“I loved acting, which was never about money, the fame. It was about a search for meaning. It was painful.” Kim Novak
One of America's most popular movie stars in the late 1950s, Kim Novak is best recalled for her roles as Madge Owens in the Oscar winning “Picnic” (1955), from which she netted a BAFTA nomination, and Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton in Alfred Hitchcock's “Vertigo” (1958). Rising to prominence as an actress of Columbia Pictures, who attempted to make her a blonde thunderbolt in the Marilyn Monroe mold, she also starred in such hit movies as Otto Preminger's “The Man with the Golden Arm” (1955) and “Pal Joey” (1957), and delivered promising performances in projects like “Five Against the House” (1955) and “Just a Gigolo” (1979). However, following her second marriage to a veterinarian in the mid-1970s, Novak's presence on screen became less frequent and she acted only when she wanted to. Fans could spot her occasionally on television when Kim was seen as Kit Marlowe on the CBS soap ““Falcon Crest” (1986-1987). Novak's last feature to date is Mike Figgis' “Liebestraum” (1991).
Novak has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to motion pictures. In 1995, she was named one of Empire magazine's “100 Sexiest Stars in film history.” In addition, the American beauty of Czech heritage was awarded Golden Globe awards for Most Promising Newcomer in 1955 and for World Film Favorite in 1957. Among other honors include a 1956 Photoplay for Most Popular Female Star, a 1957 Golden Apple for Most Cooperative Actress and a 1997 Honorary Golden Berlin Bear.
Meeting in the production of “The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders” (1965), Novak married his first husband, English actor Richard Johnson, in 1965, but the marriage failed the following year. She has been married to Dr. Robert Malloy since 1976. Her love life has also been linked to singer/actor Sammy Davis, Jr., with whom she had an interracial affair during 1957 to 1958. In 1958, the beautiful actress again made headlines when she embarked on a relationship with the son of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, Ramfis Trujillo.
Novak owns homes in California and Oregon, where she raises horses and llamas. In 2000, her Oregon home was destroyed in a fire that, according to a deputy fire marshal, was probably caused by a tree falling across a power line. In the incident, Novak lost scripts of some of her most critically acclaimed films and drafts of her autobiography.
The Lavender Girl
Childhood and Family:
Marilyn Pauline Novak, who would later be famous as Kim Novak, was born on February 13, 1933, in Chicago, Illinois. Her father was a Czech railroad man and a former teacher and her mother was also a former teacher. Kim has a sister.
Throughout elementary and high school, Kim had a difficult relationship with her teachers. During one occasion, she declared that she did not like being told what to do and when to do it. After graduating from high school, Kim began her modeling career and later earned a scholarship to a modeling school. She went on to model part time and also took a series of odd jobs, including that of an elevator operator, a sales clerk, and a dental assistant. With a goal of furthering her modeling career, Kim headed to Los Angeles after a stint as a spokesmodel for a refrigerator company.
Kim Novak, whose nickname is “The Lavender Girl,” has been married twice. She was married to British actor Richard Johnson on March 15, 1965, but they divorced one year later on April 23, 1966. She is currently married to Dr. Robert Malloy, a veterinarian who she married on March 12, 1976.
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Kim Novak had her first taste of modeling after high school when she was hired by a local department store to model their teen fashions. She continued to work part time while attending a modeling school, but she found herself working odd jobs to make end meets. Returning to modeling in 1953, Novak toured the United States as “Miss Deep Freeze” to help promote Thor refrigerators. She then decided to try her luck in Los Angeles.
“The head of publicity of the Hollywood studio where I was first under contract told me, ‘You're a piece of meat, that's all.’ It wasn't very nice but I had to take it. When I made my first screen test, the director explained to everyone, ‘Don't listen to her, just look.’” Kim Novak
The blonde beauty had just entered the Hollywood fashion industry when she landed a walk-on role in the RKO film “The French Line” (1954), starring Jane Russell. Shortly after, she started her long-term partnership with Columbia Pictures, during which time studio head Harry Cohn tried to forge her into a copy of Marilyn Monroe. Novak's first major roles were a felon who seduces Fred MacMurray in the based-on-novel “Pushover” and as the baffling girlfriend of Jack Lemmon in Mark Robson's “Phffft” (both 1954).
Novak fared better the following year when she was cast as a nightclub singer named Kay Greylek in the well-received drama “Five Against the House,” adapted from a novel by Jack Finney. It was her next role, however, that marked her real screen breakthrough. She starred as Madge Owens, a pensive country girl seduced by vagabond Hal Carter (played by William Holden), in the Academy Award-winner “Picnic” (also 1955), directed by Joshua Logan. For her fine acting, she received a BAFTA nomination for Best Foreign Actress. The hit drama drama/romance also earned Novak a reputation as the hottest sex symbol in town. She closed the year with a good performance alongside Frank Sinatra in the controversial Otto Preminger movie “The Man with the Golden Arm,” which was a huge hit.
After starring with Tyrone Power in “The Eddy Duchin Story” (1956), Novak played the title role in the ill-advised biopic “Jeanne Eagels” and supported Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth in the successful musical “Pal Joey” (both 1957). It was also in 1957 that Novak's affair with African American singer/actor Sammy Davis Jr. came under scrutiny.
Five months later, Novak enjoyed her role (is perhaps her most unforgettable screen performance) in Alfred Hitchcock's “Vertigo” (1958), opposite Jimmy Stewart. She portrayed the dual role of a dead woman in Stewart's past and her mysterious double. Novak rejoined Stewart later that same year for the comedy “Bell Book and Candle,” which was only a minor success. About Alfred Hitchcock, Kim said, “Hitchcock, contrary to what I'd heard about him, allowed me very much to have my own interpretation and everything.”
After a few years being in material that failed to capitalize her talents, Novak was signed by MGM to star as Mildred Rogers in the remake of “Of Human Bondage” (1964), opposite Laurence Harvey. Although the film was released to good reviews, Novak's performance was overshadowed by the performance of Bette Davis in the 1934 original. Her next films, the Billy Wilder comedy “Kiss Me, Stupid” (1964, opposite Dean Martin) and the British-made “The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders” (1965, with the soon-to-be-husband Richard Johnson), proved to be box office disappointments. Subsequently, Novak took some time off and did not make her return until 1968's “The Legend of Lylah Clare,” directed by Robert Aldrich. Unfortunately for her, the film was another flop and is often considered the worst of her career.
After “The Great Bank Robbery” (1969), Novak once again put acting on the backburner and when she decided to resurface, she chose to appear on the small screen where she made her TV film debut in ABC's “The Third Girl from the Left” (1973), playing a veteran Las Vegas chorus girl undergoing a midlife crisis. She continued to appear in the ABC TV-film “Satan's Triangle” (1975) before revisiting the silver screen with a cameo role in the misfire “The White Buffalo” (1977). Two years later, Novak gained praise for her role as a sexy widow named Helga von Kaiserling in the David Hemmings directed “Just a Gigolo” (1979).
In 1980, Novak shared the screen with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in the gratifying Agatha Christie mystery “The Mirror Crack'd” (1980). She followed it up with roles in the TV films “Malibu” (1983) and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1985), as well as the short film “I Have Been Very Pleased.” She also appeared in the 1986-1987 season of the CBS prime time soap opera “Falcon Crest,” playing mystery woman Kit Marlowe.
After starring with Ben Kingsley in Tony Palmer's “The Children” (1990), Novak made her last big screen performance to date as a dying matriarch in “Liebestraum” (1991), a mystery/thriller written and directed by Mike Figgis.
Berlin International Film Festival: Honorary Golden Berlin Bear, 1997
Golden Globe: Henrietta Award, World Film Favorite – Female, 1957
Golden Apple: Most Cooperative Actress, 1957
Photoplay: Most Popular Female Star, 1956
Golden Globe: Most Promising Newcomer – Female, 1955