Kim Novak was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 13, 1933 with the birth name of Marilyn Pauline Novak. She was the daughter of a former teacher turned transit clerk and his wife, also a former teacher. Throughout elementary and high school, Kim did not get along well with teachers. She even admitted that she didn’t like being told what to do and when to do it. Her first job, after high school, was modeling teen fashions for a local department store. Kim, later, won a scholarship in a modeling school and continued to model part-time. Kim later worked odd jobs as an elevator operator, sales clerk, and a dental assistant. The jobs never seemed to work out so she fell back on modeling, the one job she did well. After a stint on the road as a spokesperson for an appliance company, Kim decided to go to Los Angeles and try her luck at modeling there.
Ultimately, her modeling landed her an uncredited bit part in The French Line (1953). The role encompassed nothing more than being seen on a set of stairs. Later a talent agent arranged for a screen test with Columbia Pictures and won a small six month contract. In truth, some of the studio hierarchy thought that Kim was Columbia’s answer to Marilyn Monroe. Kim, who was still going by her own name of Marilyn, was originally going to be called “Kit Marlowe”. She wanted to at least keep her family name of Novak, so the young actress and studio personnel settled on Kim Novak. After taking some acting lessons, which the studio declined to pay for, Kim appeared in her first film opposite Fred MacMurray in Pushover (1954). Though her role as “Lona McLane” wasn’t exactly a great one, it was her classic beauty that seemed to capture the eyes of the critics. Later that year, Kim appeared in the film, Phffft (1954) with Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday. Now more and more fans were eager to see this bright new star. These two films set the tone for her career with a lot of fan mail coming her way. Her next film was as “Kay Greylek” in 5 Against the House (1955). The film was well-received, but it was her next one for that year that was her best to date.
The film was Picnic (1955). Although Kim did a superb job of acting in the film as did her costars, the film did win two Oscars for editing and set decoration. Kim’s next film was with United Artists on a loan out in the controversial Otto Preminger film The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). Her performance was flawless, but it was Kim’s beauty that carried the day. The film was a big hit. In 1957, Kim played “Linda English” in the hit movie Pal Joey (1957) with Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth. The film did very well at the box-office, but was condemned by the critics. Kim really didn’t seem that interested in the role. She even said she couldn’t stand people such as her character. That same year, Novak risked her career when she embarked upon an affair with singer/actor Sammy Davis Jr.. The interracial affair alarmed studio executives, most notably Harry Cohn, and they ended the relationship in January of the following year. In 1958, Kim appeared in Alfred Hitchcock‘s, now classic, Vertigo (1958) with Jimmy Stewart. This film’s plot was one that thoroughly entertained the theater patrons wherever it played. The film was one in which Stewart’s character, a detective, is hired to tail a suicidal blonde half his age (Kim). He later finds out that Kim is actually a brunette shop girl who set him up as part of a murder scheme. Her next film was Bell Book and Candle (1958) which was only a modest success.
By the early 1960s, the 20-something Novak’s star was beginning to fade. Although she was still young, she was being overpowered by the rise of new stars or stars that were remodeling their status within the film community. With a few more nondescript films between 1960 and 1964, she landed the role of “Mildred Rogers” in the remake of Of Human Bondage (1964). The film debuted to good reviews. While filming The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965), she had a romance with co-star Richard Johnson, whom she married, but the marriage failed the following year, although they remain friends. Kim stepped away from the cameras for a while, returning in 1968 to star in The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968). It was a resounding flop, perhaps the worst of her career. However, after that, Kim, basically, was able to pick what projects she wanted. After The Great Bank Robbery (1969) in 1969, Kim was away for another four years until returning in 1973. That year she starred in the British horror film Tales That Witness Madness (1973) with Joan Collins and was seen in a television movie called The Third Girl from the Left (1973) (TV), playing a veteran Las Vegas showgirl experiencing a midlife crisis. Again she took another hiatus before appearing in The White Buffalo (1977). She followed this up with the flop “Just a Gigolo” (1978), where she starred opposite David Bowie). However she did gain some attention in the mystery/thriller The Mirror Crack’d (1980), co-starring Elizabeth Taylor, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson and Angela Lansbury. Five years later, she appeared in her third television movie, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Pilot ” (1985).
From 1986 to 1987, Kim played, of all people, “Kit Marlowe”, in the fourth season of the TV series “Falcon Crest” (1981). She played the lead in the little-seen movie The Children (1990), where she starred opposite Ben Kingsley and fellow Hitchcock actress Karen Black. Kim’s last film, on the silver screen to date, was Liebestraum (1991), in which she played a terminally ill woman with a past. Since then, she has rejected many offers to appear in films and on TV.
However, unlike many of her Hollywood peers, Kim has maintained stability in her personal life. Since 1976, she has been married to Dr. Robert Malloy (b. 1940), a veterinarian. She now lives on a ranch in Oregon and is an accomplished artist who expresses herself in oil paintings and sculptures. Kim and her husband now raise lamas and horses, and frequently ski and go canoeing.
Kim began writing an autobiography in 2000, but it was lost when her house caught on fire, destroying the computer that contained her only draft. In a rare 2007 interview, the still-stunning Novak said she would consider returning to acting “if the right thing came along”.
By Denny Jackson