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Kim Novak: Reluctant Goddess Hardcover – 1 Mar 1986

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay Biography 18 Dec. 2003
By C. Cook - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately, this is the only actual "biography" of Kim Novak available. Larry Kleno's book "Kim Novak on Camera" which is technically a critical filmography, is actually much more enlightening in portraying its subject. Kleno uses multiple sources and first hand accounts to flesh out his story, while Brown's book seems hastily written and researched. It is only saved by Novak's own written statements which appear at the end of chapters and often refute the information previously relayed in the chapter! All in all, it comes across as a rather slick and superficial look at this dignified and gracious woman's life. Likewise, it never really begins to relate the impact that films like "Vertigo" have had on the public, and Novak's extraordinary contribution to them. All in all, Novak deserves better, but at least we have a few first hand accounts from her in the book to begin setting the record straight.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Compendium of gossip, little else 27 April 2014
By Gary Lee - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Nothing new here on the admirable Ms. Novak. She did not sit for interviews with the author, but submitted some comments that appear at the end of chapters. She apparently hadn't read what Brown was writing or I doubt she would have been interested in contributing. The book never gives a picture of Ms. Novak that is more than skin deep and certainly doesn't clear up any of the controversies or contradictions concerning the elusive star. It is mostly a rewrite of mainstream press coverage, fan magazines and gossip columns of the time. I had the privilege of meeting Ms. Novak on one occasion and our few minutes of one-on-one conversation revealed far more about the lovely and down-to-earth person she is than this entire book.

Brown's text often purports to describe Novak's private thoughts and intimate conversations. These passages must be taken with a grain of salt since he provides no attributions or explanations for how he could know such details. Clearly, the book was mostly written as he tore through the archives of the Motion Picture Academy's Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills. When Brown notes that Novak has been largely ignored despite her superstar status, the reader senses he is being more the opportunistic hack than the dutiful film scholar in throwing together this book.

Nor is there any critical delving into Novak's films. Her essential contribution to VERTIGO, her most enduring film achievement, is glossed over as just another of her movies. The author devotes much more space to gleefully depicting the behind-the-scenes melee that occurred while making OF HUMAN BONDAGE, probably her worst film. Brown falls for Hitchcock's complaints about how he was stuck with Novak (true, he wanted Vera Miles) and as a director he found Novak totally inadequate. The well-worn (pun intended) episode of Novak's initial refusal to wear the gray suit Edith Head designed for her in the film takes up most of Brown's attention in discussing Hitchcock's masterpiece. But no director in Hollywood history was ever shrewder at assessing exactly what hidden qualities he could bring out in a leading lady than Hitchcock, and how to use those qualities to precise effect on screen. Hitchcock got exactly what he wanted from Novak in VERTIGO. Her performance is a vital element of the film's effectiveness as a hypnotic psychological thriller assessed by many critics the world over as the greatest movie ever made. Never mind, Mr. Brown, what dismissive, ungrateful stuff Hitchcock said about Novak. He said it about all his leading ladies, even Grace Kelly in the end. The only one he didn't disparage was Shirley MacLaine.

Still, Brown's writing style is lively and engaging. What emerges is as much a stereotypical portrait of Hollywood at the end of the studio system as of Ms. Novak herself. Nearly everyone--Columbia studio head Harry Cohn and his lackeys, Novak's family, her many suitors, directors, co-stars, fans, and particularly the gossip columnists of the day--comes off as shallow and idiotic. As for Novak herself, what set her apart? How did she succeeded on screen as the world's biggest film star of the latter 50's if all she had going for her was the typical Hollywood build-up? Lots of failed starlets had that and disappeared quickly from view. Why not Novak? What did she have that was unique? You won't find a clue in this book. It is a picture of Hollywood culture at the time almost more than of the titular subject herself.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! 5 Jun. 2013
By johnny f harvey - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
good story. liked the inside information and behind the scenes in makeing a movie.
never thought about the problems associated with the making of a movie like
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting take on what went on during Kim Novaks reign in Hollywood 13 Feb. 2014
By Dogmom3 - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Some of what she is quoted as having said, she has since disputed. I found the book Kim Novak, On Camera far more complete and the information more accurate.
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