A highly touted sex symbol turned credible film actress of 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, Kim Novak's career began with her selection by Columbia as their answer to Marilyn Monroe. Her best known and most enduring role was in the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock classic Vertigo, where she appeared in the dual role of Judy Barton and Madeleine Elster.
She was born Marilyn Pauline Novak on February 13, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois. Although her Slavic-descended parents had both worked as teachers, Novak found getting along with her own teachers very difficult during her school years. After high school, she found part time work in the modelling industry, and later tried her hand at several other jobs, including sales associate, elevator operator and dental assistant. None of these jobs worked out for her, and she turned to modelling full-time, moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in her chosen field.
She was eventually cast as an extra in 1954's The French Line, and as a result was discovered by Colombia president Harry Cohn, who was looking for a female star to replace the "difficult" Rita Hayworth. Eventually slated to debut under the name Kit Marlowe, Novak expressed a desire to retain her surname, and the Kim Novak persona was born. Her big screen debut was in 1954's Pushover, where she impressed critics with her good looks and screen presence. A few months and acting classes later, Novak made her Colombia debut in 1954's PFFFT! opposite Jack Lemmon.
Novak began to make a name for herself with films like 1955's The Man With the Golden Arm, and 1957's Pal Joey. Despite her debut as just another pretty face, Kim Novak had worked hard and delivered many credible performances by this point, becoming something of a box-office draw. Her high-profile social life, which saw her canoodling with the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Cary Grant, and Frank Sinatra certainly didn't hurt her career either.
1958 saw Novak reach the pinnacle of her career with her turn in Vertigo, followed by another well-received role opposite James Stewart in Richard Quine's Bell, Book, and Candle. Equally notable around this time were the films Novak didn't appear in, as she turned down the lead female roles in 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Hustler. Novak worked steadily until 1965, when her career was unfortunately derailed by a combination of personal problems and public disinterest. Her 1968 comeback film, The Legend of Lylah Clare generated only lukewarm interest, indicating that Novak's career would never recover the momentum of past days.
Since the late 60s, Novak has worked sporadically, but to positive reviews, up until her final feature film, Liebestraum, in 1991. She has been married to Dr. Robert Malloy, a veterinarian and her second husband (the first was actor Richard Johnson, who she was married to from 1965-1966) since March 12, 1976. She and her husband divide their time between Oregon and California, living with an assortment of animals, including horses and llamas. Unfortunately, in July 2000, her house in Oregon was consumed by fire, destroying original scripts to some of her movies, as well as her computer, which contained the draft of her autobiography.