Kim Novak

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Kim Novak (born February 13, 1933) is a two-time Golden Globe Award-winning American actress. She is best known for her performance in the classic 1958 film Vertigo.

Novak retired from acting in 1991 and is now an accomplished artist. She currently lives on a ranch in Eagle Point, Oregon, with her veterinarian husband.

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Early life

Kim Novak was born Marilyn Pauline Novak in Chicago, Illinois of Czech ancestry. Her father was a railroad clerk and former teacher; her mother also was a former teacher, and Novak has a sister. While attending Farragut High Academy, she won a scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago. After leaving school, she began a career modeling teen fashions for a local department store. She later received a scholarship at a modeling academy and continued to model part-time. She worked as an elevator operator, a sales clerk and a dental assistant. After a job touring the country as a spokesman for a refrigerator manufacturer, “Miss Deepfreeze,” Novak moved to Los Angeles, where she continued to find work as a model.

Career

Kim Novak in Pal Joey

The 21-year-old Marilyn Novak struck a pose on a stairway for the RKO 3-D motion picture The French Line (1954) starring Jane Russell and Gilbert Roland. Novak received no screen credit. Eventually, she was seen by a Columbia Pictures talent agent and filmed a screen test. Studio chief Harry Cohn was searching for another beauty to replace the rebellious and difficult Rita Hayworth. Novak was signed to a six-month contract. Paramount Pictures had an arrangement whereby budding actresses resided at a “ladies’ residence”, similar to a sorority, where their personal lives were under supervision.

Columbia decided to make the blonde, buxom actress its version of Marilyn Monroe. Immediately, there was the issue of what to do about her name. Neither Novak nor Columbia wanted to be seen as cashing in on Marilyn Monroe’s enormous popularity, so Novak’s real first name had to go. She resisted changing it to Kit Marlowe. She and the studio finally settled on the stage name Kim Novak. Cohn told her to lose weight, and he won the battle to make her wear brassieres. She took acting lessons, which she had to pay for herself.

Novak debuted as Lona McLane in Pushover (1954) opposite Fred MacMurray and Philip Carey. Though her role was not the best, her beauty caught the attention of fans and critics alike. She then played the femme fatale role as Janis in Phffft! (1954) opposite Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon, and Jack Carson. Novak’s reviews were good. People were eager to see the new star, and she received an enormous amount of fan mail.

After playing Madge Owens in Picnic (1955) opposite William Holden, Novak won a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer and for World Film Favorite. She was also nominated for the British BAFTA Film Award for Best Foreign Actress. She played Molly in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), on loan to United Artists, with Frank Sinatra. The movie was a big hit. She worked with Sinatra again for Pal Joey (1957), which also starred Rita Hayworth. She also starred in Jeanne Eagels (1957) with Jeff Chandler. Her popularity became such that she made the cover of the July 29, 1957 issue of Time Magazine. That same year, she went on strike, protesting at her salary of $1,250 per week.

Kim Novak in Vertigo

In 1958, Novak starred in the Alfred Hitchcock-directed classic thriller Vertigo with James Stewart. In the first half of the film, she plays an elegant, troubled blonde named Madeleine Elster. In the second half, she plays an earthy brunette shopgirl named Judy Barton. It is revealed that these two women are actually the same person, and that Judy was masquerading as Madeleine as part of an initially successful plot to murder the real Madeleine Elster. Today, the film is considered a masterpiece of romantic suspense, though Novak’s performance has a mixed reputation. Critic David Shipman thought it “little more than competent”, while David Thomson sees it as “one of the major female performances in the cinema”. Hitchcock, rarely one to praise actors, dismissed Novak in a later interview. “You think you’re getting a lot,” he said of her ability, “but you’re not.”

Following Vertigo, she reunited with Stewart and Jack Lemmon in Bell, Book and Candle (1958), a comedy tale of modern-day witchcraft that did not do well at the box office. In 1960, she co-starred with Kirk Douglas in the critically acclaimed Strangers When We Meet also featuring Walter Matthau and Ernie Kovacs.

In 1962, Novak took the leap of producing her own movie, financing her own production company in association with Filmways Productions. Boys’ Night Out, in which she starred with James Garner and Tony Randall, marked a turning point in her career when it was not received well either by critics or the public. She continued to act, but took fewer roles as she began to prefer personal activities over acting. She refused to accept many of the sexpot roles she was being offered. She also turned down several strong dramatic roles including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Hustler, Days of Wine and Roses, and The Sandpiper.

Novak was paired with Lemmon for a third and final time in a mystery-comedy, The Notorious Landlady (1962). She played the vulgar waitress Mildred Rogers in a remake of W. Somerset Maugham‘s drama Of Human Bondage (1964) opposite Laurence Harvey. She starred in Billy Wilder‘s cult classic Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) with Ray Walston and Dean Martin, a film critically panned at the time which has since gained a strong following. After playing the title role in The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965) with Richard Johnson and Angela Lansbury, Novak took a break, seeing as little of Hollywood as possible.

Her comeback came in a dual role as a young actress, Elsa Brinkmann, and an early-day movie goddess who was murdered, Lylah Clare, in producerdirector Robert Aldrich‘s The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968) with Peter Finch and Ernest Borgnine for MGM. It failed miserably. After playing a forger, Sister Lyda Kebanov, in The Great Bank Robbery (1969) opposite Zero Mostel, Clint Walker, and Claude Akins, she stayed away from the screen for four years. She then played the key role of Auriol Pageant in the horror anthology film Tales That Witness Madness (1973). She starred as veteran showgirl Gloria Joyce in the made-for-TV movie The Third Girl From the Left (1973) with Tony Curtis and played Eve in Satan’s Triangle (1975).

In 1979, she played Helga in Just a Gigolo starring David Bowie and then Lola Brewster in an Agatha Christie mystery/thriller The Mirror Crack’d (1980) with Angela Lansbury, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. She and Taylor portrayed rival actresses. She made occasional television appearances over the years. She co-starred with James Coburn in the TV-movie Malibu (1983) and played Rosa in a revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985). From 1986 to 1987, the actress was a cast member of the television series Falcon Crest during the its fourth season in the role of Kit Marlowe (the stage name rejected at the start of her career).

Her most recent appearance on the big screen to date came as a terminally ill writer in the mystery/thriller Liebestraum (1991) for MGM. However, due to battles with the director over how to play the role, her scenes were cut. In a rare interview with Stephen Rebello in the July 2005 issue of Movieline’s Hollywood Life, Novak admitted that she had been “unprofessional” in her conduct with director Mike Figgis. Since that time, she has turned down many other offers to appear in film and TV.

Novak has not ruled out further acting. In an interview in 2007, she said that she would consider returning to the screen “if the right thing came along.”[5]

Honors

For her contribution to motion pictures, Novak was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6332 Hollywood Boulevard.

In 1995, Novak was ranked 92nd by Empire Magazine on a list of the 100 sexiest stars in film history. In 1955 she won the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer-Female; in 1957 she won another Golden Globe — for World Favorite female actress. In 1997 Kim won an Honorary Berlin Golden Bear Award. In 2002 a Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Novak by Eastman Kodak.

New York rock band The Velvet Underground had a song about Kim Novak on their album Loaded, called “New Age“.

Personal life

Novak has been married to veterinarian Dr. Robert Malloy since March 12, 1976. The couple resides on a ranch where they raise horses and llamas. Novak has two stepchildren.

publicity photo of Novak in 1962

For barely a year, Novak was previously married to English actor Richard Johnson from March 15, 1965 to April 23, 1966. Despite their divorce, the two have remained friends. Novak also dated Sammy Davis, Jr in the late 1950s. She was engaged to director Richard Quine although they never married, according to critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Her home in Eagle Point, Oregon was partially destroyed in a fire on July 24, 2000. A computer containing the only existing draft of her unfinished autobiography was also lost to the fire. “I take it personally as a sign that maybe I’m not supposed to write my biography; maybe the past is supposed to stay buried,” Novak said. Among Novak’s lost mementos were scripts of some of her most critically acclaimed movies, including Vertigo and Picnic, as well as several paintings. “It made me realize then what was really valuable,” she said. “That’s the day I wrote a gratitude list. We’re safe and our animals are safe.”

In 2006, Novak was injured in a horseback riding accident. She suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs and nerve damage, but made a full recovery within a year.

Novak is an accomplished artist who expresses herself in watercolor and oil paintings, sculpture, stained glass design and photography. She also writes poetry.

Filmography

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