Kim Novak (born February 13, 1933) is an American actress who was one of her nation's most popular movie stars in the late 1950s. She is best known for her performance in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). She retired from acting in 1991 and is now an accomplished artist who expresses herself in watercolor and oil paintings, sculpture, stained glass design and photography.
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.
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.
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 with 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 same 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.
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