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Robert Osborne - September 2013
Remind Me

Robert Osborne on Kim Novak

The great Blonde Bombshells of the movies--Jean Harlow in the 1930s, Veronica Lake, Lana Turner, Betty Grable in the '40s, Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Jayne Mansfield and Diana Dors in the '50s and all those who've followed, bless 'em all--added so much oomph, excitement and sex appeal to the world of movies, and we're forever grateful to them for it. But, checking the records, it would be foolish to envy them. It's a sad fact that, for the majority, being a blondie and bombshell in the film world seemed to come with a heavy burden and a big price tag.

Very few of them got away unscathed, untraumatized or with a long life span. Harlow died at age 26, at the peak of her film career. Lake's amazing career, sizzling hot from the moment moviegoers first saw her in 1941, was basically cold as an ice cube within four years, and by the 1960s she was working as a barmaid in a New York City hotel. By contrast, Turner's career survived for over 50 years and included something no other blonde bombshell of the screen could boast about, an Academy Award® nomination; but Lana's personal life also included her being involved in a nasty 1958 murder that was labeled the Hollywood scandal of the century. Marilyn's life, as the world knows, became a disaster and she was dead at 36, either by her own hand or someone else's; it's never been solidly proven which it was. Mansfield, eventually reduced to performing in third-rate clubs and food stores in Florida and Louisiana, was killed in a car crash at the age of 34. All this is enough to make any actress and would-be sex symbol, whether a genuine towhead or someone intimately acquainted with a peroxide bottle, seriously consider a dye job. Happily, some skipped tragic endings. Grable ended up living a basically contented, drama-free life after she, by choice, quit making movies in 1955; still, she died much too young of cancer at age 56.

However, the one important blonde icon of her time who miraculously managed to escape that "be careful if you're blonde" curse is our cover girl Kim Novak, who last February celebrated her eightieth birthday. No one was blonder, more beautiful or possessed more of a va-voom factor than Kim during her reign as a true movie Queen. She costarred with such fellows as Jimmy Stewart (twice), Frank Sinatra (twice), Jack Lemmon (three times), William Holden and others in films directed by the likes of Hitchcock, Wilder, Preminger, Joshua Logan and their peers.

How and why she was able to avoid the blonde-jinx is something she talked about in an interview with me that we filmed at our TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood in 2012, and which we'll be showing (Kim Novak: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival) during our salute to Kim as our TCM Star of the Month, Thursday nights this September.

We'll also be showing 16 of her best films, including the movie that was recently named by Sight and Sound as the best motion picture ever made, Vertigo (1958). Do join us, and often. Besides having a great time, you'll also see, firsthand, how this beautiful bombshell has only grown more attractive, healthier, more interesting and fulfilled as the years have gone by. A happy ending, indeed-- just like in a movie.

by Robert Osborne