More than 5 decades ago, Kim Novak, the somewhat mysterious star of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo left Hollywood for good. The actress who had once one of the biggest box office draws had packed all of her belongings into her van and drove north out of LA on the 1. She had decided that she finally done with the phoniness of the film industry. She’s tired of being treated like cattle.
Her first stop was Carmel By The Sea. She fell in love with the wealthy coastal community and found that it gave her a sense of privacy. She lived in an ocean-side mansion where she shifted her focus back to her first true love, the visual arts. Two decades later, she moved once again to Oregon to pursue a career as a painter.
Novak told People magazine that her decision to quit show business was essentially a survival issue. She had lost a sense of who she was and what she stood for. Hollywood had stripped her of her identity. By the time she left, she had to pick up all of the pieces of who she was and rebuild from the ground up. It wasn’t a simple process either.
She isn’t the first nor will she be the last to become disillusioned by Tinseltown. Hollywood constantly tries to change you. The film industry doesn’t care about you’re well being or your mental health. To them, you are just a tool to used as they see fit. And once they have sucked every last dollar out of you, they have no qualms about swapping you out for someone fresh and new.
When Kim Novak Quit Hollywood, it took quite a bit of time for her to feel like herself once again, but we’ll touch on that in more detail in a second, so bear with us. First, let’s see where she came from and how she found her way to the big screen.
From Refrigerator Model To Movie Star
Kim Novak was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 13, 1933. She is the daughter of Joseph and Blanche Novak. Her parents are both of Czech stock. Kim dad was a history teacher who also worked as a freight dispatcher for the St. Paul Railroad company during the great depression. Her mother worked in a factory.
Kim attended William Penn Elementary school then Ferragut High School. After graduating, she attended Wright Junior College before being awarded with two scholarships to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
During spring break of her last year at Wright Junior College, she traveled across the country modeling for an appliance company at trade shows. While at a show in LA, she crowned ‘Miss Deepfreeze’ by the refrigerator company.
While there, she decided to volunteer to be an extra in a couple of RKO films including The French Line and Son of Sinbad. That’s when she discovered by a talent agent and signed a long-term contract with Columbia Pictures.
From the start, Novak wanted to be original. She cringed at the idea of becoming just another pretty face – some kind of overplayed Hollywood stereotype. She determined to maintain her independence no matter what.
Granted, she probably didn’t fully understand what staying true to herself actually entailed, but she would figure it out as she went. It wouldn’t always be an easy path to walk, but she stuck to her principles with compromise.
She Refused To Bossed Around
Columbia Pictures really wanted Novak to be their next Rita Hayworth. Rita was the biggest star of the 40s. But her career had been on the decline for a number of years and Columbia hoped that Novak could swoop in and bring them the same kind of box-office success that Marilyn Monroe was bringing 20th Century-Fox at the time.
In 1954, Novak starred in her first role for the studio in the noir film Pushover. She followed that up by co-starring in the rom-com Phffft which premiered that same year. Both films were successful at the box office, and Novak’s performances especially applauded by critics.
Novak starred in Picnic in 1955 alongside William Holden. She followed that up with roles in The Man With The Golden Arm, also in 1955, and Pal Joey in 1957 opposite Frank Sinatra. In 1958 she starred in the biggest film of her career, Vertigo, with the late great Jimmy Stewart.
Even though she was at the height of her career, she still felt like she was under the complete control of the studio which was exactly where she set out not to be.
In her memoir, Kim Novak: Her Art and Life, she explained that she was both dazzled and disturbed to learn that she was being marketed as some kind of Hollywood sex symbol. Even though she was kind of flattered by the gesture she was willing to put up a fight for her identity.
Harry Cohn, production director, and big whig over at Columbia Pictures. And wanted her to abandon her ‘bohemian roots’ by changing her last name. According to him, nobody would want to go see a film starring a ‘pollack’ as he put it, but she put her foot down and refused to cave to his request. That was the first battle that she won.
Cohn had wanted her to change her name to Kit Marlowe. He figured that audiences would be put-off by her Eastern European roots if she stuck with her given surname. Of course, she spoke her mind on the matter and refused to bend to his pressure.
She would defy him once again in the late 1950s when Kim Novak started dating singer Sammy Davis Jr. against his wishes. Kim was not about to let some man tell her how she was going to live her life or who she was allowed to love. She was always a strong independent woman who wasn’t about to be groomed into a soulless Hollywood product.
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And make sure you keep watching. In a minute we’ll share with you how Novak’s love for animals has inspired her art.
She Refused To Be Silenced
Novak writes in her book that Hollywood constantly pressures women to be seen and not heard – especially if they have a pretty face.
According to her, people in the entertainment industry always assume to know who you are just because of the characters they’ve seen you play on screen. As ridiculous as that might seem, it’s just the beginning, because these same people also expect you to behave and dress a certain way just because they say so.
‘It influences you because if you’re in some gorgeous sequined gown, you can’t run along the ocean and run on the beaches.’ Novak shared.
And that was the kind of sacrifice that Novak couldn’t justify. She loved nature and being herself, but it seemed like the more immersed she became in Hollywood. The less she felt free to do the things that brought her bliss.
Novak was struggling to adjust to her new-found fame. She felt like she was sinking further and further into quicksand. The deeper she sunk, more and more of her personality was also swallowed up. Before long, she was starting to wonder who she even was. All she knew was that if something didn’t change, then she was going to lose herself completely. She needed to save herself if she wanted to have any kind of future worth living.
She eventually found her peace living in the Rogue Valley of southern Oregon where she explored her love of painting. The pacific ocean, the diversity of wildlife, and the natural beauty of that region inspired her.
Connecting With The Animal Kingdom
Once she finally left Hollywood behind, Novak got back into her two main passions, art, and animals. Novak considers her teachers to be the animals and not just pets like dogs and cats, but other animals like llamas and horses as well.
According to her, the animals will only accept you if you are able to win them over. You have to earn their trust They connect with people that are genuine, so she had to learn how to become more real with herself. That taught her to rely more on her innermost self.
“That also encouraged me to paint. Everything seemed to flow from that.’ Novak wrote.
In the late 1970s, she met her second husband Robert Malloy. He was also a lover of animals and an equine veterinarian by trade. They hit it off after he paid her a house call to treat one of her Arabian horses. Novak referred to him as her soul mate when she announced his death this past December.
Novak and Malloy were married for 44 years. He was 80 when he passed away at the couple’s home in Eagle Point, Oregon.
Age Is Just A Number
“I don’t feel 87′ Novak shared with People.
She adheres to the philosophy that you’re only as old as you feel. As such, she tries to not keep track of the time.
“If I did,” she explained ‘I’d be an old lady, and I’m not an old Lady.”
Novak still enjoys riding horses and tries to stay as healthy as she can. In 2012, she revealed that she had been living with bipolar disorder. She explained that she isn’t ashamed to be open about who she is and she assured her fans that the medication she was taking was helping – but she pointed out that the best medicine she has ever come across was her art.
Novak is especially proud of her two favorite films, Vertigo and Bell Book and Candle. And she’s especially grateful for the time that she got to spend with her dear friend and co-star Jimmy Stewart, whom she applauds for not letting Hollywood change who he was.
Novak is always happy when someone remembers her from one of her movies, but she hopes that they also see her as an artist. In 2019, Novak’s paintings were put on exhibition at the Butler Museum in Youngstown, Ohio.
Her favorite thing about painting is that it gives you the opportunity to be the director of your own project. Nobody tells you how to do it. You’re in control of the whole thing. Novak says that Hitchcock has deeply influenced her art as well. She wants her paintings to be mysteries at first glance.
Well, that’s about all the time we have for this video. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed reconnecting with Kim Novak with us. It’s inspiring that she didn’t let anyone or anything hold her back from chasing her true passions. She could have gone on to become one of the biggest film stars of her generation, but instead, she chose to focus on her own path.
Do you think she made the right choice by leaving Hollywood behind, or do you think she should have stuck around a little longer to star in a few more films? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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