Actress, born Marilyn Pauline Novak, in Chicago, on February 13, 1933, the daughter of a Slavic railroad worker and a former teacher. Novak’s first job after high school was modeling teen fashions for a local department store. Before breaking into films, she worked as an elevator operator, dental assistant, store clerk, and toured the country as “Miss Deepfreeze,” a refrigerator spokes-model.
In the early 1950s, Novak moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling and acting. Her film debut was a bit part in The French Line (1954) with Jayne Mansfield. After a talent agent arranged for a screen test with Columbia Pictures, she was awarded a six month contract. Columbia studio chief Harry Cohn worked to groom the icy blond Novak into a sex symbol in the league of Rita Hayworth, whose career was in decline, and as a competitor to another blonde, Marilyn Monroe, whose career was on the rise. Fiercely protective of his new hot property, Cohn objected to Novak’s serious romance with black star Sammy Davis Jr., and allegedly threatened Davis with physical harm if he did not break off the relationship. Cohn also paid $15,000 to prevent scandalous photographs of Novak from appearing in the media.
By 1956, Novak was the number one female box office attraction due to her performances in such films as Phffft! (1954) with Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday, The Man With the Golden Arm (1955) with Frank Sinatra, Picnic (1956), and The Eddie Duchin Story (1956). She crossed paths with Sinatra again in Pal Joey (1957), and turned in one of her best-known performances in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958).
Novak’s alleged romantic liasons with Davis, Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Cary Grant, and Aly Khan made regular gossip column news and added to her appeal with the public.
She acted in a number of films in the 1960s, including Pepe (1960), Of Human Bondage (1964), and The Great Bank Robbery (1969), but did not maintain the popularity that she enjoyed in the 1950s. She retired from the screen in the late 1970s to raise horses and breed llamas, but ventured into a few film and television roles in the 1980s. In 1986-87 she played the role of Kit Marlowe in the night time television soap opera Falcon Crest.
Novak married twice, first to British actor Richard Johnson (1965-66), then in 1976, to veterinarian Dr. Robert Malloy.
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