Kim Novak was one of the sultriest stars of the 1950’s. She is probably best remembered for her role in the Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo as the mysterious women (or is it woman?) who drove Jimmy Stewart crazy. He plays a detective who is hired to protect the wife of a wealthy man but is unable to prevent her from committing suicide when she climbs up to the top of a tower because of his fear of heights. Then, when he meets another woman who resembles her, he becomes obsessed with making her over to look exactly like the woman who died. “All right, All right!” she says. “If I let you change me, will you love me then?” It was selected as the second greatest film of all time in 2002 by the prestigious film journal “Sight and Sound.” (First was “Citizen Kane.”)
Some of Novak’s best other films are now available in the new The Kim Novak Collection box set, including her re-teaming with Stewart in the delightful romantic comedy, “Bell, Book, and Candle,” co-starring Jack Lemmon, Elsa Manchester, and Ernie Kovacs. She plays a witch who enchants a man so that he falls in love with her, only to risk losing her powers by falling for him.
She co-stars with Rita Hayworth and Frank Sinatra in the cynical musical “Pal Joey” (with the classic songs, “My Funny Valentine,” “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” and “The Lady is a Tramp”). And it has “Picnic,” the story of the prettiest girl in a small town, who has to decide between the safe guy her mother wants her to marry and the drifter who captures her heart. The dance number mingling “Moonglow” and the movie’s theme is one of the most memorable moments on film.
Liz Smith catches up with Novak on the Wowowow website. “Hollywood categorized me as a blonde sex-pot, period. And to go on doing that would have killed me.” She now lives in Oregon with her husband and sounds very contented. I am happy for her, and happy for a whole new generation who will get to enjoy these films.