This post is a part of TMP’s Historical Context series, in which I share excerpts from my vintage magazine collection. Today, a look at the January 1957 issue of Redbook, which featured a cover story profiling Kim Novak.
By 1957, Kim Novak had appeared on screen in eight films and was earning a salary of $1000 per week — not too shabby, considering her career had only begun in 1954. Her major roles in Pal Joey, Vertigo and Bell, Book and Candle were still on the horizon, but she had already taken on Picnic and The Man with the Golden Arm, along with six others. With her star ever rising, she landed the cover of January 1957’s issue of Redbook, with a five-page feature story penned by Kirtley Baskette. “A lonely ‘unattractive’ girl suddenly becomes a famous beauty,” the article’s subhead reads. “How does she learn to believe it?”
Novak’s feature is an interesting one, discussing some of her insecurities and detailing parts of her life both pre-Hollywood and as a rising star — “one of the most potent feminine attractions in Hollywood,” as Redbook describes her.
One tidbit I didn’t know before reading: Prior to getting her break as an actress, Novak was a refrigerator demonstrator! One of those basically-extinct careers that only could have existed in the mid-century! Also fascinating: In her youth, Novak (then known by “Marilyn,” her birth name) took in and raised many animals, posting a sign in her window that said “BRING SICK AND STRAY PETS HERE.” Her menagerie included dogs, cats, mice, rabbits, chickens, “and once even a goat.”
Kim’s reaction to her new-found fame? One of “bewilderment and anxiety,” according to the mag. The feature paints Novak as quite humble, not letting her new career successes go to her head. She comes off as ambitious, but not quite sure of herself, somewhat unable to believe her own luck as she’s begun to score big roles in Hollywood.
While Kim may not have been very high on confidence or self-assurance at this point in her career, the rest of Hollywood sure seems to have been impressed with her, if this cover feature is any indication. Otto Preminger, director of The Man with the Golden Arm starring Novak and Frank Sinatra, is quoted as calling Kim “the most emotionally responsive girl I’ve ever directed.” The article also notes that Joshua Logan, hesitant to let Novak take the role in Picnic, was “comparing her to Greta Garbo” by production’s end.
In the years following her Redbook cover story, Kim Novak appeared on many more magazine covers — Photoplay, Modern Screen, Silver Screen, Screen Stories, Movieland, and even Time and LIFE! She continued to act until 1991 and has since been retired from Hollywood, though she makes occasional festival appearances. She seems to devote much of her time to other forms of art, including painting, poetry, and photography. Her films, of course, are still being discovered and enjoyed by today’s movie lovers (myself included) through Turner Classic Movies and home video.