Anthony Perkins

Anthony Perkins (April 4, 1932 – September 12, 1992) was an American actor, director, and singer. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his second film, Friendly Persuasion (1956), but is best remembered for playing Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and its three sequels. His other films include Fear Strikes Out (1957), The Matchmaker (1958), On the Beach (1959), Tall Story (1960), The Trial (1962), Phaedra (1962), Five Miles to Midnight (1962), Pretty Poison (1968), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Mahogany (1975), The Black Hole (1979), North Sea Hijack (1980), and Crimes of Passion (1984).

Anthony Perkins
Perkins in Psycho (1960)
Born(1932-04-04)April 4, 1932
DiedSeptember 12, 1992(1992-09-12) (aged 60)
Alma materColumbia University
  • Actor
  • director
  • singer
Years active1953–1992
Berry Berenson
(m. 1973)
ChildrenOz Perkins
Elvis Perkins
  • Osgood Perkins (father)

Early life

Perkins was born in Manhattan, New York City, son of stage and film actor Osgood Perkins and his wife, Janet Esselstyn (née Rane). His paternal great-grandfather was wood engraver Andrew Varick Stout Anthony.[1] He was five when his father died.[2]

Perkins was a descendant of a Mayflower passenger, John Howland. He attended Brooks School and Browne & Nichols School, having moved to Boston in 1942, and then Columbia University and Rollins College.[3]


Perkins made his film debut in The Actress (1953). The film was a commercial disappointment. Perkins was first really noticed when he replaced John Kerr on Broadway in the lead of Tea and Sympathy in 1954. This renewed Hollywood interest in him.[4]


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

Perkins gained notice for his second film, Friendly Persuasion (1956), directed by William Wyler, in which he played the son of the lead character, played by Gary Cooper.

Subsequently, Perkins starred as troubled former Boston Red Sox baseball player Jimmy Piersall in the 1957 biopic Fear Strikes Out (1957) and in the two Westerns The Lonely Man (1957) (with Jack Palance) and The Tin Star (1957) (with Henry Fonda).

He released three pop music albums and several singles in 1957 and 1958 on Epic and RCA Victor under the name Tony Perkins.[5] His single "Moon-Light Swim" was a moderate hit in the United States, peaking at number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1957.[5] He showcased his musical talents in The Matchmaker (1958) with Shirley Booth and Shirley MacLaine.

A life member of the Actors Studio,[6] Perkins also acted in theater. In 1958, he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in Look Homeward, Angel (1957–59) on Broadway. He played the role of Eugene Gant.[7]

In film, he appeared in This Angry Age (1958) for Columbia and Desire Under the Elms (1958) for Paramount, with Sophia Loren. He was then cast in The Matchmaker (1958).

Perkins was Audrey Hepburn's love interest in Green Mansions (1959), one of Hepburn's few flops. He was a doomed young father in On the Beach (1959) and played a college basketball champion in Tall Story (1960), best remembered for being Jane Fonda's film debut.

On Broadway, he starred in the Frank Loesser musical Greenwillow (1960), for which he was nominated for another Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.


Perkins in youth had a boyish, earnest quality, reminiscent of the young James Stewart, which Alfred Hitchcock exploited and subverted when the actor starred as Norman Bates in the film Psycho (1960).[8] The film was a critical and commercial success, and gained Perkins international fame for his performance as the homicidal owner of the Bates Motel. Perkins' performance gained him the Best Actor Award from the International Board of Motion Picture Reviewers. The role and its multiple sequels affected the remainder of his career.[9]

With Charmian Carr in Evening Primrose, 1966


Perkins appeared in the film Goodbye Again (1961) with Ingrid Bergman, which was shot in Paris.

He appeared in a short-lived Broadway play, Harold (1962), then was featured in a series of films shot in Europe: Phaedra (1962), shot in Greece with Melina Mercouri and directed by Jules Dassin; Five Miles to Midnight (1962) with Sophia Loren; Orson Welles' version of The Trial (1962, from the Kafka novel); Le glaive et la balance (1963), shot in France; and Une ravissante idiote (1964) with Brigitte Bardot.

Perkins made a film in Mexico, The Fool Killer (1965), then returned to France for a cameo in Is Paris Burning? (1966).

Return to the U.S.

For American television, Perkins appeared in Evening Primrose (1966), an original musical with a score by his close friend Stephen Sondheim. He then went to Broadway to appear in a play by Neil Simon, The Star-Spangled Girl (1966–67).

He starred in another French film, The Champagne Murders (1967) for Claude Chabrol, then made his first Hollywood movie since Psycho, Pretty Poison (1968) with Tuesday Weld. It was not a box office success, but has become a notable cult favorite.[10]

Supporting actor

In the 1970s, Perkins moved into supporting roles in Hollywood-feature films, playing Chaplain Tappman in Catch-22 (1970) and appearing in WUSA (1970), starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Off-Broadway, he appeared in and directed Steambath (1970).

Perkins had the lead in a TV movie, How Awful About Allan (1970) and supported Charles Bronson in the French crime drama, Someone Behind the Door (1971). He starred in Chabrol's murder mystery Ten Days' Wonder (1971). Perkins was reunited with Weld when he supported her in Play It as It Lays (1972). He was also in the successful western The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972). He co-wrote, with composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, the screenplay for the ensemble film The Last of Sheila (1973).

Perkins was one of the many stars featured in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), adapted from a popular Agatha Christie novel. He co-starred with Beau Bridges and Blythe Danner in Lovin' Molly (also 1974).[11] 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).[12] Off-Broadway he directed The Wager (1974).

Perkins supported Diana Ross in the romantic drama Mahogany (1975) and hosted television's Saturday Night Live in 1976. He co-starred with Geraldine Chaplin in Remember My Name (1978) and had roles on television, playing Mary Tyler Moore's husband in First, You Cry (1978) and Javert in Les Misérables (1978). He was featured in Walt Disney's science fiction film The Black Hole, in 1979. He had another Broadway success with Bernard Slade's 1979 play Romantic Comedy. Perkins was a villain in the action film North Sea Hijack (1980), starring Roger Moore, and one of many names in Winter Kills (1980), which was never released. He also starred in the 1980 Canadian film Deadly Companion (also known as Double Negative).

Later career

Perkins in 1983

Perkins reprised the role of Norman Bates in Psycho's three sequels. The first, Psycho II (1983), was a box-office success twenty-three years after the original film.

Perkins went to Australia to appear in TV mini-series For the Term of His Natural Life (1983). After The Glory Boys (1984) for British television, Perkins made Crimes of Passion (1984) for Ken Russell.[13] He then starred in and directed Psycho III (1986).

Perkins had supporting roles in Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story (1987), and the slasher film Destroyer (1988). He directed but did not appear in the comedy Lucky Stiff (1988). Perkins starred in some additional horror films, Edge of Sanity (1989), Daughter of Darkness (1990), and I'm Dangerous Tonight (1990). He played Norman Bates again in the made-for-cable film Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990).

Perkins appeared in six television productions between 1990 and 1992, 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 Arquette. He had 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. In the end, the character was voiced by Simpsons regular Hank Azaria.[14]

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.

Personal life

Perkins (far left) with Tab Hunter (far right), whom he used to date

Perkins was extremely shy, especially in the company of women.[15] According to the posthumous biography Split Image by Charles Winecoff, he had exclusively same-sex relationships until his late 30s, including with actor Tab Hunter, artist Christopher Makos, dancer Rudolf Nureyev, composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and dancer-choreographer Grover Dale.[16] Perkins has also been described as one of the two great men in the life of French songwriter Patrick Loiseau.[17]

Perkins reportedly had his first heterosexual experience at age 39 with actress Victoria Principal[18][19] on location filming The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean in 1971.[15] 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 that 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 a form of arrested development, and made a small fortune convincing willing clients that it was an impediment to getting what they wanted.”[20]

Perkins met photographer Berinthia "Berry" Berenson, the younger sister of actress and model Marisa Berenson, at a party in Manhattan in 1972.[15] They married when he was 41 and she was 25, on August 9, 1973 and had two sons: director Oz Perkins (b. 1974) and musician Elvis Perkins (b. 1976).[21] Perkins and Berenson remained married until his death. In 2001, on the day before the ninth anniversary of his death, Perkins' widow died at age 53 in the September 11 attacks aboard American Airlines Flight 11. She was returning to her California home following a vacation on Cape Cod.[22]


Perkins was diagnosed with HIV during the filming of Psycho IV: The Beginning, and died at his Los Angeles home on September 12, 1992, from AIDS-related[23][24][25] pneumonia at age 60.[26] His urn, inscribed "Don't Fence Me In", is in an altar on the terrace of his former home in the Hollywood Hills.[27]


Year Title Role Notes
1953The ActressFred Whitmarsh
1956Friendly PersuasionJosh BirdwellGolden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer – Male
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1957Fear Strikes OutJim Piersall
1957The Lonely ManRiley Wade
1957The Tin StarSheriff Ben Owens
1957This Angry AgeJoseph DufresneAlternative title: The Sea Wall
1958Desire Under the ElmsEben Cabot
1958The MatchmakerCornelius Hackl
1959Green MansionsAbel
1959On the BeachLt. Peter Holmes – Royal Australian Navy
1960Tall StoryRay Blent
1960PsychoNorman BatesInternational Board of Motion Picture Reviewers for Best Actor
Nominated—Bambi Award for Best International Actor
1961Goodbye AgainPhilip Van der BeshCannes Film Festival Award for Best Actor
David di Donatello for Best Foreign Actor
Nominated—Bambi Award for Best International Actor
1962Five Miles to MidnightRobert Macklin
1962The TrialJosef K
1963Le glaive et la balanceJohnny ParsonsEnglish titles: The Sword and the Balance and Two Are Guilty
1964Une ravissante idioteHarry Compton / Nicholas MaukoulineEnglish title: The Ravishing Idiot
1965The Fool KillerMilo Bogardus
1966Is Paris Burning?Sgt. Warren
1967The Champagne MurdersChristopher BellingFrench title: Le scandale
1968Pretty PoisonDennis Pitt
1970Catch-22Chaplain TappmanNominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
1970WUSARaineyNominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
1970How Awful About AllanAllan ColleighTelevision film
1971Someone Behind the DoorLaurence JeffriesFrench title: Quelqu'un derrière la porte
1971Ten Days' WonderCharles Van HornFrench title: La Décade prodigieuse
1972Play It as It LaysB.Z. Mendenhall
1972The Life and Times of Judge Roy BeanReverend LaSalle
1973The Last of SheilaN/ACo-writer with Stephen Sondheim
Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay [Shared with Stephen Sondheim]
1974Lovin' MollyGid Frye
1974Murder on the Orient ExpressHector McQueen
1975MahoganySean McAvoy
1978Remember My NameNeil Curry
1978First, You CryArthur HerozTelevision film
1978Les MisérablesJavertTelevision film
1979Winter KillsJohn Cerruti
1979Twice a WomanAlfred BoekenDutch title: Twee vrouwen
1979The Black HoleDr. Alex Durant
1980North Sea HijackLou KramerAlternative titles: ffolkes and Assault Force
1980Deadly CompanionLawrence MilesAlternative title: Double Negative
1983The Sins of Dorian GrayHenry LordTelevision film
1983Psycho IINorman Bates
1984Crimes of PassionReverend Peter Shayne
1986Psycho IIINorman BatesAlso director
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actor
1988DestroyerRobert Edwards
1988Lucky StiffN/ADirector
1989Edge of SanityDr. Henry Jekyll / Jack "The Ripper" Hyde
1990Daughter of DarknessAnton / Prince ConstantineTelevision film
1990I'm Dangerous TonightProfessor BuchananTelevision film
1990Psycho IV: The BeginningNorman BatesTelevision film
1991A Demon in My ViewArthur Johnson
1992The Naked TargetEl Mecano
1992In the Deep WoodsPaul Miller, P.I.Television film (released posthumously; final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1953The Big StoryRalph DarrowEpisode: "Robert Billeter of the Pendleton Times of Franklin, West Virginia"
1954Kraft Television TheatreHimself – Guest StarEpisode: "The Missing Years"
1954Armstrong Circle TheatrePhilippeEpisode: "The Fugitive"
1954The Man Behind the BadgePedroEpisodes: "The East Baton Rouge Story", "The Case of the Narcotics Racket"
1955General Electric TheaterWest WindEpisode: "Mr. Blue Ocean"
1955WindowsBenjiEpisode: "The World Out There"
1956Kraft Television TheatreWillie O'ReillyEpisode: "Home Is the Hero"
1956Studio OneClyde SmithEpisode: "The Silent Gun"
1956Front Row CenterDexter GreenEpisode: "Winter Dreams"
1956Goodyear Television PlayhouseJoeyEpisode: "Joey"
1966ABC Stage 67Charles SnellEpisode: "Evening Primrose"
1968BBC Play of the MonthTommy TurnerEpisode: "The Male Animal"
1976Saturday Night LiveHimself – Host / Norman Bates / VariousEpisode: "Anthony Perkins/Betty Carter"
1979The Horror ShowHimself – Host / NarratorTelevision special
1983For the Term of His Natural LifeReverend James NorthTelevision miniseries (2 episodes)
1984The Glory BoysJimmyTelevision miniseries (3 episodes)
1987Napoleon and Josephine: A Love StoryTalleyrandTelevision miniseries (3 episodes)
1990ChillersHimself – HostTelevision series (12 episodes)
1990The Ghost WriterAnthony StrackTelevision pilot


Year Title Role Theatre Notes
1954–55Tea and SympathyTom LeeEthel Barrymore Theatre, New York CityBroadway (replacement for John Kerr)
1957–59Look Homeward, AngelEugene GantEthel Barrymore Theatre, New York CityBroadway
1960GreenwillowGideon BriggsAlvin Theatre, New York CityBroadway
1962HaroldHarold SelbarCort Theatre, New York CityBroadway
1966–67The Star-Spangled GirlAndy HobartPlymouth Theatre, New York CityBroadway
1970SteambathTandyTruck and Warehouse Theater, New York CityOff-Broadway (also director)
1974The WagerN/AEastside Playhouse, New York CityOff-Broadway (director)
1975–76EquusMartin DysartPlymouth Theatre, New York CityBroadway (replacement for Anthony Hopkins)
1979–80Romantic ComedyJason CarmichaelEthel Barrymore Theatre, New York CityBroadway


Year Album Label
1957Orchestra Under the Direction of Martin PaichEpic Records
1958On A Rainy AfternoonRCA Victor
1958From My Heart...RCA Victor
1964Anthony PerkinsPathé


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  8. "Norman Bates: A Most Terrifying Mama's Boy". Retrieved October 26, 2017.
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  12. Barnes, Clive (July 17, 1975). "Stage: Perkins in 'Equus'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
  13. "Biography for Anthony Perkins". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
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  15. Darrach, Brad (June 13, 1983). "Return of Psycho". People. Vol. 19 no. 23. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
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  17. "La MST de Dave: son compagnon raconte…". Closer (in French). May 2, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
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  20. Harris, Mark (2021). Mike Nichols: A Life. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN 0399562249.
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  22. Hopkinson, Amanda (September 14, 2001). "Berry Berenson". The Guardian. London, England.
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  25. Ferrell, David (September 13, 1992). "Anthony Perkins, 60, Dies; Star of 'Psycho' Had AIDS". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
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  27. Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 36782-36783). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Further reading

  • Bergan, Ronald: Anthony Perkins: A Haunted Life. London: Little, Brown and Company, 1995; ISBN 0-316-90697-2.
  • Hilton, Johan: Monster i garderoben: En bok om Anthony Perkins och tiden som skapade Norm Bates. Stockholm: Natur & Kultur, 2015; ISBN 978-91-271-3430-0. (in Swedish)
  • Capua, Michelangelo "Anthony Perkins. Prigioniero della Paura." Torino, Lindau, 2003; ISBN 978-8867082759
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