Hand color tinted photo of Anthony Perkins from the 1956 movie, Friendly Persuasion
Anthony Perkins (April 4, 1932 – September 12, 1992) was an American actor, best known for his role as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and its three sequels.
Perkins was born in New York City, the son of Janet Esselstyn (née Rane) and stage and film actor James Ripley Osgood Perkins. He attended The Brooks School, The Browne & Nichols School, Columbia University and Rollins College, having moved to Boston in 1942, five years after his father’s death.
Perkins made his film debut in The Actress (1953). He received the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor and an Academy Award nomination for his second film, Friendly Persuasion (1956). And he portrayed the troubled former Boston Red Sox baseball player Jimmy Piersall in the 1957 true story Fear Strikes Out.
Following this, he released three pop albums in 1957 and 1958 on Epic and RCA as “Tony Perkins”. His single “Moon-Light Swim” was a hit in the United States, peaking at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1957. He starred with Shirley Booth and Shirley MacLaine in the film The Matchmaker (1958).
He also acted on the stage. In 1958, he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in Look Homeward, Angel on Broadway. During this time he also starred in Green Mansions (1959) with Audrey Hepburn and the college comedy Tall Story (1960) with Jane Fonda.
Perkins was cast as Norman Bates in the Alfred Hitchcock-directed film Psycho (1960). The film was a critical and commercial success and gained Perkins international fame for his performance as the homicidal owner of the Bates Motel.
After that came a successful career in Europe, including the role of Joseph K. in Orson Welles’ 1962 adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. Upon returning to America, he took the role of a disturbed young murderer in Pretty Poison (1968). He also played Chaplain Tappman in Catch-22 (1970).
Perkins co-wrote, with composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, the screenplay for the 1973 film The Last of Sheila, for which they received a 1974 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.
In 1972, he starred in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean with Paul Newman, Jacqueline Bisset and Victoria Principal. Perkins was one of the many stars featured in the 1974 hit Murder on the Orient Express, reuiniting him with Bisset and co-starring Albert Finney, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman and many more. Perkins also hosted television’s Saturday Night Live in 1976 and was featured in his only science fiction film, The Black Hole, in 1979.
Among his Broadway credits are the Frank Loesser musical Greenwillow (1960) and Bernard Slade’s 1979 play Romantic Comedy opposite Mia Farrow.
Perkins reprised the role of Norman Bates in three sequels to Psycho. The first, Psycho II, came more than 20 years after the original film. He starred in the sexually provocative Crimes of Passion (1984) opposite Kathleen Turner. He then starred in and directed Psycho III in 1986, followed by the made-for-cable Psycho IV: The Beginning in 1990.
Although he was fighting AIDS, the actor appeared in eight television productions between 1990 and 1992, including Daughter of Darkness (1990) with Mia Sara and The Naked Target (1992) with Roddy McDowall. He made his final appearance in In Deep Woods (1992) with Rosanna Arquette.
Perkins’ life was documented in the 1996 biography Anthony Perkins: Split Image written by Charles Winecoff.
On August 9, 1973, Perkins married his wife, photographer Berry Berenson. They had two sons: actor Oz Perkins (b. February 2, 1974), and musician Elvis Perkins (b. February 9, 1976).
He once said he felt too nervous around women, and resisted actresses Jane Fonda and Brigitte Bardot, who had tried to seduce him during his youth. He reportedly had affairs with actors Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, dancer Rudolf Nureyev, composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and dancer-choreographer Grover Dale prior to marrying Berenson. His first heterosexual affair was with actress Victoria Principal. On the morning after their first night together, Perkins said he was a changed man, and that his last trace of anxiety over women was gone.
Perkins died at age 60, on September 12, 1992, from complications of AIDS. He was cremated, and his ashes were given to his family.
His widow Berry Berenson was killed on American Airlines Flight 11, during the September 11 attacks in 2001.