Kim Novak

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Kim Novak

Kim Novak.jpg
Born: February 13, 1933 (1933-02-13) (age 85)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Years active: 1954–1991
Ethnicity: Caucasian
Nationality: American
Body type: Slim
Eye color: Hazel
Hair: Blonde

Kim Novak (born February 13, 1933) is a two-time Golden Globe Award-winning American actress. She is best known for her performance in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). She retired from acting in 1991 and is now an artist of watercolor and oil paintings, sculpture, stained glass design and photography.

Early life

Novak was born Marilyn Pauline Novak in Chicago, Illinois, a Roman Catholic of Czech extraction. Her father was a railroad clerk and former teacher; her mother also was a former teacher, and Novak has a sister. While in grammar school, she won a scholarship to the famed Chicago Art Institute.

After graduating from high 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.



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 had an arrangement whereby budding actresses resided at a "lady's 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 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) opposite Frank Sinatra on loan-out to United Artists. The movie was a big hit. She was paired 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 her salary of $1,250 per week.

In 1958, Novak starred in Hitchcock's classic thriller Vertigo opposite James Stewart. Hitchcock had intended his latest blonde protegee Vera Miles to star in the film but Miles' pregnancy and, later several production delays, prevented Hitchcock from realizing his intention. Instead, Novak was cast as the female lead. In the first half of the film, she plays an elegant, troubled blonde named Madeleine Elster. In the second half, she plays an the earthy brunette shopgirl named Judy Barton. It is revealed that these two characters are the same person, and that Judy was faking her identity as part of a plot to murder the "the real Madeleine." Today, the film is considered a masterpiece of romantic suspense, and Novak's turn is possibly the most admired of her career. Still, 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 reteamed 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.

Although some believe that by the early 1960s, Novak's career had begun to slide, she refused to accept many of the sexpot roles she was being offered. During the decade, 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 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 that has since gained a strong following. After playing the title role in The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965) opposite 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 producer-director Robert Aldrich's The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968) opposite Oscar winners 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). 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) opposite Angela Lansbury, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. She and Taylor portrayed rival actresses. Her last appearance on the big screen came as Lillian Anderson Munnsen in the mystery/thriller Liebestraum (1991) for MGM. However, her scenes were cut due to battles with the director over how to play the role. 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 made occasional appearances on television over the years. She starred as aging showgirl Gloria Joyce in the made-for-TV movie The Third Girl From the Left (1973); played Eve in Satan's Triangle (1975); Billie Farnsworth in Malibu (1983); Rosa in a revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985). The actress joined the cast of the series Falcon Crest during the 1986–87 season in the role of Kit Marlowe (the stage name she had rejected at the start of her career). Perhaps her earliest television appearance was a part in "Highway Patrol", which starred Broderick Crawford, about 1954.


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.

Personal life

Novak has had two husbands, English actor Richard Johnson (married 15 March 1965 and divorced 23 April 1966) and veterinarian Dr. Robert Malloy (married 12 March 1976). She was engaged to director Richard Quine although they never married, according to critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.[1] Her home in Eagle Point, Oregon was destroyed in a fire on 24 July 2000.[2] Among Novak's lost mementos were scripts of some of her most critically acclaimed movies, including Vertigo and Picnic.[2] The only existing draft of her autobiography was also lost to the fire.[2] Novak is an accomplished artist who expresses herself in watercolor and oil paintings, sculpture, stained glass design and photography. She also writes poetry.


  1. Jonathan Rosenbaum: "Kim Novak as Midwestern Independent"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Martin, Melissa. "Kim Novak’s home burns", Mail Tribune, July 25, 2000.
  • V.L. Barnett, "Dualling for Judy: The Concept of the Double in the Films of Kim Novak", Film History, no. 1, 2007.

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