Novak in 1959
|Born||Marilyn Pauline Novak
February 13, 1933
Chicago, Illinois, USA
|Residence||Sams Valley, Oregon, USA|
|Education||David Glasgow Farragut High School|
|Alma mater||School of the Art Institute of Chicago|
|Spouse(s)||Richard Johnson (m. 1965–66)
Dr. Robert Malloy (m. 1976)
Kim Novak (born Marilyn Pauline Novak on February 13, 1933 in Chicago) is an American actress. She began her career in 1954 at age 21, and came to prominence almost immediately with a leading role in the film Picnic (1955). Other films from this period of her career include The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), The Eddy Duchin Story (1956), Pal Joey (1957), Jeanne Eagels (1957), the Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo (1958), Bell, Book and Candle (1958), and Middle of the Night (1959). After a decade in the entertainment industry, Novak withdrew from the public eye in 1966 and appeared in films only sporadically until 1991, when she retired from acting following a tempestuous experience with director Mike Figgis on the set of Liebestraum, her last film to date.
Novak married veterinarian Robert Malloy in 1976. The couple took up residence on a ranch in Sams Valley, Oregon. Novak, also an accomplished painter, exhibited her works at least once, in March 2012.
Novak was born Marilyn Pauline Novak in Chicago, Illinois, to Joseph and Blanche (née Kral) Novak. Both her parents were of Czech descent. Her father was a history teacher and worked as a dispatcher on the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, and her mother was a factory worker.
She attended William Penn Elementary, Farragut High School, and Wright Junior College. She won two scholarships to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and during the summer break in her last semester of junior college, Novak went on a cross-country tour modeling for a refrigerator company at trade shows. While stopping by Los Angeles, Novak and two other models stood in line to be extras in The French Line (1954), a film starring Jane Russell. It was here that she was discovered by an agent, who signed her to a long-term contract with Columbia Pictures.
Kim Novak wanted to be an original and not another stereotype. Therefore, she fought with Columbia's chief, Harry Cohn, when he wanted to change her name to “Kit Marlowe.” He argued, “Nobody's gonna go see a girl with a Polack name!” But Novak insisted on keeping her name, saying, “Well, I'm Czech, but Polish, Czech, no matter, it's my name.” They ended up with “Kim” for her first name as a compromise.
Novak made her film debut in the film noir Pushover (1954), starring Fred MacMurray and Philip Carey. Though the movie was only moderately successful, Novak received good reviews for her performance. She then played the role of Janis in the romantic comedy Phffft!, opposite Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon, and Jack Carson. Soon afterward, she had her first starring role in 5 Against the House (1955), a crime drama.
In 1955, Novak had a supporting role in the highly successful The Man with the Golden Arm, with Frank Sinatra and Eleanor Parker. Her next role was as the lead character, Madge Owens, in Picnic, opposite William Holden. The film proved to be a breakthrough for the young actress; she won the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer and was nominated for the BAFTA Film Award for Best Foreign Actress. The film was also very successful at the box office.
In 1956, she played opposite Tyrone Power in The Eddy Duchin Story. In 1957, she worked with Sinatra again in the box office hit Pal Joey, which also starred Rita Hayworth. That same year, she portrayed 1920s film star Jeanne Eagels in the self-titled biographical film opposite Jeff Chandler.
Director Alfred Hitchcock was working on his next film, Vertigo, when his leading actress, Vera Miles, became pregnant and had to withdraw from the complex role of Judy Barton. Hitchcock approached Harry Cohn to offer Novak the female lead without even requesting a screen test. Though Cohn hated the script, he allowed Novak to read it because he considered Hitchcock to be a great director. Novak loved it and could identify with the character. At the same time, she was striking for more money from Columbia, and refused to show up for work on the Vertigo set to protest her salary of $1,250 a week. Novak hired new agents to represent her and demanded an adjustment in her contract. Cohn suspended her but, after a few weeks of negotiations, he relented and offered her a new contract worthy of a major star. Novak could identify with the personality of her character Judy as she felt she went through the same thing when she arrived in Hollywood:
From my point of view, when I first read those lines where she says, "I want you to love me for me," and all the talking in that scene, I just identified it with so much because going to Hollywood as a young girl and suddenly finding they want to make you over totally, it's such a total change and it was like I was always fighting to show some of myself, feeling that I wanted to be there as well. It was like they'd do my hair and go and redo a bunch of things. So I really identified with the fact of someone that was being made over with the resentment, with wanting to. Needing approval and wanting to be loved and willing, eventually, to go to any lengths to get that by changing her hair and all of these different things. And then when Judy appears, it's another story and then when she has to go through that change. I really identified with the movie because it was saying, "Please, see who I am. Fall in love with me."
The film was poorly received at the time of its release in 1958, but has since been re-evaluated and is widely considered one of the director's best works. In the 2012 British Film Institute's Sight & Sound critics' poll, Vertigo was voted as the best film of all time, displacing Orson Welles' Citizen Kane from the position it had occupied since 1962. Novak received mixed reviews for her performance, but she managed to surprise film critics. While Bosley Crowther, writing for The New York Times, described her as "really quite amazing," the Variety review noted that she was "interesting under Hitchcock’s direction" and "nearer an actress than she was in either Pal Joey or Jeanne Eagles." The consensus regarding her performance also changed with time. For example, film critic David Thomson thought it was "one of the major female performances in the cinema" and film director Martin Scorsese called it "extraordinary," adding that Novak's work was "so brave and emotionally immediate." However, Novak was disappointed by her performance when she watched the film in 2013. "I was really disappointed. Both characters were exaggerated. They’ll always remember me in Vertigo, and I’m not that good in it, but I don’t blame me because there are a couple of scenes where I was wonderful."
That same year, she again worked with Stewart in Richard Quine's Bell, Book and Candle, a comedy tale of modern-day witchcraft, that proved to be a box office success. The following year, she starred opposite Fredric March in the acclaimed Middle of the Night (1959), which she has described as her favorite film that she has been in. Novak also cites her performance in Middle of the Night as her best.
By 1956, Novak had become the number one box office star in the world, and she held that position for three solid years of outstanding film making.
Novak starred opposite Kirk Douglas in Strangers When We Meet (1960). Richard Quine was the director, as well as her fiancée at the time. The studio planned to give them the house that was built as part of the story line during the filming as a wedding gift, but their wedding never came to be. Instead it was during the last film that she and Quine made together in 1962, The Notorious Landlady with Jack Lemmon, that she discovered and purchased her future home by the sea near Big Sur, California. It was to become her retreat and salvation after leaving Hollywood.
Novak’s contract was nearing its end, and now that Cohn was gone, there was no one at Columbia Pictures who could take charge or make artistic judgements. She was given “beach girl” type scripts that she resented and refused to do.
She made an independent five-picture deal with Martin Ransohoff and Filmways Pictures to co-produce, but it proved to be a bad choice due to clashes with personalities over scripts. Their first endeavor, Boys' Night Out (1962), was unsuccessful. After her Hollywood house survived the big Bel Air fire of 1961, it was finally lost a few years later when it was swept away with most of her belongings in a mudslide in 1966.
Kiss Me, Stupid followed for director Billy Wilder. Actor Peter Sellers had originally been selected, but he had suffered a heart attack, so Ray Walston took his place. Also co-starring was Dean Martin. The film had problems getting released due to conflicts with the Legion of Decency. Later it was rediscovered and acclaimed for its forward thinking and got rave reviews, particularly for Novak’s performance as “Polly the Pistol.” In 1965, she made The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders in England with British actor Richard Johnson. Novak married Johnson in 1965 and divorced him in the spring of 1966. They remained good friends. By the end of 1966, she was burned out and no longer wanted to live the life of a Hollywood movie star, in the glare of the spotlight with the press criticizing her every move. When the mudslide took her Bel Air home and cost her entire life’s savings in bulldozer fees, she moved away from Hollywood to discover herself anew.
From then on acting became a job and was no longer a career of choice. Novak preferred to concentrate on her first love, the visual arts, often writing poetry to accompany her paintings, and even writing some song lyrics. Harry Belafonte and the Kingston Trio recorded some of her folk songs in the 1960s.
In 1968, she returned to the screen for The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968), starring Peter Finch and Ernest Borgnine, and directed by Robert Aldrich. She played a dual role, portraying a person who becomes possessed by a look-alike film actress that gets made over by her obsessive-compulsive director lover. Robert Aldrich asked Novak to do a German accent for that role, but she felt it was unbelievable and over the top, so she did not want to do it; however, he never insisted. At the premiere, Novak was totally shocked to hear her voice had been overdubbed by a German actress in many scenes. Aldrich had never told her, nor had he given her the opportunity to dub it herself. She was extremely upset.
After spending nearly four years she described as a "self-imposed vacation," Novak agreed to take part in two projects. She returned to the screen with a role in the horror anthology film Tales That Witness Madness (1973). Novak also starred as Las Vegas chorus girl Gloria Joyce, a character she could identify with, in the made-for-TV movie, The Third Girl From the Left (1973), with her real-life boyfriend at the time, Michael Brandon.
Novak admitted a preference for TV films as she thought they were faster to shoot than features. She described scripts of that time as offensive, saying she disliked the unnecessary sex she found in most of them. In 1975, Novak took part in the ABC movie Satan's Triangle because she liked the story which dealt in the supernatural.
In 1980, Novak played Lola Brewster in the British mystery-thriller The Mirror Crack'd, based on the story by Agatha Christie. She co-starred alongside Angela Lansbury, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Novak did not appear in any feature films during the remainder of the 1980s. Her acting credits during the decade included the ensemble television movie Malibu (1983) and the pilot episode of The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985).
Producers of the successful primetime soap opera Falcon Crest offered Novak to play a role in the same line than Vertigo in their series. She appeared as the secretive "Kit Marlowe" in 19 episodes from 1986 to 1987. It was Novak's idea to name her character Kit Marlowe, as it was the stage name that Columbia had wanted her to use when she started out in the business. The former Marilyn Pauline Novak wryly described this turn of events as effectively being Cohn's revenge on her from beyond the grave.
Novak decided to re-establish contact with her agent and seek challenging roles. She returned to film with the leading role of Rose Sellers in The Children (1990) opposite Ben Kingsley. A British-German coproduction, the film only had a limited release.
Director Mike Figgis offered Novak the role of a terminally ill writer with a mysterious past in his thriller Liebestraum (1991) opposite Kevin Anderson and Bill Pullman. Novak loved the script and thought it was going to be an important picture. However, she had a difficult experience with Figgis. She agreed to do the film under the impression she was going to play the whole character with the flashbacks scenes. Figgis felt Novak was unable to play the flashback role the way he wanted and hired actress Sarah Fearon for those scenes.
Novak and Figgis had conflicts on the set as their visions of the script differed, clashed, and were in many ways[which?] diametrically opposed. She felt the story was too personal for the director, as it was about his own life and Novak was playing his mother. She felt he considered her a puppet and, owing to battles with him over how to play her character, most of her scenes were cut. "He wanted what he thought Hitchcock had made over," she said. "But Hitchcock didn’t do that. [Figgis] didn’t know Hitchcock. So he treated me the way he thought Hitchcock must have, tried to manipulate me into doing exactly… I went crazy." Novak was hurt and distraught with the Liebestraum experience as it took her back to her Columbia: "It was such a painful thing for me because it took me right back to Harry Cohn and all that time. And back into saying, 'Look, for God’s sake, haven’t you heard it enough? We don’t want you to do anything. Just be “Kim Novak.”' That movie pained me more than any movie in the world could do."
Novak later told Hollywood Life magazine in 2005. "I know he thinks I'm a total bitch. That role was fabulous, full of depth. When I interpreted it the way I thought was evident in the incredible script, he said, 'We're not making a Kim Novak movie, just say the lines. If you continue to play the role this way, I'm going to cut you out of the movie,' and he pretty much did that." In the interview, Novak admitted she was "unprofessional" not to obey her director.
Novak was supposed to do a comedy with the French director Claude Berri and also starring Peter Falk. The film never got made and following the difficult experience with Liebestraum, she has usually cited the film as the reason for her decision to retire from the film industry. In 2004, she told the Associated Press:
I got so burned out on that picture that I wanted to leave the business, but then if you wait long enough you think, "Oh, I miss certain things." The making of a movie is wonderful. What's difficult is afterward when you have to go around and try to sell it. The actual filming, when you have a good script—which isn't often—nothing beats it.
After her retirement from acting, Novak rarely accepted invitations to appear at events and turned down most offers she received.
The 2000s and beyond
In 2007, Novak told another reporter she would consider returning to the screen "if the right thing came along."
Novak appeared for a question-and-answer session about her career on July 30, 2010, at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, where the American Cinematheque hosted a tribute to her coinciding with the August 3 DVD release of "The Kim Novak Collection."
In a televised interview with TCM host Robert Osborne that aired on March 6, 2013, Novak broke down in tears while discussing Liebestraum. As she nearly sobbed in front of the audience, Novak said, "I couldn't do a movie after that. I've never done a movie after that. I just couldn't do a movie after that." The interview was an eye-opener for many fans who had wondered why Novak made so few films. Acknowledging that she never reached her potential as an actress, Novak revealed to the audience that she was bipolar and explained, "I was not diagnosed until much later. I go through more of the depression than the mania part."
"I don't think I was ever cut out to have a Hollywood life," Novak also commented. "Did I do the right thing, leaving? Did I walk out when I shouldn't have? That's when I get sad." On the possibility of acting again, Novak said in another interview, with the fashion website LifeGoesStrong, "Who knows what the future holds? It would take an awful lot to lure me out there, but I would never say never."
In 1955 she won the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer - Female. Two years later she won another Golden Globe for World Favorite Female Actress.
In 1995, Novak was ranked 92nd by Empire Magazine on a list of the 100 sexiest stars in film history.
In 2003 Novak was presented with the Eastman Kodak Archives Award for her major contribution to film. (Prior honorees include Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, James Stewart, Martin Scorsese and Meryl Streep.)
In 2010, Novak was also the recipient of a special tribute from the American Cinematheque in Hollywood, where her films were shown at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre. She made a rare personal appearance with a Q&A onstage between showing of Bell, Book and Candle and Vertigo (both 1958).
Also in 2012, Novak was honored in a handprint and footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. And for her contribution to motion pictures, Novak was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6332 Hollywood Boulevard.
Novak was a presenter at the 2014 Academy Awards.
Novak's first marriage was to English actor Richard Johnson, for thirteen months (March 15, 1965 – April 23, 1966). The two remained friends afterwards. After her engagement to director Richard Quine, much was made of her relationships with Sammy Davis, Jr., and Ramfis Trujillo from the Dominican Republic. She dated Prince Aly Khan as well as Frank Sinatra, Richard Beymer and actor Michael Brandon.
In the 1960s Novak left Hollywood for Big Sur, where she started to raise horses and concentrate on painting, not making more than the occasional film. In 1974, she met her present husband, veterinarian Robert Malloy, when he did a house call after one of her Arabian mares started suffering from colic. They have been together ever since, and married on March 12, 1976. Through him, she now has two grown-up step children.
In 1997 Novak bought a 43-acre ranch in Sams Valley, Oregon, which they made into their home. There, Novak began to take classes in painting with pastels from artists Harley Brown and Richard McKinley.
In July 2000 their home on the ranch burned to the ground and she lost all her art and the only draft of the biography she had been working on for ten years.
In October 2010, her manager, Sue Cameron, reported that Novak had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Cameron also noted that Novak is "undergoing treatment" and "her doctors say she is in fantastic physical shape and should recover very well." Upon completion of treatment, Novak was declared cancer-free.
Novak continues her creative endeavors today as a photographer, poet and visual artist who paints in watercolor, oil and pastel. Her paintings are impressionistic and surrealistic.
|1954||The French Line||Model||Uncredited|
|1955||Son of Sinbad||Harem Girl||Uncredited|
|1955||5 Against the House||Kay Greylek|
|1955||Picnic||Marjorie "Madge" Owens|
|1955||The Man with the Golden Arm||Molly|
|1956||The Eddy Duchin Story||Marjorie Oelrichs|
|1957||Jeanne Eagels||Jeanne Eagels|
|1957||Pal Joey||Linda English|
|1958||Bell, Book and Candle||Gillian "Gil" Holroyd|
|1959||Middle of the Night||Betty Preisser|
|1960||Strangers When We Meet||Margaret "Maggie" Gault|
|1962||The Notorious Landlady||Mrs. Carlyle "Carly" Hardwicke|
|1962||Boys' Night Out||Cathy|
|1964||Of Human Bondage||Mildred Rogers|
|1964||Kiss Me, Stupid||Polly the Pistol|
|1965||The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders||Moll Flanders|
|1968||The Legend of Lylah Clare||Lylah Clare/Elsa Brinkmann/Elsa Campbell|
|1969||The Great Bank Robbery||Sister Lyda Kebanov|
|1973||Tales That Witness Madness||Auriol||Segment 4" "Luau"|
|1973||The Third Girl From the Left||Gloria Joyce||Television film|
|1975||Satan's Triangle||Eva||Television film|
|1977||The White Buffalo||Mrs. Poker Jenny Schermerhorn||Alternative title: Hunt to Kill|
|1979||Just a Gigolo||Helga von Kaiserling|
|1980||The Mirror Crack'd||Lola Brewster|
|1983||Malibu||Billie Farnsworth||Television film|
|1990||The Children||Rose Sellars|
|1991||Liebestraum||Lillian Anderson Munnsen|
|1985||The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Rosa||Segment: "Man From The South"|
|1986-1987||Falcon Crest||Kit Marlowe||29 episodes|
Awards and Nominations
|Year||Award||Category||Title of work||Result|
|1957||BAFTA Awards||Best Foreign Actress||Picnic||Nominated|
|1997||47th Berlin International Film Festival||Honorary Golden Berlin Bear||
|1957||Golden Apple Award||Most Cooperative Actress||
|1955||Golden Globe Award||Most Promising Newcomer - Female||
|1957||Golden Globe Award||World Film Favorite - Female||
|1958||Laurel Awards||Top Female Star||
|1959||Laurel Awards||Top Female Star||
|1960||Laurel Awards||Top Female Star||
|1961||Laurel Awards||Top Female Star||
|1962||Laurel Awards||Top Female Star||
|1963||Laurel Awards||Top Female Star||
|1956||Photoplay Awards||Most Popular Female Star||
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- According to his official website, michaelbrandon.net
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- Kim Novak's official artist website Linked March 21, 2014
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- I Was In Life: Kim Novak Remembers (photo feature) LIFE
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