Kim Novak, Beyond Vertigo

All hail, Vertigo, which premiered 50 years ago this May and remains one of the greatest movies ever made. Although the film was supposedly a disappointment at the box office, it clearly influenced a few films of the time. There’s Portrait in Black, for instance, from 1960, with Lana Turner driving around San Francisco in the midst of a romantic murder mystery. And then there is Strangers When We Meet, also 1960, with Kim Novak looking very much like her Madeleine Elster character. Way overglammed for her role as a bored suburban housewife who has an affair with Kirk Douglas, she looks fantastic in Jean Louis form-fitting dresses and cocktail outfits; she even dons one of those gray suits that drove Jimmy Stewart wild at Magnin’s when he is remaking Judy. Her hair is often done up in the same turbo-swirl she had in Vertigo. And cinematographer Charles Lang poses her, center frame, in a perfect profile that is extremely reminiscent of what Robert Burks did with her in the scene in Ernie’s when Stewart first sees Madeleine. As a matter of fact, Novak’s character is so overtly carnal, so sexually needy, that it is almost ludicrous when her unfeeling husband rejects her advances. It’s a long way from a good movie, but Novak’s visual reprise of her Vertigo iconography makes it worth renting.

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