You are here: / Actors / Media / Kim Novak

Kim Novak


Kim Novak: What’s My Line


Kim Novak as the mystery guest on WML. Episode originally aired on February 5, 1956.

Kim Novak (born Marilyn Pauline Novak, February 13, 1933) is an American film and television actress.  Novak is possibly best known for her dual role in the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock filmVertigo. She also appeared in Picnic (1955), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Pal Joey (1957), Middle of the Night (1959), The Notorious Landlady (1962), and Kiss Me, Stupid (1964). She later appeared on the prime time soap opera Falcon Crest from 1986 to 1987. Afterwards, Novak appeared in films infrequently until 1991. Now retired, she lives with her veterinarian husband on a ranch in Eagle Point, Oregon.

Early life – c. late 1950’s

Publicity photo of Kim Novak

Novak was born 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 Art Institute of Chicago.   After leaving 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.

Career – Early career

Novak began her career in a brief, uncredited role as a model in The French Line (1954) starring Jane Russell. Eventually, she was seen by a Columbia Pictures talent agent and filmed a screen test. Novak was signed to a long-term contract, and the studio changed her first name to Kim, thus becoming Kim Novak. The studio had hopes to build Novak as their resident film star, a goal they previously tried to reach with Cleo Moore.

Later the same year, Novak had a supporting role in the film noir Pushover opposite Fred MacMurray and Philip Carey. Though the movie was only moderately successful, Novak received good reviews for her performance. She then played the femme fatalerole of Janis in the romantic comedy Phffft!, opposite Judy HollidayJack Lemmon, and Jack Carson. Soon after, she had her first starring role in 5 Against the House (1955), a crime drama.

Novak singing “My Funny Valentine” in Pal Joey

Mainstream success – After starring in Picnic (1955) opposite William Holden, Novak won a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer and for World Film Favorite. She was also nominated for the BAFTA Film Award for Best Foreign Actress. That same year she played a second lead in the highly successful The Man with the Golden Arm with Frank Sinatra.

In 1956, she played opposite Tyrone Power in The Eddy Duchin Story. In 1957, she worked with Sinatra again in Pal Joey, which also starred Rita Hayworth. She played the title role in Jeanne Eagels with Jeff Chandler. Both films were critical and box office successes upon their releases.   Novak was on the cover of the July 29, 1957, issue of Time Magazine.

From 1956 to 1958, Novak was listed in the annual “Quigley’s Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll”, a list submitted by movie theater owners at the end of the year, containing the names of the stars that they voted as being the top earners at the box office over the previous year.

In 1958, Novak starred in the Alfred Hitchcock-directed thriller Vertigo, playing the roles of a brunette shopgirl, Judy Barton, and a blonde woman named Madeleine Elster. Critic David Shipman thought Novak’s performance “little more than competent,” while David Thomson described it as “one of the major female performances in the cinema.”

That same year, she again starred alongside Stewart in Bell, Book and Candle, a comedy tale of modern-day witchcraft, that proved to be a box office success. The following year, she appeared in the acclaimed Middle of the Night (1959) with Fredric March. In later years, Novak claimed the movie was her best performance and that it was her favorite movie of all. In 1960, she co-starred with Kirk Douglas in Strangers When We Meet also featuring Walter Matthau and Ernie Kovacs.

Career decline

Novak in a (circa) 1962 publicity photo.

Though still young, by the early 1960’s, Novak saw her career to begin to decline. In 1962, she produced her own movie in association with Filmways Productions. Boys’ Night Out, in which she starred with James Garner and Tony Randall, proved to be a critical and financial failure. She was paired with Jack Lemmon for a third and final time that year in a mystery-comedy, The Notorious Landlady.

In 1964, she played a vulgar waitress in a remake of W. Somerset Maugham‘s drama Of Human Bondage opposite Laurence Harvey; and replaced the late Marilyn Monroeas a sultry barmaid in Billy Wilder‘s Kiss Me, Stupid with Dean Martin and Ray Walston. Both films were critically panned and were box office failures.

After playing the title role in The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965) with Richard Johnson, Novak took a break from Hollywood acting. She continued to act, although infrequently, taking fewer roles as she began to prefer personal activities over acting.

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) withPeter Finch and Ernest Borgnine for MGM. After playing a forger, Sister Lyda Kebanov, in The Great Bank Robbery (1969) opposite Zero MostelClint Walker, and Claude Akins, she stayed away from the screen for another four years.

Later years

After The Great Bank Robbery, Novak took a four-year hiatus from acting. She returned playing a top role in the horror anthology film Tales That Witness Madness (1973), which also starred Joan Collins. She starred as veteran showgirl Gloria Joyce in the made-for-TV movie The Third Girl From the Left (1973), and played Eva in Satan’s Triangle (1975). She was featured in the 1977 western The White Buffalo with Charles Bronson, and in 1979 she played Helga in Just a Gigolo co-starring David Bowie.

In 1980, Novak played an aged actress in the British mystery-thriller The Mirror Crack’d, based on the story by Agatha Christie. She co-starred alongside Angela LansburyTony CurtisRock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor. She and Taylor portrayed rival actresses in the film.

She made occasional television appearances over the years. Her performances on television during this time included the television movie Malibu in 1983 and the pilot episode of The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1985. She appeared as the secretive “Kit Marlowe” in 19 episodes of the successful prime time soap opera Falcon Crest from 1986 to 1987. She co-starred with Ben Kingsley in the 1990 film The Children, one of her final film appearances.

In 1991, she played the role of a terminally ill writer with a mysterious past in the thriller Liebestraum opposite Kevin Andersonand Bill Pullman. However, owing to battles with the director over how to play the role, her scenes were cut. Novak later admitted in a 2004 interview that the film was a mistake:

“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.”


In an interview in 2007, Novak said that 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.”

Filmography – Films


PureHistory ℗ is your source to learn about the broad and beautiful spectrum of our shared History.