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Perkins, Anthony (1932-1992)  
 
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The life and career of actor Anthony Perkins seems almost like a movie script from the times in which he lived. One of the dark, vulnerable anti-heroes who gained popularity during Hollywood's "post-golden" era, Perkins began his career as a teen heartthrob and ended it unable to escape the role of villain.

In his personal life, he often seemed as tortured as the troubled characters he played on film, hiding--and perhaps despising--his true nature while desperately seeking happiness and "normality."

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Perkins was born on April 4, 1932 in New York City, the only child of actor Osgood Perkins and Janet Esseltyn Rane. His father died when he was only five, and Perkins was reared by his strong-willed and possibly abusive mother.

He followed his father into the theater, joining Actors Equity at the age of fifteen and working backstage until he got his first acting roles in summer stock productions of popular plays like Junior Miss and My Sister Eileen. He continued to hone his acting skills while attending Rollins College in Florida, performing in such classics as Harvey and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Perkins was an unhappy young man, and the theater provided escape from his loneliness and depression. "There was nothing about me I wanted to be," he told Mark Goodman in a People Weekly interview. "But I felt happy being somebody else."

During his late teens, Perkins went to Hollywood and landed his first film role in the 1953 George Cukor production, The Actress, in which he appeared with Spencer Tracy. He returned to New York to take a leading role on Broadway, replacing John Kerr as Tom Lee in Robert Anderson's Tea and Sympathy. For a young man who must already have been aware of but frightened by his attraction to other men, the role of a sexually ambivalent student undoubtedly struck a painfully familiar chord.

His success on Broadway led to a flood of roles on television shows like The Fugitive, Studio One, and General Electric Theater.

In 1956, Perkins returned to Hollywood to take the star-making role of Josh Birdwell, a Quaker teenager, in the William Wyler film Friendly Persuasion. Not only were the movie and its director nominated for Academy Awards, but Perkins also earned a nomination as Best Supporting Actor. In addition, Perkins won a Golden Globe Award as Most Promising Newcomer. He was on his way to becoming a teen idol and a major star.

Through the rest of the 1950s, Perkins appeared in two or three movies a year, including Robert Mulligan's Fear Strikes Out (1957), Anthony Mann's The Tin Star (1957), Delbert Mann's Desire under the Elms (1958), John Michael Hayes' The Matchmaker (1958), Mel Ferrer's Green Mansions (1959), and Stanley Kramer's On the Beach (1959). In these films, Perkins typically played an awkward, sometimes alienated, and always brooding young man. He was touted as an heir to the mantle of James Dean.

At the same time he pursued a busy film career, Perkins also maintained an acting career on the stage. He appeared in several Broadway productions during the 1950s and 1960s, earning a Tony Award nomination for Look Homeward, Angel (1958), Ketti Frings' play based on Thomas Wolfe's novel, and excellent reviews for his appearance in Greenwillow (1960), the Frank Loesser musical.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, gay men and lesbians in Hollywood were not only made invisible but also demonized as predatory monsters. Mysterious and sensitive young men like Perkins kept their homosexuality a closely guarded secret, and the movie studios helped to deflect suspicion by arranging dates with pretty young actresses, thereby providing cover for actors they knew had no interest in women.

Perkins went out with starlets for the benefit of the Hollywood press, but his real romantic relationships were with men, including Tab Hunter and other actors. He later reportedly had affairs with such celebrities as Stephen Sondheim and Rudolf Nureyev, as well as a six-year relationship with dancer-choreographer Grover Dale.

At the same time that he was engaging in homosexual relationships, however, Perkins was also in psychoanalysis, attempting to eradicate his homosexual desire and to develop a heterosexual response.

In 1960, the tall, slender, handsome Perkins appeared as a hunky basketball player in Joshua Logan's Tall Story opposite film newcomer Jane Fonda, in a role designed to capitalize on his appeal as a teen heartthrob and to establish him as a romantic leading man.

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