A portrait of Novak, circa 1962
|Born||Marilyn Pauline Novak
February 13, 1933
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Residence||Eagle Point, Oregon, U.S.|
|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 February 13, 1933) 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 Pal Joey (1957), the Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo (1958), Middle of the Night (1959), The Notorious Landlady (1962), and Of Human Bondage (1964). After a decade in the entertainment industry, Novak withdrew from the public eye in 1965 and appeared in films only sporadically until 1991, when she prematurely retired from acting following a tempestuous experience with director Mike Figgis on the set of Liebestraum, her last film to date.
Novak has been married to equine veterinarian Robert Malloy since 1976. The couple resides on a ranch in Eagle Point, Oregon where they raise horses and llamas. Novak is also an accomplished artist, and has exhibited several of her oil paintings in art galleries since retiring from acting.
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 worked as a dispatcher on the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad and both her parents had been teachers.
While attending David Glasgow Farragut High School, she won a scholarship to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but wound up going to Wright Junior College instead. During the summer break following her sophomore year, Novak went on a cross-country trip 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 Colombia's chief, Harry Cohn, when he wanted to change her name to Kit Marlowe. He argued that “nobody's going to go see a girl with a Polack name,” but Novak insisted to keep 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 so had to withdraw from the complex role of Judy Barton, a brunette shopgirl who masquerades as a blonde trophy wife named Madeleine Elster and fakes the other woman's suicide in an elaborate murder scheme, meanwhile attracting unwanted attention from a retired detective (James Stewart) who becomes obsessed with her. Hitchcock approached Harry Cohn to offer Novak the female lead without even requesting a screen test. Cohn didn't like the script but allowed Novak to read it because he considered Hitchcock as a great director. Novak loved it and could identify herself 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 identified herself 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. However, the consensus regarding Novak's performance remains mixed. For example, film critic David Shipman wrote that Novak's acting was "little more than competent", while David Thomson thought it was "one of the major female performances in the cinema". Novak herself 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. In 1960, she co-starred with Kirk Douglas in Strangers When We Meet, also featuring Walter Matthau and Ernie Kovacs.
Though still young, Novak saw her career begin to decline in the early 1960s, due largely to the fall of the studio system in which she had been brought up. Following the death of Harry Cohn in 1958, Novak remembered nobody was able to handle her a good script. "Harry Cohn, as much as people put down his character, and he was a tyrant in many things, he had the ability to know a good script, and he chose many good pieces. I was fortunate to be there. When he passed away, nobody had the ability at the studio to choose scripts." Novak didn't want to look for roles and decided to leave Hollywood at the peak of her career. She continued to act, although infrequently, with the intervals in between her periodic returns growing increasingly long. Novak began to prefer personal activities over acting.
In 1962, she reunited with Richard Quine for a mystery-comedy, The Notorious Landlady, and was paired with Jack Lemmon for a third and final time. That same year, Novak formed her own production company in partnership with Filmways Productions. She produced only one film, Boys' Night Out, in which she also starred alongside James Garner and Tony Randall. The film proved to be a critical and financial failure.
In 1964, she played a vulgar waitress in a remake of W. Somerset Maugham's drama Of Human Bondage. Novak said she felt "miserable" making that film and didn't get along with her co-star, actor Laurence Harvey. Novak was offered the same year to portray a sultry barmaid in Billy Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid, with Dean Martin and Ray Walston. She wanted to work with Wilder so much she agreed to take part in the film without reading the script. She found herself in a dilemma when she finally read it. “If I play this role [of] Polly the Pistol people are going to think that I’m this dumb blonde that people were thinking I was before. I will just confirm their notion, it will take me deeper into this spiral that was going on for me, I felt. But if I didn’t do it, then they’ll say, “She can’t even act that.” So I had a hard time.” To prepare her role, Novak convinced herself she was Polly the Pistol and stayed in character off set. Her then-boyfriend did not even recognize her and broke up with her. Novak later said she was ultimately unhappy about doing that film.
Novak played the title role in The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders directed by Terence Young. It was one of the 13 most popular films in the UK in 1965. According to Novak, "The censors tore it apart. It was intended to be a lusty, sensual treatment of a period in English history. But after they took the sexy part out, there wasn't much left."
Three years later, Novak returned to the screen with the 1968 film The Legend of Lylah Clare, produced and directed by Robert Aldrich and also starring Peter Finch and Ernest Borgnine. She played a dual role as a young actress, Elsa Brinkmann, and an early-day movie goddess who was murdered, Lylah Clare. Aldrich was excited to work with Novak and told the press: "What...made Kim a star is the American male dram that there be innocence and beauty in the eyes, one millimeter below the surface, an extraordinary sensuality. She has that rare mixture: ice and fire." However, he was distressed when he saw she was still unsure of her character's motivations and attitudes even after rehearsals. Novak didn't like the movie stating, "That was a weird movie. It didn't have to be that bad." The film was a critical and commercial failure. She discovered at the premiere that Aldrich had hired an actress to dub her voice into a German accent after her character Elsa had been supposedly possessed by the spirit of Lylah. "He didn't tell me. I thought I'd die when I saw the movie. God, it was so humiliating." The next year she played a forger, Sister Lyda Kebanov, in The Great Bank Robbery (1969) opposite Zero Mostel, Clint Walker, and Claude Akins.
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 didn't like the unecessary 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.
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 couldn't 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 they didn't have the same vision of the script. 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. 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.
Since she retired from acting, Novak rarely accepts to appear at events and turns down most offers she receives.
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 is 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 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 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. Two years later, she won another Golden Globe–for World Favorite female actress. In 1997, Novak won an Honorary Golden Bear at the 47th Berlin International Film Festival.
Novak was named guest of honour at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. She introduced there a new restored version of Vertigo. She also took part in the closing ceremony to present the Grand Prix Award to the Coen brothers for Inside Llewyn Davis and received a standing ovation at her entrance.
Novak was a presenter at the 2014 Academy Awards (the Oscars) on March 2, 2014.
Novak's first marriage was to English actor Richard Johnson, for thirteen months (March 15, 1965 – April 23, 1966). The two have remained friends. She had previously dated Sammy Davis, Jr. and Ramfis Trujillo, and been engaged to director Richard Quine. From 1972 to 1974, she dated actor Michael Brandon.
On July 24, 2000, her home in Eagle Point, Oregon, was partially damaged by fire. Novak lost scripts, several paintings, and a computer containing the only draft of her unfinished autobiography. Of the loss Novak said:
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. It made me realize then what was really valuable. That’s the day I wrote a gratitude list. We’re safe and our animals are safe.
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 is a photographer, poet, and artist who paints in watercolor and oil as well as sculpts and designs stained glass.
|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|
|1987||Es hat mich sehr gefreut||Alternative title: I Have Been Very Pleased|
|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||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||
- Reclusive Film Legend Kim Novak Opens Up About Life, Regrets and Her TCM Tribute
- Kim Novak tells all
- Kim Novak’s artworks unveiled at the Old Mint, San Francisco
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- Larry Kleno (1980). Kim Novak ("On Camera" series). A.S. Barnes. p. 16.
- Kashner, Sam; Jennifer Macnair (2003). The bad & the beautiful: Hollywood in the fifties. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 200. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
- Stephen M. Silverman (October 21, 1996). "Animal Magnetism – Personal Success, Kim Novak". People Magazine. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
- Rosenbaum, Jonathan (2010), "Kim Novak as Midwestern Independent", Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 9780226726656
- Ebert, Roger (17 October 1996). "Kim Novak on Hitchcock, Hollywood". RogerEbert.Com. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
- Turnquist, Kristi (31 July 2010). "Interview with actress Kim Novak, who lives in Oregon and is revisiting her cinematic past". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
- Kim Novak: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival
- Stated in live interview with Robert Osborne; aired on Turner Classic Movies March 6, 2013.
- Shales, Tom (October 14, 1996). "Kim Novak: No Fear of Falling". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
- "Obsessed with Vertigo" (1996), directed by Harrison Engle, documentary included on many DVD releases
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- David Shipman The Great Movie Stars: The International Years, London: Macdonald, 1989, p.441
- David Thomson The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, London: Little, Brown, 2002, p.640
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- Ben Mankiewicz, Turner Classic Movies, aired July 26, 2009.
- Nixon, Rob. "Boys' Night Out (1962)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
- Graham, Sheila (October 12, 1963). "Hollywood Today". The Virgin Islands Daily News. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
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- "Most Popular Film Star." Times [London, England] 31 Dec. 1965: 13. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.
- Thomas, Bob (September 28, 1967). "First film in 2 years for Novak". The Leader-Post. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
- Miller, Frank. "The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
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- Goodman, Walter (January 23, 1983). "TV: 'MALIBU,' FOUR HOURS, TWO PARTS". The New York Times.
- "Actress Kim Novak Ponders Her Future On TV's Falcon Crest". The Toledo Blade. June 16, 1987. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
- "Kim Novak name on 'Falcon Crest' has a trivia story". The Free Lance–Star. June 16, 1987. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
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- Forsberg, Myra (August 19, 1990). "FILM; Once Again, Ready on the Set For Kim Novak". The New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
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- Kim Novak surfaces to retrace past in boxed set
- Thomas, Bob (May 14, 2004). "Rustic Oregon life is a real picnic for Kim Novak". seattlepi.com. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
- Stein, Ruthe (October 14, 2013). "Kim Novak returning to S.F. to share her art". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
- Army Archerd: "Novak talks of quitting" (July 24, 1967)
- "Kim Novak to appear at American Cinematheque tribute". Los Angeles Times. July 10, 2010.
- "Kim Novak says she's bipolar, regrets leaving Hollywood". Los Angeles Times. April 13, 2012.
- Kim Novak: Her Tips on Aging, Lasting Beauty and Life Advice
- "Berlinale: 1997 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
- "How The Times tracked Alexander McQueen's career". The Times (London). February 11, 2010. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
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- According to his official website, michaelbrandon.net
- Transcript CNN Larry King Live (January 5, 2004)
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- "Cowboyartistsofamerica". Cowboyartistsofamerica. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
- Barnett, Vincent L. (2007). "Dualling for Judy: The concept of the double in the films of Kim Novak". Film History (Indiana University Press) 19 (1): 86–101. ISSN 0892-2160.
- I Was In Life: Kim Novak Remembers (photo feature) LIFE
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