Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kim Novak

A TCM Retrospective leads to a new appreciation

Kim Novak Exposing All During the TCM Interview
     Turner Classic Movies ran an interview last week that Robert Osborne conducted with Kim Novak during their annual convention.  Osborne said it was one of his favorite interviews and it made sense because Kim Novak was so honest about the Hollywood studio system of the 1950s.  She outlined her life and was ruthless in revealing where she’d
gone wrong in her career.  Amazingly, she took no credit for the successes she had, but shared that she was bipolar and seemed relieved to have distanced herself from Hollywood when parts began drying up in the early 1960s.  

On the Set of Vertigo in the Grey Suit
     Novak, whose real name is Marilyn, was greatly underappreciated in her prime and ignored by the Oscars for Vertigo as the other Marilyn was the following year for Some Like It Hot.  Supposedly, she’d been difficult for Hitchcock, but she actually had the greatest respect for him and Jimmy Stewart.  It was the grey suit she wore as Madeleine in Vertigo to which she objected.  We saw the movie again a few months ago and, though I don’t think it’s the greatest movie ever – sorry Sight and Sound – or even Hitchcock’s greatest, it’s certainly in the top 25 greatest and much of it is due to her dual character performance.  

Between Takes While Filming Picnic
     She was luminous in both Bell, Book, and Candle, also with Stewart, and in Picnic.  She simultaneously projected an elegant confidence and a tremulous uncertainty.  She never emoted or overplayed in the manner of Susan Hayward, whose over-the-top moments have a desperate drag queen quality about them, or Lana Turner, who was incapable of projecting an honest emotion so she relied on the Joan Crawford School of Heavy-phony Pyrotechnics.  She displayed irony, but she didn’t possess Grace Kelly’s wit.  However, I don’t understand why Hitchcock didn’t use her in The Birds or Marnie since Tippi Hedren, while a wonderful wildlife advocate, could not act.  Much was made of Marlene Dietrich’s voice, even by so great an authority as Ernest Hemingway, but Novak’s is almost in the same league because it was throaty and smoky.  

Kim Novak in Hollywood
     She became a star by accident.  She’d stopped in Hollywood briefly with a friend and they were cast as extras in The French Line.  She caught Harry Cohn’s attention – he was head of Columbia – and he determined her casting until his death.   She then didn’t have a champion or protector so even though she worked at other studios and even produced Boys’ Night Out; she lost out to other female stars that were Method trained.  

I wish I could have been the cat in Bell, Book, and Candle.

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