Kim Novak admits feeling 'so insecure' over 'frightening' appearance


In an episode of BBC Two’s Talking Pictures, viewers got to see leading actors of Alfred Hitchcock movies speak more about what it was like to work with the famous actor. However, in the show, 50s actress and Vertigo star Kim Novak touched on her time in the industry with Harry Cohn.

In a 1981 interview with Michael Parkinson, he asked the actress if Harry had tried to change her physical appearance.

Kim admitted that he did and production houses used formulas on their stars based on what had previously worked.

The now 89-year-old recalled her first time getting her makeup done in the studio and Harry wanting to combine a mixture of other actresses’ looks onto her.

She said: “He looked at me, not trying to see what features I had that might be good in bringing out, but he looked and thought, ‘Now let’s see, let’s try a Joan Crawford mouth and Marilyn Monroe hair’, he put it all together.”

“By the time you got out of the chair, you were so insecure.

“I looked in the mirror and it was absolutely fighting, I didn’t look at all like myself,” Kim revealed during the interview.

The Vertigo star told Michael there was constantly a little bit of rebellion after she had her makeup done by the professionals.

Although she didn’t rebel outwardly, she revealed she’d go into the dressing room to try and change certain things.

Kim added she would rub off the lipstick they had just applied and put on something different to try and compromise.

The actress admitted it was mostly the look of actors that the studios would try and change.

Elsewhere in the interview, Kim called Harry a “strange” man before complimenting his talent within the Hollywood industry.

She told Michael: “When you think about it, when I look back, I mean he put the fear of God in me. He was terrifying, really.”

“On the other hand, he knew his business.

“He knew what he wanted, he knew the kind of films that should be made, and he knew how to get his results.

“Mostly, by putting fear into people really.

“I mean, he did like to work with fear as his main hold over everybody.”

Kim first rose to fame after she was discovered as an extra in two RKO films, The French Line and Son of Sinbad. 

Once an agent discovered her she was signed to a long-term contract with Columbia Pictures, which was run by Harry.

However, the duo often fought and the co-founder wanted her to change her name to Kit Marlowe to try and make her more marketable in movies.

Talking Pictures is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.


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