As one of the last remaining classic-era actresses, Kim Novak retired from acting in 1991 and has since worked on her paintings. Even though her film content is far behind her, the key roles she embodied have a lasting impact on cinema today.
Let's take a look at her best 13 films.
1. Vertigo (1958)
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Often considered one of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces, Vertigo presents a magnetic mystery, and at its center is Kim Novak in a dual role as Madeline and Judy. James Stewart stars opposite her and is brilliant and disturbing in his portrayal of his character Scottie and how obsession takes him over.
One of Alfred Hitchcock's Masterpieces
An old acquaintance hires Scottie to follow his wife, Madeline, who he believes might be possessed by one of her ancestors because of her behavior. As Scottie gets closer to Madeline, he falls in love with her and loses his mind when he believes she's dead. Soon, he meets Judy, who resembles Madeline, so he gives her a makeover to look just like her. This film keeps you guessing until the end with the plot twists, and both Novak and Stewart deliver superb performances.
2. The Man With The Golden Arm (1955)
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Undoubtedly, The Man with the Golden Arm showcases one of Frank Sinatra's best performances. Just the withdrawal sequence alone proves what a talent he had. Kim Novak stars opposite him as Molly shows her ability to convey heightened emotions.
One of Frank Sinatra's Best Performances
The film revolves around a former drug addict who was rehabilitated and released from prison. Frankie (Sinatra) vows to make a better life for himself and his wife, who uses a wheelchair (or so we think). He blames himself for her accident, so he stays with her even though he loves Molly (Novak). When he needs to kick the habit again, it's Molly who he seeks out to help him survive it, which lets Novak give an emotionally charged performance.
3. Pushover (1954)
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Pushover was Kim Novak's first major film role, and she was the leading lady opposite Fred MacMurray. With only two uncredited film roles before this, it is impressive she could pull off playing a woman with much more life experience than her 21 years.
First Major Film Role
This film noir crime film features both a robbery and a torrid affair. Novak stars as Lona, the girlfriend of a robber involved in a $210,000 heist. A team of cops stakes out her apartment, and soon, one of them (MacMurray) begins an affair with her. She considers him a pushover and attempts to convince him to kill her boyfriend so they can run away together.
4. Pal Joey (1957)
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Frank Sinatra was fully into his fedora-wearing suave persona when he starred in Pal Joey. It also reunited him with Kim Novak and built a love triangle with the addition of Rita Hayworth. Novak turns in an excellent performance as the one woman who doesn't immediately fall under Joey's spell.
An Excellent Performance
The film follows Joey as he starts a new job with a bunch of chorus girls. He works through them efficiently, all except Linda (Novak), who resists his charms for much longer. When a wealthy widow (Hayworth) is interested in him, he uses her to get his own nightclub. Unfortunately, she falls in love with him, but he leaves her when he realizes he loves Linda.
5. Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
In their second film of the year, Kim Novak and James Stewart reunited for the romantic comedy Bell, Book and Candle. Even though the film revolves around a family of witches, it primarily features Christmas and a love story.
Reunited With James Stewart for This Romantic Comedy
Gillian (Novak) is intrigued by her new neighbor Shep (Stewart) but doesn't pursue him until she learns he is engaged to her old college nemesis. She decides to use a spell to lure him away from her but falls in love with him, which jeopardizes her entire way of life. This film shows how dynamic Novak and Stewart's chemistry is. They presented a convincing love story and got along well in real life.
6. Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
In a film where Dean Martin essentially plays himself, and Kim Novak steps into a role originally meant for Marilyn Monroe, we have a unique offering in Kiss Me, Stupid. It is a comedy mostly about mistaken identity and deceit.
A Role Originally Meant for Marilyn Monroe
When famous singer Dino (Martin) has his car break down, it turns out it was actually disabled by a song team hoping to sell him on their songs. They entertain him with Polly (Novak), who pretends to be one of their wives. Novak is brash and hilarious in her role.
7. Strangers When We Meet (1960)
Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Because Kim Novak was involved with the director Richard Quine while filming this picture, she had a lot of freedom and would make suggestions to different crew members. When she did it to her leading man Kirk Douglas, he took offense, and their off-camera relationship suffered. Despite this, they could still produce a bunch of chemistry on-screen.
The premise involves a married man named Larry (Douglas) and a married woman named Maggie (Novak) who become involved in an affair while unhappy in their marriages. Soon their nosy neighbor discovers what they're doing.
8. Picnic (1955)
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Picnic is worth watching for the sensual dance sequence with Kim Novak and William Holden alone. Not wanting to dance, Holden was paid a premium for it and allowed to be drunk while filming. Novak didn't need such an incentive, and she performed the sexy dance convincingly on her own.
A Sexy Dance by Novak
The story revolves around a handsome stranger (Holden) who arrives in town during the Labor Day picnic. He soon falls in love with Madge (Novak), even though he is his friend Alan's girlfriend, which causes all sorts of drama in the small Kansas town.
9. Middle of The Night (1959)
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
In one of her favorite roles, Kim Novak stars as Betty, a recently divorced 24-year-old whose 56-year-old boss (Fredric March) is interested in her. This film is an interesting look at a May-December romance.
An Interesting Look at a May-December Romance
Despite her initial reluctance, Betty agrees to have dinner with her widower boss Jerry. Even though they both have insecurities about themselves and the relationship, they decide to get married, but Betty's ex soon comes back into the picture.
10. The Eddy Duchin Story (1956)
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
This biographical film takes some liberties with the life of bandleader Eddy Duchin but does get the big things right. Tyrone Power plays Duchin, while Kim Novak plays Marjorie. The two of them have a passionate but ultimately doomed relationship.
An Intriguing Story About a Lesser-known Bandleader
The film shows Duchin going to New York City to become a famous pianist, although he had just graduated from pharmacy school. Marjorie helps him get his shot on stage, and the two end up in a tumultuous relationship. The movie is an intriguing story about a lesser-known bandleader of the 1930s and 1940s.
11. The Notorious Landlady (1962)
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Reunited for the third time with Jack Lemmon (the others being Phffft and when he played her brother in Bell, Book and Candle), they play love interests here. Novak even designed her clothing for this film, where she plays his landlady.
When junior diplomat Bill Gridley (Lemmon) arrives in London, he rents part of Carly's (Novak) house and falls in love with her. However, he doesn't know that the police suspect her of murdering her husband. She falls for him but is worried about the effect of the bad publicity on him. The comedy is enjoyable and a testament to both of their comedic timing.
12. Phffft (1954)
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
As one of Kim Novak's earliest roles, she has a supporting role in Phfft. The title refers to the sound a marriage breaking up makes. The main couple is played by Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon, which makes for a movie with some good laughs.
A Fun Partner for Jack Lemmon
Nina (Holliday) and Robert (Lemmon) star as a recently divorced couple who begin to date other people (Jack Carson and Kim Novak). They keep running into each other, and divorced life is not like what they thought it would be. Novak is gorgeous here as always and presents a fun partner for Lemmon.
13. Jeanne Eagels (1957)
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
In another biographical picture, Kim Novak stars as Jeanne Eagels, but much of the film is fiction and not a great representation of Eagels' real life. Despite that, it is an entertaining film that shows Novak's range yet again.
An Entertaining Film
To gain the fame she craves, Jeanne joins a carnival to try to get there. Sal (Jeff Chandler) is the owner who falls for her but is appalled when Jeanne steals another actress's play for herself, determined to do anything it takes to be successful.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Kristen Winiarski has worked as a professional writer for 15 years, studying classic TV shows and films to further her expertise and understanding about how they have evolved. This passion led her to start her own classic movie blog before branching out into the professional entertainment writing world.