Kim Novak's Life in Photos

Kim Novak is best known as one of Hitchcock's iconic blondes, but her life and career also spanned movie musicals, caring for animals and working on her art. In honor of her 89th birthday, take a look back at some of her greatest career highlights through the years

kim novak
Photo: Marshall/Mirrorpix/Getty
01 of 15

Kim Novak's Early Life

kim novak

Born Marilyn Pauline Novak on Feb. 13, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois, Kim Novak began her career as a model for a refrigerator company during her last semester in junior college.

The company toured the country, and during its stop in Los Angeles, Novak stood in as an extra in two films – one being 1954's The French Line (starring Jane Russell).

Through her work as an extra, Novak was discovered by an agent, and was soon after signed with Columbia Pictures.

02 of 15

Kim Novak's First Film

kim novak - pushover
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

After signing with Columbia Pictures, co-founder and president of the company Harry Cohn insisted that she change her name, as many actresses did at that time.

Novak resisted, agreeing to take the name Kim, but insisted on keeping her Czech surname.

For her first major role, she starred opposite Fred MacMurray in 1954's Pushover. She was 21 years old.

03 of 15

Kim Novak Golden Globe Win

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty

Novak won her first Golden Globe Award in the "star of tomorrow" category in 1955 for her film Phffft!, in which she acted alongside Jack Lemmon.

The actress appeared in many titles that same year, including The Man with the Golden Arm and Picnic.

Picnic, considered one of her best films to date, won two Oscar Awards and a Golden Globe in 1956. She starred alongside Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday.

04 of 15

Kim Novak in Pal Joey

kim novak - pal joey

Novak starred opposite Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth in 1957's Pal Joey, the musical comedy film based on the Rodgers and Hammerstein play of the same name.

The film earned four Academy Award nominations and several nods at the Golden Globes.

Novak was awarded with two honors in 1957, winning the Golden Globe Henrietta Award for world film favorites and the Golden Apple Award for most cooperative actress.

05 of 15

Kim Novak in Vertigo

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Vertigo. Richard C. Miller/Donaldson Collection/Getty

Novak's role as both Madeleine Elster and Judy Barton in Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 thriller, Vertigo, is the one for which she's best known.

"I identify so very completely with [Madeleine] because it was exactly what Harry Cohn and what Hollywood was trying to do to me, which was to make me over into something I was not," Novak told the Chicago Tribune.

She starred alongside James Stewart in the film, which received two Academy Award nominations.

06 of 15

Kim Novak in Bell, Book, and Candle

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Kim Novak in 1958. shutterstock

Novak starred in 1958's Bell, Book, and Candle, a romantic comedy based on the 1950 Broadway play of the same name.

She starred alongside Stewart and Lemmon in the film which also received two Oscar Award nominations and one Golden Globe nod.

07 of 15

Kim Novak's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star

kim novak
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Novak was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Feb. 8, 1960. Surrounded by other entertainment industry icons, the star can be found at 6332 Hollywood Boulevard in California.

08 of 15

Kim Novak in Kiss Me, Stupid

kim novak - KISS ME STUPID

Novak starred alongside Dean Martin in 1964's Kiss Me, Stupid – a Billy Wilder-directed sex comedy film that received mixed reviews by critics upon its release.

The actress was a Hollywood sex symbol in her heyday, and in 1995, she was ranked 92nd by Empire Magazine on a list of the 100 sexiest stars.

Novak opened up in her 2021 book about being identified as a sex symbol, saying she was "dazzled and disturbed" by the designation and felt lost to the idea of what people imagined her to be.

09 of 15

Kim Novak's First Marriage

kim novak and richard johnson
Trevor Humphries/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Novak married for the first time in 1965 when she wed English actor Richard Johnson. Although they split a year later, the two remained friends.

10 of 15

Kim Novak's Transition to Television

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CBS/courtesy Everett Collection

In 1966, the actress decided to step back from acting as frequently, working only sporadically through the '70s.

In the 1980s, Novak took on a role as Kit Marlowe in the successful soap opera Falcon Crest, appearing in 19 episodes between 1986 and 1987.

Fun fact: Kit Marlowe is the name Harry Cohn tried to convince Novak to use when she was starting out in Hollywood.

11 of 15

Kim Novak's Second Marriage

kim novak and robert malloy

Following her departure from Hollywood, she moved to Big Sur in Northern California where she raised horses and focused on her art.

Novak wed for a second time to her "soul mate," veterinarian Robert Malloy in 1976 after meeting two years prior when he came to care for her horse. As a result of their marriage, she has two stepchildren.

Malloy passed away in November 2020.

12 of 15

Kim Novak's Withdrawal from Acting

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Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

After a disappointing experience on the set of Liebestraum, Novak decided to withdraw from acting permanently in 1991. That marked her last film to date, with no desire to return.

"I lost a sense of who I truly was and what I stood for," she told PEOPLE in 2021. "I had to leave to survive."

13 of 15

Kim Novak's Grauman's Chinese Theater Honor

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 14: Actress Kim Novak is immortalized with a hand and footprint ceremony as part of Day 2 of the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on April 14, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/WireImage) 22307_010_JM_1189.jpg
Jason Merritt/WireImage

Novak was honored at the hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theater in 2012, which took place during the TCM Classic Film Festival. In addition to receiving the honor, she took part in a discussion hosted by Robert Osborne.

14 of 15

Kim Novak's Rare Oscar Appearance

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Dan MacMedan/WireImage

Novak made a rare appearance at the 86th Academy Awards as a presenter alongside Matthew McConaughey, where they read the nominees for Best Animated Short Film.

"I just have to take a minute to say that I'm really glad to be here. It's been a long time, but I'm glad to be with the Academy here tonight," she said onstage.

15 of 15

Kim Novak's Artwork

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Matej Divizna/Getty Images

"People can remember me in movies but I want them to see me as an artist," Novak told PEOPLE. "What's great about painting is, you become the director too. No one's telling you how to do it. You get to direct the whole thing."

The Butler Institute, which hosted an exhibition of her work, also published a book in 2021 with a selection of her paintings titled Kim Novak: Her Art and Life.

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