With Turner Classic Movies recent Kim Novak day as part of their Summer under the Stars Month, there have recently been a lot of articles reevaluating or just discussing her career. So having been a fan of Novak’s for years I’m throwing my two-cent in.
Underrated, surprisingly good. You hear these terms a lot when critics discuss Kim Novak. She has always been underrated. Kim was surprisingly good in “Middle of the Night.” The question becomes if she is always considered underrated and is always surprisingly good how many films does it take before the surprise wears off. The woman just never received the respect she deserves. What I want to know is when is the AFI going to do a tribute to her? With this year’s tribute to Warren Beatty and last year’s to Al Pacino, they seemed to have already moved on the next generation passing her by. She was a major star in her day working with many great directors and has appeared in quite a few films that most would consider classic.
It is no secret that she was originally signed by Columbia Pictures as a Marilyn Monroe substitute. All the studios were looking for their own Marilyn. There was Jayne Mansfield, Sheree North and Mamie Van Doren, none achieved the level of success, nor did they have the magnetism of Marilyn. Kim was successful and had the star quality, without the cheapness of the Marilyn wannabes, and unlike Marilyn, Kim came across as a real woman. She was sensual, all you had to do was just look at her eyes and listen to her voice. She was certainly more attractive than the others were. Monroe never came across as authentic, someone that you could actually meet in the street whereas Kim was genuine. She was no fantasy figure. Kim was sexual without being obvious about it. Just watch her in “Pushover”, or “Strangers When We Meet.”
For someone who was suppose to be of limited talent she certainly attracted some of the great directors of her time and she handled herself well under the guidance of Hitchcock in “Vertigo”, Preminger in “The Man with the Golden Arm” and Delbert Mann in “Middle of the Night.” With Richard Quine, she seemed to be exceptionally responsive. Just look at her performances in “Bell, Book and Candle” or “Strangers When We Meet.” I have also enjoyed her performances in films like “Kiss Me Stupid”, “Boy’s Night Out” and “The Notorious Landlady.”
TCM’s recent all day Novak festival was a joy. While I have most of the films they showed, I finally got to record and will soon watch for the first time “Five Against the House.” I was also pleased to record “The Notorious Landlady” a particular favorite of mine being both a Novak and Jack Lemmon fan and not available on DVD, this was a must.
Novak retired from the movies in the early 1990’s and she hardly ever looked back. Making only rare appearances like the Larry King Show in 2004, where she still looked very good, otherwise Kim lives on her ranch with her husband and their many animals