Kim Novak was among Hollywood's most enigmatic sex symbols of the '50s and early '60s. Blonde and beautiful, she exuded a daunting intellectual chilliness and an underlying passionate heat that made her especially alluring. One of the last of the studio-made stars, she rebelled against her "manufactured" image, struggling to be seen as more than just another brainless glamour gal. Novak brought to many of her roles a certain melancholic reluctance about freeing up her character's sensuality. It seemed as if her beauty was a burden, not an asset.
She was born Marilyn Pauline Novak and raised in Chicago, the daughter of a Czech railroad man. Before she was discovered in Los Angeles by Columbia Pictures helmer Harry Cohn (who chose her as a replacement for his increasingly difficult and rebellious reigning screen goddess Rita Hayworth), Novak worked odd jobs that included sales clerk, elevator operator, and a spokesmodel for a refrigerator company. Cohn signed her to his studio around 1954. While being properly prepared for stardom, Novak engaged in the first of many battles with Cohn when she refused to allow the studio to bill her as "Kit Marlowe." She felt the name rang false and battled to keep her family name, and then compromised by allowing herself to be called Kim because in her mind, Kit was too close to "kitten," as in the sexy kind. In her later years, Novak would acknowledge the studio head's role in her stardom, but also took plenty of credit for her own hard work.