NEWSWEEK JULY 4, 1960
TALK WITH A STAR
“I felt most uncomfortable making ‘Pal Joey’ and ‘Jeanne Engels’,” Kim Novak volunteered, plumping down on the studio couch in her New York apartment and tucking her bare feet under her. “I just never cared for the part in ‘Pal Joey.’ I can’t stand people like that girl Linda – I can’t even stand the name. I just think life is too short to wast time doing things you don’t believe in.”
Wearing a black-and-white striped shirt, black slacks, and almost no make-up, Miss Novak at the moment was indulging in something she believes in strongly: Being comfortable. The duplex apartment that she sublets contains an antique chaise longue which is soon to be replaced by an imitation, “because the original is so valuable I can’t feel comfortable in it.” She has a similar dislike of uncomfortable roles. “I always read up for a part – for ‘Vertigo’ I looked up all sorts of information about dual personalities – and it never does me any good. I felt most comfortable, without a doubt, in ‘Middle of the Night.’ We had rehearsals, and you had a chance to absorb the other people’s ideas. It wasn’t as though they were just pulling strings and making you move.
“I’d always worked with Hollywood people, as opposed to New York stage people, and they always seemed to be showing off how little they needed to be prepared. They would be telling dirty stories one minute, and the next they’d be in the middle of a deep scene. Well, I always arrive at the set early, but in ‘Middle of the Night’ Fredric March always got there before me – I never once beat him there. I like people who give everything to what they do.”
Miss Novak was asked how she could tell in advance whether or not a part would turn out to be comfortable. “I just read about an experiment with babies and seventeen different foods, and they automatically went to the ones that were OK for them. I think it’s the sam with parts. You just know.”
ALY’S EYES: The conversation turned to Miss Novak’s hobby, painting, and she produced a charcoal drawing she was doing of the late Aly Khan. “Some day I want to do another one of a horse’s head but with Aly’s eyes, so that people will look at it and say, ‘My God, it resembles Aly!’ ” Miss Novak said musingly. “If I can’t tell a story with a painting, I don’t want to do it, and I like to paint people who have been through a lot.
“Acting is very frustrating,” she went on. “I like it, but you have not control over the direction it takes. In movies, I just let the script take me. But as far as just plain old fulfillment goes, it’s not satisfying. That’s why I have to paint. It’s the only place I get my satisfaction.”
NEWSWEEK FEBRUARY 16, 1959 p. 100
While 24-year-old Mlle. Bardot made plans for her metamorphosis in Paris, 26-year-old Kim Novak was making similar moves in New York. She was working in a film adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s TV and Broadway success “Middle of the Night.” In it, Miss Novak for he first time in her career will not appear as a gilt-edged vamp but simply as a devoted, would-be housewife.
Visited by NEWSWEEK’S MOVIES editor Michael Mackay in the plush, yello East Side penthouse she has taken during the filming, Miss Novak confessed that sh was greatly disturbed about the reputation she has acquired – that of a custom-made (by Columbia) glamour-puss lacking animation on the screen and brains anywhere. She added that it was indeed true she was now trying mightily to do something about it. Barefoot, casually but decorously dressed in black wool slacks and a knitted yellow sweater, Miss Novak spoke of her career with surprising animation and considerable intelligence.
ALWAYS TENSE: “I have only been in pictures five years,” she said. “Before that I had no dramatic training – so different from most actors, who first learn their craft and then perform. So up until my present project I’ve always been tense and unnatural on camera, trying so hard to do just what the director told me to do but never contributing anything of my own personality.”
“When I did ‘Picnic’, for instance, Josh Logan told me never to use my own mannerisms before the camera – little things I do like touching my eyes when I talk or, when I hold a glass in my hand, fussing with the ice cubes. So I never adjusted to having a free face while withholding my mannerisms. That’s why I have seemed so expressionless. At last in ‘Middle of the Night’ Delbert Mann, the director, has given me a good deal of dramatic freedom. I’ll be very curious to see how it comes out.
“I would like to make clear that it was not just Mr. [Harry] Cohn [the late boss of Columbia Pictures] who made me a star. Oh, I’llgrant he made my already blond hair a little blonder and fixed me up a bit and gave me opportunities and things like that, but I resent people saying that it was Mr. Cohn who made me what I am today. After all, you can’t make a star out of somebody just because you say you’re going to. The person has to have something to start with.”
ILLS: Miss Novak claimed she was having difficulty expressing herself during the interview (“I have been talking to so many foreigners recently”), but the nwent on to discuss with admirable ability some of the ills of her industry. “I respected Mr. Cohn tremendously,” she said, “even though he was an erratic, emotional man who always yelled. When he was alive, Columbia was a studio of daring ideas. Now it’s all business. Nobody takes any risks. Mr. Cohn had such pride and dash, and everybody around him was a follower. Now that the followers are in positions of leadership, they still only know how to follow.”
She returned to herself, “I am taking acting lessons as often as I can. I really want to be an acress, not merely a beautiful woman, and I hope, if my performance in ‘Middle of the Night’ turns out well that my parts from now on will be deeper. I feel just sick about Liz Taylor getting the role in ‘Two for the Seesaw’ [the film version of the current Broadway success]. I wanted it so much. I feel I know and understand that part so well. And I’d love some day to work with Elia Kazan. He’s an actor’s director. He does everything he can to get the best out of an actor’s performance. He makes the movies an actor’s medium. Most Hollywood directors maintain it as a director’s medium.
“This, I think, is why I’ve suffered. What I want now is to be happy with something I’ve done.”