can-get-through-this sort of thing, people come to you. His approach was that he was suffering, that stuff was going on inside of him, and I don’t think it was. His strong suit was knowing how to project an image.”[183] Although Hunter expressed similar doubts (“I began to wonder how much of his sheepish appeal was genuine,” he wrote in 2005, “and how much was manufactured, used to mask very calculated, methodical intentions”[184]), he did believe overall that Perkins was dealing with a lot of backlash from Paramount over his sexuality, which therefore led him to become as brooding as he was.

However real or fake the mannerisms were, they caught on in the press, which had a field day when Perkins, who didn’t know how to drive, was photographed hitchhiking to the set of Friendly Persuasion.[42] He was often described as “boyish” by fan magazines,[186] and his odd habits, from the way he dressed[187] to the meals he ate,[188] were written about in detail. Photoplay called Perkins a “barefoot boy with cheek” in a 1957 issue,[189] while later portraying him as an embarrassed singer when they photographed him during recording sessions.[190] Perkins seemingly played into this quirky yet insecure persona, venting to McCall’s:

“I’m not really suited to be a movie star. I have no confidence in myself. I’m not interested in money. I’m not good-looking. I have a hunch in my spine. I can’t see worth a damn. I have a very small head. I haven’t many opinions. I dislike nightclubs–the kind of things that give you easy publicity. I have no string of French girls. I’m not tough. I can’t put on a show in public. I’m much too sensitive for Hollywood. I’m an easy target.”

He also did so on game shows. As a mystery guest on the popular television program What’s My Line?, in an affected Australian accent, Perkins responded to a question asking if he was a movie star by saying, “That’s a term I don’t like.” After his identity was revealed to the panel of previously blind-folded guessers, Perkins was asked again why he didn’t prefer the term. “The term movie star,” he said, “implies a certain glamor which I believe I lack.”

Even if some people found Perkins’s constant complaining about his self-esteem to be annoying, it did earn him fans in the more prominent gossip columnists. Both Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper were fans of him, feeling an almost maternal instinct for him. “[Hopper] was the biggest Tony Perkins fan in town,” Tab Hunter recalled. “She practically declared him her adopted son in print and was eager to publish anything that would bury those rumors about Tony’s ‘secret friend’ [a euphemism for Hunter and their secret relationship often employed by the press].”[194] This also endeared him to Academy Award-winning costume designer Dorothy Jeakins, whom he worked with on Friendly Persuasion and Green Mansions. “He had a gift for inciting maternal instinct, particularly in mature women.”[43]

Sex symbol–Teen Idol

Perkins was relentlessly promoted by Paramount Pictures as a sex symbol and teen idol throughout his career, something Perkins saw as a sacrifice to his serious acting prospects. They forced him through a succession of romantic lead roles, whether they were beside relative unknowns like Norma Moore and Elaine Aiken or powerhouses like Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn.

Although he was depicted in drag in The Matchmaker with Shirley MacLaine, Perkins’s image in these films was largely heterosexualized, no matter how feminine Perkins appeared. Despite his 140-pound stature, Perkins delivered a shirtless performance in both Desire Under the Elms and Green Mansions where his ribs are visible through his skin, if only to accentuate his “masculinity.” This compulsive and brash heterosexualization ended up being detrimental to Perkins’s career, costing him the leads in Some Like it Hot and West Side Story.

Even if the masculinity of Perkins’s image was forced, his beauty was not. As friend Gwen Davis remembered, “He was intellectually dazzling, physically beautiful. At twenty-four, he was already Dorian Gray.”[196] Costar Joan Fickett spoke similarly of Perkins: “Tony had a quality that was fantastic … He was also a beautiful-looking young man.”[197] Even his post-Hollywood friends like Melina Mercouri agreed: “He was the most intelligent and the most beautiful actor that I played with. He was extremely generous [and gorgeous], a gentleman.”

Perkins’s popularity as a teen idol was increased by the plentiful stories circulating about his active dating life. Although they ultimately ended up stumped as to how an attractive star such as Perkins could remain a bachelor, Perkins was constantly “losing his heart” to somebody, whether it was Natascia Mangano or Elaine Aiken.

Perkins was often claimed to be “infatuated” with many of his leading women, whether they were married or not. Soon, Perkins’s dating life became as prominent as his career, something Perkins was deeply irritated and annoyed by.

Another source of teenage frenzy around the young actor was his singing career. Although his single in the US “Moonlight Swim,” peaked in the 20s on the Billboard charts, his albums were still popular with teenage fans. Many of his songs centered around forbidden romances, something an adoring fan could relate to since they might have seen a potential romance with Perkins, a “movie star,” as forbidden. Many of the songs often described the love interest as young, with two (“The Prettiest Girl in School” and “When School Starts Again Next Year”) explicitly stating that his “girlfriend” was young enough to still be in school. These singles came out shortly before the release of 1960’s Tall Story, where Perkins played a college student, amplifying the teenage frenzy tenfold.

Personal life

Marriage

There are conflicting answers as to how Perkins met his future wife, photographer Berinthia “Berry” Berenson, the younger sister of actress and model Marisa Berenson.

There were stories that it was at a party in Manhattan in 1972, while some insist it was on the set of Play It as It Lays.

The one sure answer was that it was in 1972.

Perkins posing with future wife Berry Berenson for the cover of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine

Although not romantically, Perkins and Berenson saw each other often even though she was engaged to Richard Bernstein at the time.

The attachment became romantic and then sexual, leading Berenson to become pregnant out of wedlock. After telling her fiancé this, Bernstein reportedly reacted by telling Berenson that Perkins was gay and didn’t reciprocate her feelings. Berenson was said to have replied, “No, he’s going to Mildred Newman and he wants to be straight! He wants to be straight!” Berenson left Bernstein the same day.

Perkins and Berenson married when he was 41 and she was 25, on August 9, 1973, with Berenson 3 months pregnant. Their first son, director Oz Perkins, was born in 1974, and musician Elvis Perkins followed two years later in 1976.

Many friends were surprised by this marriage and believed it would not last long. Venetia Stevenson admitted to Charles Winecoff, “[I]t was a big shock when I heard [Tony] got married. [I went,] not Tony. He was very gay, totally gay.”

Even Berenson admitted some reserves:

“A lot of people looked at the two of us and said, ‘Who are they kidding? This is never going to work.’ I was so naïve I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about. He told me [that he was gay], and it just didn’t register. I had been very sheltered.”[206]

Despite this, Perkins and Berenson remained married until his death.

In 2001, on the day before the 9th anniversary of his death, Berenson died at age 53 in the 9/11 attacks aboard American Airlines Flight 11. She was returning to her California home after vacation on Cape Cod.

Sexuality

Rumors about Perkins’s sexuality had persisted since the beginning of his career, when he made his Broadway debut in Tea and Sympathy playing a gay character.[208]

Posthumous biographer Charles Winecoff linked him with a mass expulsion of gay men at Rollins College in Florida which he was attending, claiming a large group of his friends had been arrested on charges of homosexuality but that Perkins’s links to the theatre professor saved him from dismissal.[30] However, there is no evidence of this besides the interviews Winecoff conducted with Rollins alums.

Perkins had his first experience with a woman at age 39 with actress Victoria Principal on location filming The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean in 1971.

He was in therapy with psychologist Mildred Newman, whom Stephen Sondheim later described to author Mark Harris as “completely unethical and a danger to humanity.”

In his 2021 biography of Mike Nichols, Harris wrote that “Perkins and his longtime boyfriend Grover Dale, had both become convinced their homosexuality was obstructing their happiness and wanted to restart their lives with women,” adding that Newman and her husband–partner Bernard Berkowitz “clung to the belief that male homosexuality was form of arrested development, and made a small fortune convincing willing clients that it was an impediment to getting what they wanted.”

When interviewed for a 1999 documentary on Perkins, friend and collaborator Sidney Lumet said, “I [asked him why he went into therapy and said, ‘Well, how about you?’ [He said,] ‘I’m a homosexual …’ From then on, he spoke about it completely openly, and I remember when … he said that period of his life was over with, and I said, ‘Well, how come, Tony? How did it happen?’ And he said, ‘I just didn’t want it anymore.'”

Friends, partners, and colleagues consistently said Perkins was homosexual rather than bisexual.

This is due to the fact that, up until this point, Perkins had only homosexual relationships and expressed little interest in women. However, Perkins noted in 1983 that his mother and her sexual abuse might have had something to do with it: “She was constantly touching me and caressing me. Not realizing what effect she was having, she would touch me all over, even stroking the inside of my thighs right up to my crotch.” This behavior continued on into his adulthood.

This reportedly led to Perkins “being unable to see a beautiful woman,” but many costars and collaborators remembered situations where he would gawk and drool over a woman walking down the street. Tab Hunter has since called moments like these a ruse: “You always saw what Tony wanted you to see, which was kind of sad in many ways … An actor plays a role, and pretty soon he takes on that persona. And we’re all guilty of having done that. I think perhaps Tony’s persona was the persona that he wanted people to see. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s that fine line of knowing how to divorce yourself from yourself.”

Conversion therapy

In 1971, Perkins ended 7-year relationship with dancer Grover Dale, after which he turned to Paula Prentiss and Dick Benjamin for help. Both encouraged him to see up-and-coming psychoanalyst Mildred Newman, whose recent self-help book, How to be Your Own Best Friend, was rising up the New York Timess bestseller list.

Their meetings became thrice weekly, and sometimes Perkins would engage in group appointments. He later became one of Newman’s most vocal celebrity supporters. “Newman’s therapeutic shtick that it was okay to love yourself without guilt and get the happiness and (mostly) the success that you naturally deserve seemed to be rubbing off on Tony,” wrote Perkins’s posthumous biographer, Charles Winecoff.

Newman’s intentions, however, were not all sterling. Just that same year, she had written in How to be Your Own Best Friend that “analysts once thought they had little chance of changing homosexuals’ preferences and had little success in that direction. But some refused to accept that and kept working with them, and we’ve found that a homosexual who really wants to change has a very good chance of doing so.”

During their meetings, Newman convinced Perkins that his personal problems stemmed in large measure from him being gay–something which certainly seemed to be true, although the real source of his problems was the homophobia he was being subjected to, not the homosexuality itself. Perkins, still traumatized from the abuse he suffered at Paramount almost twenty years before, fell for this lie, and soon their sessions turned to ways in which Perkins’s homosexuality could be cured.

Later in life, Perkins referred to Newman as an almost peaceful person, “a crusader for a wider road, for choice and limitlessness.”[221] This, though, is not reflected much in Newman’s actions or the sparse recollections Perkins related about their meetings. Sometimes their discussions would end in weeping spells, especially after Newman asked Perkins to imagine himself having sex with a woman. “‘Why are you crying?’ [Newman] asked. ‘I don’t know,’ Tony answered. ‘It’s so sad, so sad.'”[5] Other times, they were simple arguments: “She was constantly provoking me about women, asking why I was repressed in that area. We had heated disagreements, knockdown arguments. I would say, ‘I don’t want to talk about this again today,’ and she said, ‘I do want to talk about it.’ We kicked it to pieces.”[222]

The discussions were not enough. “She prescribed a course of action,” Tab Hunter, who worked with Perkins on a film during his conversion therapy, wrote in 2006. “This included electroshock therapy to turn him straight.” Along with this, she demanded he actually sleep with a woman and find a wife. The former was done with Victoria Principal, a costar on The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (Tab Hunter was also costar on that film), and the latter was satisfied with Berry Berenson.

The electroshock was physically taxing on Perkins. Although he had barely aged since his early days in Hollywood in 1955, Perkins began showing gray hairs and wrinkles.

Often, when Perkins would return home to Sondheim (whom he was a close friend to and was writing The Last of Sheila with at the time), he’d use his roommate as a brace in order to walk. When he used to be able to say his lines easily, he began to develop a stutter–a childhood habit that had not showed in over thirty years–when working on Judge Roy Bean. After Perkins’ death, Sondheim labeled Newman and her practices as “completely unethical and a danger to humanity.”

Relationships

Posthumous biography Split Image by Charles Winecoff, Perkins had exclusively same-sex relationships until his late 30s, including with actor Tab Hunter, artist Christopher Makos, and dancer-choreographer Grover Dale.

Perkins has also been described as one of two great men in the life of French songwriter Patrick Loiseau.

Relationship with Tab Hunter, 1955–1959

Anthony Perkins photographed by Tab Hunter in front of Hunter's Mercedes in Rome, 1957
Anthony Perkins photographed by Tab Hunter at his Shoreham Drive apartment, 1958
Perkins in photos taken by Tab Hunter, 1957 and 1958

Tab Hunter admitted to his relationship with Perkins in his 2005 autobiography Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, having met him at Chateau Marmont during the filming of Friendly Persuasion in 1956:

“I went for a swim and when I came out my friend Venetia Stevenson said, ‘Oh I want you to meet Tony – do you know him?’ We hadn’t met, but I already knew that he was a very fine actor. He was at Paramount and I was with Warners. We just chatted and got on and soon we were starting to see each other.”

Their relationship went on for 4 years and had its ups and downs. Although Hunter remembered fondly how he attempted to teach Perkins how to water-ski and ride horse (something Perkins shyly reciprocated by purchasing him deluxe Abercrombie and Fitch ping-pong set for Christmas[229]), there were also moments of strain. The worst came just a few months after their relationship began, after Perkins announced to Hunter that Paramount had cast him as Jimmy Piersall in Fear Strikes Out, a role Hunter had originated on TV and was trying to convince Warner Brothers to introduce on the screen.[184] Hunter, however, stated that even after the incident, “we continued to see each other, privately, as much as our schedules allowed.”[230] This included a multi-week stay together in a private villa in Rome in March 1957 and an appearance on Jukebox Jury that May.

Perkins (far left) with Tab Hunter (far right), whom he dated

During their relationship, Paramount targeted Perkins for their romance. Many people reported arguments between the studio heads and Perkins, many revolving around Hunter and their relationship. Hunter, however, notes that for many years this had no effect on how they treated each other within their relationship, calling it “a wonderful time in my life.”[218] Despite this, Paramount succeeded in separating the couple in 1959, just before Psycho went into filming. Their power on Perkins was effective: after their separation, Perkins and Hunter did not see each other more than twice in the thirty-three years until Perkins’s death. Once was on the set of The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean in 1971, the only film Perkins and Hunter starred in together, and another was at Perkins’s home in 1982 to convince Perkins to play the villain in Hunter’s upcoming film Lust in the Dust, costarring Divine. This did not mean that Hunter and Perkins did not attempt to contact each other, as Hunter remembered: “I had a hunch to call [Perkins after hearing he was very sick with AIDS] and touch base, and when I picked up the phone, I heard on the radio that he’d passed away.” Hunter later told The Advocate that watching himself speak about Perkins’s death was one of the most impactful moments of his 2015 documentary.

In addition, he remembered Perkins as a “special part of my journey. If he was shooting a film, I’d pick up a car and drive out to see him and we’d spend time together … He wanted to be a movie star more than anything. I wanted that too, but not with the same kind of drive he had. We were such opposites – but then maybe that was the attraction.”

Relationship with Grover Dale, 1964–1971

Perkins (center) with lover Grover Dale in Greenwillow (1960)

In 1957, while starring in Look Homeward, Angel, Perkins was working just a few blocks away from Grover Dale, originating the role of Snowboy in the original Broadway production of West Side Story. Even if they were oblivious to each other at the time, two years later, in 1959, they would work closely together in rehearsals for the Frank Loesser musical Greenwillow, in which Perkins played the lead. Dale was an ensemble member, dancer, and Perkins’s understudy.

It is undetermined whether or not they had a fleeting relationship on the set of Greenwillow before resuming it four years later or if what transpired between them then was an unspoken attraction. However, numerous cast members of the musical asserted that Perkins and Dale were at the very least sexually involved at the time, although it might not have been a full-fledged relationship yet. Stanley Simmons, who worked on the production’s costumes and lived next-door to Perkins in New York, confirmed, “Tony never said anything, but he was having an affair with Grover.” Tony Walton, another actor in the show, agreed the two were involved, “but they were discreet. It wasn’t a big deal. Folks were aware of it, and [Tony and Grover] didn’t shove it.” Allegedly, rumors of the relationship were rampant backstage.[233] At the time, they did not live together,[233] though this would change in four years.

Perkins and Grover Dale backstage Greenwillow (1960)

It is unknown if they kept contact after Perkins moved to France shortly after Greenwillow closed. But whatever they had on the set was abandoned while Perkins was in Europe, but resumed sometime when Perkins briefly returned to the United States. However, by late 1964, posthumous biographer Charles Winecoff asserts that Dale had become “Perkins’s main man.”[234] At the time, Dale was still living with a previous boyfriend (who had also starred in the original Broadway cast of West Side Story), but he was often spotted walking down the New York City streets with Perkins, walking his dog Punky.[234] Shortly thereafter, Dale moved in with Perkins, sharing a bedroom and bath on the top floor of their apartment. Perkins’s landlord and guardian of sorts, Helen Merrill, who had been an overbearing figure in Perkins’s life for over ten years, took the basement.[235]

In the theatrical society of New York, Perkins and Dale were a visible couple, hosting parties for people such as Jerome Robbins and Elaine Stritch, which often ended in an intense match of Scrabble. Dale was Perkins’s first boyfriend who had actually moved in; although Perkins was said to spend “days at a time” at Tab Hunter’s Shoreham Drive apartment, Perkins still had his own abode a block away to maintain appearances. However, the apartment Perkins and Dale shared was their only residence in the country (Perkins had an apartment in Paris).[235] By the time Perkins returned to Europe in 1966 to do The Champagne Murders, biographer Charles Winecoff describes Perkins’s relationship with Dale as “soaring back home.”[106] There were other instances where he described Perkins and Dale as being “married” to each other.[236] Christopher Makos, a friend of Perkins’s, said of the relationship: “I can’t speak for Grover, but these were two adult men who probably loved each other very much”.[216] By 1969, just as the Stonewall riots kicked off the movement for gay rights, Perkins and Dale were considered “role models” for other gay professionals looking to have open relationships.[237]

It was around this time that Dale took more control of Perkins’s life. He evicted Merrill, whom many cited as an overbearing presence in Perkins’s life. Stephen Paley remembered Merrill as “very possessive, and Tony felt that he was a grown-up and wanted to have his own life … He kept Helen in his life, but at arm’s length after that.”[238] This helped Perkins break out of his shell (it had been rumored that Merrill was attempting to separate Perkins from numerous partners) and perhaps even encouraged him to take on the explicitly gay role of BZ in Play It as It Lays, a set Dale visited.[239] Perkins expressed his love for Dale on his rendition of “I Cling to You” for Ben Bagley, which Bagley asserts Perkins “whispered as if he was speaking it to Grover, which he informed his lover of afterward.”[120] However, by late 1971, Perkins and Dale had separated and entered conversion therapy, both with Mildred Newman. Dale would marry Anita Morris just days before Perkins wed Berry Berenson.[240] Despite this, Dale was considered one of the major loves of Perkins’s life.[215]

Friendships

Throughout his time in Hollywood, Perkins brushed shoulders and worked with a host of famous and legendary personalities, many of whom remembered him fondly. Tab Hunter, even after their infamous 1959 studio-sanctioned breakup, recalled Perkins with great fondness and admiration. As Jeffrey Schwarz, the director of his 2015 documentary, recounted, “There was definitely great affection between the two, even later in life.”[241]

Perkins with Sophia Loren in Five Miles to Midnight, 1961

Among his costars and leading ladies, there was usually mutual endearment. Sophia Loren playfully remembered Perkins’s dressing room for 1958’s Desire Under the Elms as looking like a monk’s cage, and she was often photographed smiling and laughing with him when they reunited in Europe a few years afterward.[67] In the press, Perkins discussed how his main objective while making 1959’s Green Mansions was only to make Audrey Hepburn laugh every day, something photos prove he succeeded in. Elaine Aiken recalled that Perkins would often divert her attention away from her plate on “dates” so he could steal some of her food. “I don’t think we ever discussed [him being gay, which Aiken knew about], it didn’t matter,” she recalled. “It didn’t bother me. I just wanted a friend.”[52] A similar bond was forged between Perkins and Venetia Stevenson, to whom he would “unburden” himself. “[Perkins] would sleep over and tell me sad stories,” Stevenson told Tab Hunter. “He was totally crazy about you.”[242] She also mentioned to biographer Charles Winecoff, “We were real friends, and he would sleep over at my house [which was a block away from Perkins and Hunter’s apartments] in the same bed. But there was never, ever any … well, you know. If you have a friend of the opposite sex who’s gay, it’s just in the air. You know what I mean?”[243]

Although he got on famously with women, he also had many friendships with men. Despite Hitchcock‘s infamous saying that “actors are cattle,”[244] he got along well with Perkins on the set of Psycho. Hitchcock accepted many of Perkins’s ideas for the character of Norman Bates, including the suggestion that he should nibble on candy corn. Even after Perkins moved to France, he was a common addition to Hitchcock’s dinner table.

Perkins was also a favorite of Orson Welles, whom he collaborated with four times.[246]

Perhaps the most famous and fruitful of his male friendships was with Sondheim, whom he briefly lived with for a time. Since penning Evening Primrose for Perkins, which would end up being the only project of Sondheim’s Perkins actually starred in, Perkins became a muse to him, inspiring many musicals, where Sondheim cast him in all the leads. Perkins, however, turned all of these down, mostly due to scheduling conflicts.[108] When discussing Perkins and the process of writing The Last of Sheila together, Sondheim said, “I knew he had exactly my mind and take and he’s much more into murder mysteries than I am, so we started to plot it. We spent a couple of months plotting it, and had such a good time we decided to go ahead and write it. I think the most fun I’ve ever had writing anything was writing [The Last of Sheilas] screenplay.”[247] During this time, Sondheim was also helping Perkins through his mentally and physically taxing conversion therapy, often letting Perkins use him as a brace to walk after a strenuous day of electroshock. Sondheim was later named the godfather to both of Perkins’s children[223] and was present at Perkins’s final birthday party.[248]

Character and interests

Perkins was largely remembered by friends and associates as being a shy, neurotic young man, with the ability to be very alluring. Bruce Jay Friedman, a later collaborator of Perkins’s in the production Steambath, remarked, “He was enormously charming, but also very controlled. He always seemed to have four ideas going on in his head at once.”[249] Mary Tyler Moore, who worked with Perkins on the hugely popular First, You Cry TV movie, remembered Perkins similarly: “He was a charming person, a very keen actor who seemed to love his work … He was just a nice guy, and not what I had expected at all. I had expected him to be arch and very sophisticated and stylish–and I’m sure he was all those things–but that’s not what you most remembered about him.”[250]

Although former partner Hunter remembered Perkins similarly, he was more open about acknowledging the complexities of Perkins: “You never really knew Tony a hundred percent. He was a bit of a game player with people’s minds.”[213] However, he also saw Perkins as being a multi-layered, realistic person with flaws:

I don’t think many people really knew Tony well. He had friends. A lot of people liked him, but he had few friends that he really confided in. I don’t know for sure what he was really like. You always saw what Tony wanted you to see, which was kind of sad in many ways … He was a wonderful guy, and he had a very funny, very dry sense of humor. In our society everyone wants to know everything about everybody 100 percent. And you never really knew everything that was going on with Tony. It was still water that ran pretty deep.[218]

Perkins’s shy, introverted personality attributed itself to many of his interests, most of which were one-man activities. Since he was a young boy, he was often preoccupied with books and adored reading. When asked, he playfully admitted he was a lover of science fiction, though he could not stand brooding philosophical books.[251] This went hand-in-hand with his interest in writing, which he indulged in throughout life. While at Browne & Nichols School, he was made co-literary editor of the school paper, The Spectator, to which he occasionally contributed articles.[22] This interest would even make its way into his professional life, when Perkins cowrote The Last of Sheila with Stephen Sondheim years later. It would be the only time he wrote a screenplay, as Perkins reflected years later, “Acting was just memorizing lines, and I was good at that. Writing was harder and required more work.”[24]

However uninterested in interaction Perkins was, his interests were not solely solitary. Perkins was an avid fan of the board game Scrabble, and when entertaining his first alleged boyfriend, he would often engage him in a round.

He was also an avid fan of The Ed Sullivan Show, which he would eventually appear on during his heyday.[252] This keen interest in games and television programs lent itself to the many victories Perkins achieved in game shows like Password, where he easily got his partner to guess the secret word. Even his regular impersonations of famous actors and costars did him good when he appeared on What’s My Line? and easily fooled the panelists.

His wit was not the only thing employed during activities. Tab Hunter remembered Perkins purchasing a deluxe portable ping-pong table for him one Christmas. “We set it up on the terrace and played marathon matches.”[229] His shrewdness, though, made frequent appearances during their private meetings and dates: “On occasion, Tony would go with me to the barn or go to a show I was riding in, but he wasn’t crazy about horses. Sometimes we’d head up to Watson Webb’s place at Lake Arrowhead to water-ski. He wasn’t the athletic type, however. His amusement came from using his quirky, brainy charm and extremely dry humor.”[182]

Political views

Perkins (back, far right) with Harry Belafonte (far left), Martin Luther King Jr. (center), and Coretta Scott King (front, far right), during the Selma march

Perkins was a Democrat who supported many progressive causes, such as civil rights and feminism. Perkins participated in the 1965 Selma march for the right for African Americans to vote, and there are numerous photos and videos documenting his participation, most notably where he stands to the left of Martin Luther King Jr., who is being waved at by Harry Belafonte. He was one of the many performers at the “Stars for Freedom” rally during the marches who entertained King and the rest of the marchers, singing folk songs and giving brief speeches. He also continued on to Montgomery, the Alabama state capital, the next day.[253][254][255][256]

Despite the fact that he remained mostly closeted for his entire life, Perkins did express his support for LGBTQ+ rights occasionally. In an interview with Boze Hadleigh, he stated that the idea that marriage is primarily between a man and a woman was “archaic,” and that, if having children was the sole reason to get married, “gays can adopt.”[71] Even before getting diagnosed with the illness, Perkins also regularly volunteered at Project Angel Food, a non-profit organization which delivered meals to HIV and AIDS patients.[257] In September 1986, six years before his death, Perkins also released a PSA urging people to “fights AIDS with the facts.”[258]

Perkins promoted feminism as well,[71] famously proclaiming in 1983: “Women’s liberation has liberated me too.”[5][259] He openly acknowledged that he believed men should take on “motherly” roles as well when raising their children and that he changed diapers and fed his infants–something he said he didn’t need to receive praise for.[5]

Religion

Although his mother had been born in a strict religious household, Perkins was not. The only discussions that arose about religion while growing up were begun by Perkins, usually to disgust his mother. It was because of this that Perkins classified himself as an atheist throughout his lifetime, though he celebrated holidays like Christmas in a non-religious context.[260]

Perkins rarely discussed religion outside of his character’s faiths (for example, he played a minister in Crimes of Passion). Whenever he did talk about it personally, it was almost always tied with how religion was often used as an excuse not to legalize same-sex marriage. Speaking to Boze Hadleigh later on in life, he said, “Common sense isn’t really that common, particularly when religion enters the picture.”[71]

Death

During the filming of Psycho IV: The Beginning, Perkins was undergoing treatment for facial palsy. According to wife, the nurse who was treating him secretly took his blood samples and tested them for HIV. When the results came back positive, she shared them not with Perkins but with the tabloid magazine The National Enquirer, which aired in March 1990 that Perkins had AIDS. Perkins himself learned he had the disease while standing in the grocery checkout line.

Perkins hid the fact he had AIDS from the public for 2 years, going in and out of hospitals under assumed names. During this time, his wife and children regularly tested; they all came back negative. It was not until a few weeks before his death that he went public with the disease, although he had been working on movies during the time of his illness. He died at his Los Angeles home on September 12, 1992, from AIDS-related pneumonia at age 60.

In a statement Perkins said, “I chose not to go public about (having AIDS) because, to misquote Casablanca, ‘I’m not much good at being noble,’ but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of one old actor don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. I have learned more about love, selflessness and human understanding from the people I have met in this great adventure in the world of AIDS than I ever did in the cutthroat, competitive world in which I spent my life.”

Perkins never disclosed how he got the disease.

His urn, inscribed “Don’t Fence Me In”, is in an altar on the terrace of his former home in the Holly Hills.

Legacy

Perkins’s star on the Walk of Fame, 6821 Hollywood Blvd.

Perkins is cultural icon and an influential figure in film because of his long career, most notably his defining role as Norman Bates in Psycho. Countless references, spoofs, and documentaries have been made about the thriller and his homicidal character, and it has led many to pronounce the motion picture as the greatest horror film of all time.[265][266][267]

AFI named Norman Bates the second greatest villain of all time, beaten only by Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs.

The character of Norman Bates himself has also been referenced numerous times in both music and film. As early as 1964, just four years after the release of PsychoBob Dylan referenced the film extensively on his track “Motorpsycho Nightmare,” a humorous tale about a traveling salesman. Perkins is even mentioned by name:

There stood Rita
Lookin’ just like Tony Perkins
She said, “Would you like to take a shower?
I’ll show you up to the door”
I said, “Oh, no! no!
I’ve been through this before”[269]

Even after the immediate release of Psycho, its influence remained prominent. In 1977, Blondie referenced Norman Bates on their track “Kidnapper”: “Hey, you’ve got an unnerving face/And twitchin’ eyes like Norman Bates.”[270] In 1999, Eminem referenced Bates on “Role Model”: “I’m ’bout as normal as Norman Bates with deformative traits/… Mother, are you there? I love you/I never meant to hit you over the head with that shovel (That shovel).”[271] Five years later, Kanye West paid homage to Perkins’s homicidal character on “Gossip Files”: “Uh, they are the dream (Killer Norman Bates).”[272] Even fifty-five years after the film’s release, Lil Wayne mentioned the iconic character on “Amazing Amy”: “I’m Norman Bates and this bitch ain’t normal, our kids gon’ be nuts (Not the babies!).”[273] Perkins was mentioned by name in the iconic 1996 film Scream, where Billy Loomis, about to kill Sidney Prescott, says, “‘We all go a little mad sometimes’–Anthony Perkins, Psycho.”[274] This seemed to only solidify Perkins’s icon status in the horror genre.

It was not just Psycho that was admired. Perkins’s first major motion picture, Friendly Persuasion, received an abrupt resurgence in interest after President Reagan labeled the film as his favorite. It also served diplomatic purposes: during one of their five summit meetings, Reagan gifted the film to Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev because he viewed the film as symbolic of the need to find an alternative to war as a means of resolving differences between peoples. One Quaker commentator stated: “Friendly Persuasion seems to me to come about as close to truth and fairness as I expect to see Hollywood get in a treatment of Quakerism; I recommend it to every Quaker parent, as projecting images their children ought to see and imitate … I believe (critics have) woefully misjudged the film, on several counts: its place in American cinema, the characters and their roles, its historicity, and, not least, its value as an expression of the Peace Testimony. Here, for perhaps the only time, I think Ronald Reagan was closer to the truth when he commended the film to Gorbachev because it ‘shows not the tragedy of war, but the problems of pacifism, the nobility of patriotism as well as the love of peace.'”[275] Fear Strikes Out also was subjected to similar treatment after it was nominated for the American Film Institute‘s 2008 list in the sports film category.[276]

Even his European films were praised: eight years after Perkins’s death, film critic Roger Ebert called The Trial a masterpiece.

Even if they were not distinguished by an award, many of Perkins’s films earned cult followings throughout the years. The Trial was one of them, with some people considering the film even better than Citizen KanePretty Poison was another instance, and perhaps the most famous.[116] Television appearances like Evening Primrose and Remember My Name also received this treatment, with Primrose finding a big fan in famous singer Michael Jackson.[107] The same occurred with The Black Hole[149] and Crimes of Passion.[159]

Perkins has also been considered an icon of the New York actors of Hollywood’s Golden Age, often being compared to legendary performers Marlon BrandoMontgomery Clift, and even James Dean, whom he was once set to replace.

He became a poster child for neurotic and shy men, many of whom felt outcast in average American society. Other times, he was the model for odd boys with murderous tendencies. Either way, Perkins was always praised for his heartfelt and dedicated performances, as Brando, Clift, and Dean had been.

Generations of actors were inspired by him, as Sebastian Stan put: “I have a bit of an obsession with the 1950’s and all those actors from Montgomery Clift to James Dean and Anthony Perkins. Just that whole era of Tennessee Williams to Elia Kazan. The whole idea of New York and the whole thing becomes kind of romantic in your head.”

Jane Fonda credited Perkins alone with making her comfortable in front of the camera,[78] and Michael Simkims, who worked with Perkins just months before his death on A Demon in My View, remembered Perkins well for his professionalism and willingness to help anyone–including himself–who was having trouble with a scene.[279] Even established actors admired his abilities, as Maria Cooper Janis remembered about her father, Gary Cooper: “I know my father adored Tony Perkins. He thought he was one hell of an actor.”[46] After his death, Perkins’s art still lingered in Hollywood, especially in the Academy Award-winning thriller film Knives Out, which was inspired by The Last of Sheila, according to the film’s director-producer Rian Johnson.[280]

It was not just his professional life that became part of Perkins’s legacy. He was outspoken about politically far-left causes, making him appealing to liberals. He was recognized by numerous minorities, including the ones he belonged to, as a tireless advocate for the causes he stood for, such as civil rights, feminism, and (even despite his own closeted nature) LGBTQ+ rights and same-sex marriage.[211][262] By the late 1960s, just as the Stonewall riots hit their stride and gay rights protests began to appear all over the country, Perkins and his lover, Grover Dale, were seen as role models for gay professionals who wanted to have open relationships.[237]

His death from AIDS-related causes also greatly affected how he was remembered. Alongside Rock Hudson, Perkins is considered one of the most significant actors to have died from the disease.[89] There were countless tributes to him around the world, pouring in from news stations and average citizens. In New Zealand, Perkins was one of the many famous people honored in their national AIDS remembrance quilt in 1994.[281]

Although rumors had always persisted, Perkins wasn’t officially classified as gay until a posthumous biography by Charles Winecoff entitled Split Image: the Life of Anthony Perkins was published in 1996. The book delves deep into Perkins’s personal life and his battle with his sexuality while being a poster-child for heterosexual men, something the author claimed deeply tormented him.[220] The biography’s publication led to Perkins being featured in numerous gay magazines, most notably The Advocate.

In 2005, former-partner Tab Hunter released a memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential, in which he publicly came out as a gay man.[282] In the autobiography, he admitted to his relationship with Perkins for the first time after having previously denied it to biographers. He detailed their three- to four-year affair, with its many ups and downs. “We were both drawn to each other because we were both ambitious young actors swimming in the Hollywood fishbowl,” Hunter wrote, “where the waters are dark and murky and treacherous, especially if you’ve got a ‘secret.'”[43] This returned public interest to Perkins once more, this time as both a cinematic and gay icon.

Perkins leaping for Philippe Halsman’s “Jump” series

Perkins was portrayed by British actor James D’Arcy in the 2012 biographical drama Hitchcock, which starred Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as Alma Reville, about the filming of Psycho. His character was featured briefly, with most of the screen time going to Scarlett Johansson, who played Janet Leigh. His homosexuality was never explicitly mentioned, though it was heavily implied.[283][284] Three years afterwards, Tab Hunter released a Jeffrey Schwarz-directed documentary, Tab Hunter Confidential, where he further elaborated on his life as a closeted movie star and surviving show-business. Perkins was a substantial addition in the film, whom Hunter said he had a “wonderful relationship with. I was comfortable with him. I did trust him.” He also spoke for the first time about his reaction to Perkins’s wife, children, and conversion therapy.[285] The film was well received by critics, and Perkins’s sexuality and relationship with Hunter became a popular story that circulated through newspapers.

A year following Tab Hunter Confidentials release, Perkins’ son, Oz, released the Netflix-distributed I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a horror film about caretaker for an elderly woman. Paula Prentiss, who had starred alongside Perkins in Catch-22, was cast because of her association with the late star and was the only option his son had in mind.

In interviews, Oz discussed how the film was a way to connect with his deceased father and how horror (since Perkins is a horror icon) was the only way to do it.[288][289] The soundtrack for the film was composed by Elvis Perkins, Perkins’s second son, and “You Keep Coming Back (Like a Song)” off of Perkins’s 1958 From My Heart  album was a central part of the plot. In the film, the characters can also be seen watching Friendly Persuasion.[290]

In 2018, Zachary Quinto and J. J. Abrams announced that new film was in the works. Entitled Tab and Tony (“hesitantly,” as they later reported), the film would follow the Tab Hunter/Anthony Perkins relationship from Hunter’s point of view, and was based on both Hunter’s documentary and memoir.[291][292][293][294] Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning writer Doug Wright was attached to create the screenplay,[292] and even after Hunter’s death a month after the announcement, Quinto announced that plans to create the film were still in place.[295] In 2019, Allan Glaser, Tab Hunter’s husband, who was signed onto the film as a producer, made a positive update about the film’s progress and stated that Andrew Garfield was a possible candidate to play Perkins.[296]

Perkins was a part of Philippe Halsman‘s famous “Jump” series, in which Halsman requested all famous sitters to leap for him under the impression that while people were trained in many other things, no one was ever taught how to jump. Alongside famous Hollywood contemporaries like Eartha KittAudrey HepburnMarilyn MonroeSammy Davis Jr.Grace KellySophia Loren, and even Tab Hunter, Halsman’s photo of a jumping Perkins has been widely reproduced and shared over the years.[297][298][299]

For his work, Perkins received two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures (6821 Hollywood Blvd.) and one for television (6801 Hollywood Blvd.).

Filmography

FilmYear Title Role Notes

1953 The Actress, Fred Whitmarsh

1956 Friendly Persuasion Josh Birdwell, Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Male
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1957 Fear Strikes Out Jim Piersall

1957 The Lonely Man Riley Wade

1957 The Tin Star Sheriff Ben Owens

1957 This Angry Age Joseph Dufresne Alternative title: The Sea Wall
1958 Desire Under the Elms Eben Cabot

1958 The Matchmaker Cornelius Hackl

1959 Green Mansions Abel

1959 On the Beach Lt. Commander Peter Holmes

1960 Tall Story Ray Blent

1960 Psycho Norman Bates International Board of Motion Picture Reviewers for Best Actor
Nominated—Bambi Award for Best International Actor

1961 Goodbye Again Philip Van der Besh Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actor
David di Donatello for Best Foreign Actor
Nominated—Bambi Award for Best International Actor
1962 Phaedra Alexis

1962 Five Miles to Midnight Robert Macklin

1962 The Trial Josef K

1963 Le glaive et la balance Johnny Parsons English titles: The Sword and the Balance and Two Are Guilty
1964 Une ravissante idiote Harry Compton / Nicholas Maukouline English title: The Ravishing Idiot
1965 The Fool Killer Milo Bogardus

1966 Is Paris Burning? Sgt. Warren

1967 The Champagne Murders Christopher Belling French title: Le scandale
1968 Pretty Poison Dennis Pitt

1970 Catch-22 Chaplain Tappman Nominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
1970 WUSA Morgan Rainey Nominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
1970 How Awful About Allan Allan Colleigh Television film
1971 Someone Behind the Door Laurence Jeffries French title: Quelqu’un derrière la porte
1971 Ten Days’ Wonder Charles Van Horn French title: La Décade prodigieuse
1972 Play It as It Lays B.Z. Mendenhall

1972 The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean Reverend LaSalle

1973 The Last of Sheila N/A Co-writer with Stephen Sondheim
Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay [Shared with Sondheim]
1974 Lovin’ Molly Gid Frye

1974 Murder on the Orient Express Hector McQueen

1975 Mahogany Sean McAvoy

1978 Remember My Name Neil Curry

1978 First, You Cry Arthur Heroz Television film
1978 Les Misérables Javert Television film
1979 Winter Kills John Cerruti

1979 Twice a Woman Alfred Boeken Dutch title: Twee vrouwen
1979 The Black Hole Dr. Alex Durant

1980 North Sea Hijack Lou Kramer Alternative titles: ffolkes and Assault Force
1980 Deadly Companion Lawrence Miles Alternative title: Double Negative
1983 The Sins of Dorian Gray Henry Lord Television film
1983 Psycho II Norman Bates

1984 Crimes of Passion Reverend Peter Shayne

1986 Psycho III Norman Bates Also director
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actor
1988 Destroyer Robert Edwards

1988 Lucky Stiff N/A Director
1989 Edge of Sanity Dr. Henry Jekyll / Jack “The Ripper” Hyde

1990 Daughter of Darkness Anton / Prince Constantine Television film
1990 I’m Dangerous Tonight Professor Buchanan Television film
1990 Psycho IV: The Beginning Norman Bates Television film
1991 A Demon in My View Arthur Johnson

1992 The Naked Target El Mecano

1992 In the Deep Woods Paul Miller, P.I. Television film (released posthumously; final film role)