Saturday, January 28, 2023


Astute Monsterologists all know that Janet Leigh played Marion Crane, the unfortunate victim of Norman Bates and his butcher knife as she showered in the iconic 1960 Hitchcock thriller, PSYCHO. However, Leigh wasn't the only actress who appeared in Hitchcock’s famous 78-cut camera shot. There was another woman who doubled for Janet Leigh in every frame that that the viewer saw naked flesh.

So, who was it that bared her skin to Bates’ blade? Who was this Universal “mystery woman”?

She was an Aries, born on April 3, 1938 in Los Angeles, California. She was of Scottish, English, Welsh and German ancestry. She was 5-foot, 3 ¾- inches tall. Her measurements were variously reported, but usually stated as 36”-23”-35”. She described her eye color as “oceanic”, which was an exotic term for describing blue-green. Her shoe size was 7 ½ (Hitchcock, who is said to have had a foot fetish, called her size “a perfect 7 ½”). She graduated from Monrovia High School. Her favorite store was Jax in Beverly Hills. Her hobbies were deep-sea fishing, bareback horse riding, motorcycling, mountain biking, swimming, volleyball, and . . . nude sunbathing.

Marli Renfro in PLAYDATES, 1968.

Her name was Marli Renfro.

Born in Los Angeles on April 3, 1938, the red-haired Renfro began her career in entertainment as a Las Vegas showgirl. She then became a photographer's model and appeared in numerous men's magazines such as SWANK, DEBONAIR and HIGHBALL. In September, 1960, she made the cover of PLAYBOY. After asking Hugh Hefner, she became one of the first bunnies at the Playboy Club in Chicago.

With a free and independent 60's spirit, Marli enjoyed the personal freedom of being a dedicated nudist and was pictured in nude and nature magazines, sometimes with her friend and fellow-nudist, Diane Webber, in titles such as NUDE LIVING, NUDE LOOK, and MODERN SUNBATHING. She quit this pastime, however, when her husband didn't approve.

Marli at the beach in a nudist magazine.
Behind her is friend Diane Webber and
her husband, John Webber.

In 1960, she was selected by Alfred Hitchcock to play in one of the most shocking scenes in cinema history (see article below). Since Janet Leigh would not doff all her clothes for the closeups of Norman Bates' knife attack in the infamous shower scene, a body double was cast to fulfill the role -- that's where Renfro came in. Legend has it that she disrobed for both Hitch and Leigh "to make sure she was a good match". She worked for seven days on the masterful, but complicated scene, and made a reported $500. It is also claimed to be her hand that grabs the shower curtain and pulls of the rings one by one.

In later years it was believed that Renfro had become the victim of foul play and was murdered by a handyman, Kenneth Dean Hunt. It was later revealed that it was a case of mistaken identity and Renfro was alive and well and living peacefully in the Mojave Desert of California. Writer Robert Graysmith was smitten with Renfro's photo on the cover of PLAYBOY and became obsessed with her. His investigation in the book, "The Girl In Alfred Hitchcock's Shower" (2010) details Renfro's life and the story surrounding her supposed murder (see articles below).

Before Graysmith's book, mention of Marli in PSYCHO appeared in at least two different adult magazines: NUDE LIVING (January, 1961) and SWANK (January, 1962).

Renfro later appeared in a soft-core adult movie, TONIGHT FOR SURE (1962). It was the budding director Francis Ford Coppola's first film. She was also interviewed for the 2017 documentary, 78/52, a film about the making of PSYCHO.

Marli in BEAU, August 1967.

Marli Renfro will be 85 years-old this April. She lives in Twentynine Palms, California, has enjoyed a revival of her career as a result of her work on PSYCHO, and has appeared at various fan conventions.

See more Marli HERE.

Marli Renfro Is a Lot More Than the Girl in Hitchcock’s Shower
Janet Leigh’s body double in Psycho talks Hitchcock, Hugh Hefner, and being misreported as a murder victim.

By Emma Dibdin | October 20, 2017 |
Marli Renfro has lived one hell of a life. Though best known for serving as Janet Leigh’s body double in Psycho’s genre-redefining shower scene, the former model, showgirl and Playboy cover star had racked up quite a resume before she was immortalized in Robert Graysmith’s biography, The Girl in Hitchcock’s Shower.

Having started out as a chorus dancer first in Las Vegas and then New York, Renfro was working as a model in Los Angeles when she heard about the casting call for Psycho. Shortly after working with Hitchcock, she worked with a college-aged Francis Ford Coppola on his first film, and flew to Chicago to take a job at the first ever Playboy Club.

To mark the release of the documentary 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene, I spoke to Renfro about her on-set memories of Hitchcock and Anthony Perkins, her strategy for dealing with Hugh Hefner, and the real-life plot twist that would be a stretch even for Hitch—when she was misreported as a murder victim.

On how she became involved with Psycho:
I was a pin-up model at the time, and heard that they were looking for a model out at Universal Studios. I went for the appointment, and there I found out that I had an interview with Mr. Hitchcock. I had to strip down, and then I had a sort of interview with Janet Leigh, and I had to strip down in front of her, too, because they wanted to make sure that our bodies were similar, and they were. I was hired to work two or three days, and wound up working a week.

After my interview, we went to the soundstage where I saw the set and the bathtub and all of that. There were other rooms of the interior of the Bates house, the stairway, stuff like that, and while I was there I saw some of the other scenes being filmed with Vera Miles and John Gavin and Martin Balsam, so I had a good idea about the film at that point.

By the time the movie came out, I was living in Chicago. My roommate said, "Oh, let’s go see it!" I thought, "How boring. I saw most of it being shot!" But we went to see it, and it scared me half to death! I was so surprised by how scary it was! Tony did such a good job, especially at the end.

On her memories of Hitchcock and Anthony Perkins:
Hitchcock was very professional, very warm, just wonderful. I was such a huge fan of his that I would have done it for nothing to tell you the truth. I’m glad I got paid, but just to be in his presence and seeing him at work... He couldn't have made me feel more comfortable, and I did my best to keep a professional attitude going, because everybody is dressed except me. Tony [Perkins] was only there for a short bit because he was in New York—either in a play or rehearsing for a play—but in between scenes, he and the wardrobe mistress and myself would play word games—Ghost and stuff like that. Such a nice, nice young man.

On her first day on set:
It was about two hours in makeup, and they put a wig on me to match Janet’s hair, and then we walked to the soundstage and above the door there was a red light flashing saying, "Closed Set, No Admittance." We opened the door and walk in, and there on the right were bleachers, and I thought, "Oh my God…" There were about 20, 25 people, probably all male—I don’t remember seeing a woman, but there could have been one—mostly reporters. And I thought, "Oh, they’re expecting a stripper or something like that." But I was a nudist at the time, so to me nudity was just very natural. One of the reporters wrote up a nice article about how I handled my demeanor so professionally. I'm almost positive that Hitchcock had a talk with everybody there—the cameraman, the grips, the lighting guys—to say, "No joking around. I want attitudes very low key." And it worked out great.

On working with a young Francis Ford Coppola:
He was still a student at UCLA film school, and I worked with him in about November of 1960 on his very first film, Tonight for Sure. It was a little girlie movie—a little risqué at the time, though now it would be on television. He reminded me so much of Hitchcock, just the way he did things, the way he directed me. I remember thinking at the time, "This young man is going places." He was so methodical and knew exactly what he wanted and was just very creative.

On becoming, and then un-becoming, a nudist:
A friend of mine—a director of local Los Angeles commercials—he and his wife were nudists. I wanted to tan all over and not have tan lines, and so he said I could go up to the top of his office building to sunbathe, because nobody’s there to look down. So I did, and he said, "Well listen, my wife and I are nudists. Why don’t you come and see about it, if you’d like to?" I applied for membership [at their nudist club], and it was a family organization; not that many single people were allowed in, but I was allowed in. So that’s how I got to be a nudist! I stopped when I got married—my first husband really didn’t approve. He went once and just clenched his teeth the whole time, which just ruined everything.

On discovering that she had been misreported as dead:
Back in 2001, I appeared on [the Oxygen game show] I’ve Got A Secret. In talking to them, I told them that I was on the cover of the September 1960 issue of Playboy, and they said, "Oh great, we’ll get a copy to put on the coffee table in the show." They had to call Playboy to get their permission to use the magazine, and were told, "No—and besides, she’s dead." It wasn’t until 2008, when Robert Graysmith got in touch with me because he wanted to write my biography, that I found out it was actually Myra Davis. She posed for the storyboards on Psycho, and it was put out there that she was Janet Leigh’s double instead. Some workman had killed her, but the press had reported that it was me. Very weird.

On working at the original Playboy Club in Chicago:
A month or so after I did Psycho, Playboy flew me to Chicago to shoot the September cover and a spread inside the magazine. They were putting the finishing touches on the very first Playboy Club; during the exit interview with Hef, I asked him for a job there. He said sure. So I went back to Hollywood, packed up and moved to Chicago, and became one of the very first Playboy bunnies. Hefner was a real entrepreneur: You know, at the time drinks were 35 cents at a regular bar, but they were $1.50 at the Playboy Club, and it was packed! I worked the lunch hour and it was packed—businessmen meeting either colleagues or clients, whatever. It was always women who pulled my ears and my bunny tail—men never did touch us, but the women did.

On her mixed feelings about Hugh Hefner:
I had a dear friend in Miami Beach, who when I mentioned I was going to be working at the Playboy Club said, "You just stay away from him. He’s not for you." I don’t think I really need to expand on that… At the time, there was a 1956 Mercedes convertible that I really liked, and Hef drove a Mercedes, so I just made sure that whenever we talked, we talked about cars! I don’t put him down or anything—each to his own proclivity.

‘The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shower,’ by Robert Graysmith
By Susan Kandel | March 23, 2010

Gleaming white tiles; pounding jets of water; a naked woman; a shadowy figure on the other side of the plastic curtain; is there anyone out there who doesn’t know what happens next?

If not the most famous scene in the history of the cinema, the shower sequence in “Psycho,” Alfred Hitchcock’s black-and-white masterwork of 1960, is certainly the most imitated and parodied.

Though Norman Bates dispatches with the hapless Marion Crane in less than a minute, shooting the scene took seven days, 78 camera setups, the eleventh-hour addition of Bernard Herrmann’s shrieking score for strings, several yards of flesh-colored moleskin, an actress, a stand-in and a body double -- the last of which is the putative subject of Robert Graysmith’s ultimately baffling “The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shower.”

I say “putative” because the actual subject of the book is Graysmith’s decades-long obsession with Marli Renfro, the red-headed nude model and dancer hired by Hitchcock in large part because her figure approximated Janet Leigh’s spectacular curves.

In September of 1960, when Graysmith was still a college student, he discovered Renfro on the cover of Playboy and taped her image up on his wall: “I woke each morning to that cover -- its warm tones, haunting face. . . . Who was this redhead? She had an indefinable quality that made her unique, unforgettable.” A die-hard Hitchcock fan, he had yet to learn of Renfro’s role in the legendary “Psycho” shoot, but once rumors to that effect started circulating, the besotted young man vowed that he would one day write a book about the beautiful pin-up.

Graysmith indeed grew up to become a writer -- not a biographer, much less a memoirist, but rather the author of true-crime tomes including “Zodiac,” about the still-unsolved San Francisco area serial killings of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and “Auto-Focus: The Murder of Bob Crane.” But here’s the catch: Renfro was no Bob Crane, who famously descended into a perverse netherworld of voyeurism and sex addiction before he was murdered.

Renfro was a free spirit who made a lifelong commitment to nudism, worked as one of Hugh Hefner’s first bunnies and had a bit part in the nudie-cutie classic “Tonight for Sure,” directed by up-and-comer Francis Ford Coppola -- all of which may have been titillating for the young author-to-be but hardly add up to the juicy stuff of true crime.

This may well be the reason Graysmith retreats here to a subject with which he feels more comfortable -- the sordid story of a little-known Los-Angeles-based serial killer named Henry “Sonny” Busch Jr., a momma’s boy in the mold of Norman Bates who killed one of his many victims hours after watching “Psycho.”

Graysmith bounces back and forth, chapter by chapter, between the psycho killer and the centerfold, interlacing gore and cheesecake.

This book is dedicated to James Ellroy, whose “My Dark Places,” with its deft interlacing of personal memoir, true crime and police procedural (think Dostoevski on speed), was an obvious source of inspiration.

But Graysmith is no Ellroy. Parallel tracks, especially in genre books, are meant to converge, and we spend too much time waiting for the inevitable meeting of monster and maiden.

Even though the author begins the book with a series of pull quotes from Associated Press and other sources informing us that the young woman who met her fate in Hitchcock’s shower was herself raped and murdered in 1988, the truest thing that can be said about this particular crime is that it was a case of mistaken identity -- the murdered woman, thought by some early reports to be Renfro, turned out to be someone else. Graysmith attempts to fill the vacuum at the center of his book with a coda constructed to mimic the plot of the film noir classic “Laura.”

There is still fun to be had here, as the book is full of period color about the entertainment industry, the West’s seedy underbelly and the burgeoning sexual revolution: nudist colonies in Topanga Canyon, the history of Vegas showgirls, Leigh’s marital disharmony, Hefner’s role in shattering sexual and racial taboos.

When all else fails, there is anatomical detail about Renfro’s nipples, which “stood erect from unusually firm breasts.” Perhaps we are supplied with this information as proof that the errant nipple some have claimed to glimpse in the shower scene is Renfro’s. More likely it’s just more filler. Sometimes, a nipple is just a nipple.

Secrets of the Psycho shower
It is one of the most notorious scenes ever filmed – yet Hitchcock and Janet Leigh didn't tell the truth about it. Will Hodgkinson on a real-life story of body doubles and murder

By Will Hodgkinson | March 29, 2010 |
In the run-up to the release of Psycho in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock did everything he could to build up the suspense. "No one will be admitted to the theatre after the start of each performance," declared the poster, bearing a sulky-looking Hitchcock wagging a finger. The director bought up all copies of the original novel, which he had optioned for a paltry $9,000, so that hardly anyone would know how the story ended. He also filmed on a closed set and forced cast and crew to sign an agreement promising not to mention the ending to anyone. There were no advance screenings.

When the reviews for Psycho, which is rereleased this week, rolled in, they focused on one shocking moment: the shower sequence, in which Janet Leigh is slashed to death. Comprising over 70 shots, each lasting two or three seconds, it has become one of the most infamous moments in horror movie history. Mixing fast cutting and Bernard Herrmann's screeching music, Hitchcock created a brilliant illusion of gore, violence and nudity – while actually showing very little.

The greatest illusion, however, was to give a very clear suggestion that it was Leigh being hacked to death, by Anthony Perkins as a cross-dressing maniac. Leigh, in her first interview after the film's release, shared the audience's horror: "I believed that knife went into me. It was that real, that horrifying. I could feel it!" In later interviews, Hitchcock and Leigh categorically stated that it was her body in the shower scene – but it wasn't. The body belonged to a model called Marli Renfro. When you can't see Leigh's face in the shots, you're looking at her body double.

A Dallas-born stripper who worked in Las Vegas, Renfro was one of the first Playboy Bunnies. Apart from Psycho, she only appeared in one other film, Francis Ford Coppola's 1962 soft-porn comedy-western Tonight for Sure. Then she disappeared, forgotten – until a news report in 2001 said a 34-year-old handyman had been sentenced for raping and strangling her, a crime that had occurred in 1988 but had gone unsolved for over a decade.

The US writer Robert Graysmith – author of Zodiac, the classic account of the 1970s San Francisco serial killer – was fascinated. He had been interested in Renfro and had always thought about writing a book about her. Now it seemed she had died in a murder that was a gruesome echo of the fictional one she had helped to make so famous.

The original 2001 Associated Press report said Kenneth Dean Hunt, the handyman, had been convicted of "killing two women, including an actress who was a body double for Janet Leigh in the film Psycho". This actress was called Myra Davis; subsequent press reports explained that this was Renfro's real name.

Graysmith probed deeper into the story, certain that something didn't add up. In December 2007, he read an interview with Davis's granddaughter in which she expressed confusion at the shower connection. "My grandmother would never have done any nude work," she said.

Graysmith made two discoveries. First, that Renfro and Davis were two separate people; and second, that Renfro was still alive. The confusion had arisen from the fact that, while Renfro was Leigh's body double on Psycho, Davis was her stand-in, used to check lighting set-ups. In his new book, The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock's Shower, Graysmith suggests that Kenneth Dean Hunt was a Psycho obsessive who wanted to kill Leigh's body double but got the stand-in by mistake. "Everyone confused them," he says, "even a murderer. I discovered Marli was still alive. It turns out she's been so busy fishing in Utah, hiking in Alaska, swimming with dolphins in Florida and generally living life to the full that she had no idea she was meant to be dead."

Renfro, who now lives in California's Mojave desert, only found out about her supposed murder when Graysmith told her about it. "She wasn't a vain person, and had no interest in her past career," he says. "She didn't read articles about herself; and, after her first husband made her burn all her old glamour photographs out of jealousy, she didn't keep a scrapbook."

This might also help explain why she never asked for more than her initial $500 for essentially starring in the most famous movie scene in history, in a film that made $15m in its first year alone. "Janet Leigh went around telling everyone how embarrassed she was filming the shower scene, and Hitchcock backed up the story," says Graysmith. "They concocted a lie."

Tony Curtis, Leigh's husband at the time, claimed in his autobiography that Psycho's success, and the fact that all anyone wanted to talk to her about was the shower scene, drove his wife to drink, which eventually led to her breakdown and their divorce. Had she and Hitchcock been more open about how the shower scene had been achieved, it might not have become the subject of such speculation and obsession. Fifty years after Psycho's release, Graysmith hopes his book will finally bring this all to an end.

1 comment:

Rip Jagger said...

She is an attractive woman for certain. I am especially taken with her seemkng at being naked. Some of the photos require some fetching pose, but she seems equally comfortable doing that or just being nude. It's an attractive feature all by itself.