The Short-Lived Romance of Kim Novak and Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy and Kim

God Bless you, Vanity Fair

I’ve written quite a lot about classic Hollywood romances.

Some are tragic, others are straight out of a romance novel, this relationship, in particular, is intriguing for other reasons.

The pairing of Sammy Davis Jr. and Kim Novak is an underrated coupling – an interesting one, actually.

In 1957, a couple of weeks after Kim was finished shooting the greatest movie of all time, Vertigo, she stopped by her hometown of Chicago for a night out at Chez Paree.

The entertainment for that night? None other than the very charming Sammy Davis Jr.

According to this “Vanity Fair” piece on the matter, apparently – at first- Kim wanted to use Davis‘ flirtations as a way to get back at Harry Cohn for his mistreatment of her.

Eventually, she and Sammy fell into a cordial friendship, which saw them exchange numbers and midnight rendezvous hidden away from the public eye.

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What attracted Kim to Sammy wasn’t his race (of course that was part of it) but his stage presence. Much like my attraction to the internationally known k-pop band BTS, Sammy Davis‘ stage presence oozed sensuality.

With a cigarette in one hand and a ribbon microphone in the other, Davis crooned his way into the depths of Novak‘s heart.

So, they started dating.

Fully aware that their interracial relationship in 1957 could very well ruin both of their career’s, the pair had to keep it low-key.

For a couple of months, Sammy and Kim were in complete and utter bliss.

But they knew that inevitably the gossip columns (specifically Dorothy Kilgalen) would sniff around and get a whiff of what their relationship was giving off.

Once Kilgalen alerted the general public, other gossip columns started to jump on the speculation bandwagon.

That was the first gust of wind that knocked down their carefully crafted house of cards.

KIM AND SAMMY

Sadly, their relationship didn’t last too long after that.

They tried to continue their romance, by evading photographers, hiding in the backseats of cars, meeting behind closed doors, and just generally staying out of the public eye.

Between the press and Harry Cohn’s incessant harassment, Novak and Davis parted ways.


In 1957, America was still deeply segregated. Unfortunately, their relationship was a casualty of that toxic mindset.

If there were any classic Hollywood relationship that could’ve worked out, I wish it were this one. Not only would they have broken boundaries but, seeing an interracial couple on the covers on “Confidential” or “Photoplay” would’ve been a sight to see.

It truly is a shame.

If only we could go back in time.

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Classic Film Reviews: Pal Joey (1957)

Pal Joey

source: Columbia Pictures

The year is 1957.

Seventeen years after its release, Columbia Picture’s cinematic ‘dictator’ Harry Cohn is dying to bring the romantic dramedy Pal Joey to the silver screen.

Filled to the brim with sexual explicit scenarios and slick dialogue, it took Cohn numerous re-writes and several years to finally have his pipe dream realized.

Cagney, Grant and even Gene Kelly (due to Louis B Mayer‘s greediness) all turned down the lead role before Cohn settled on ole’ blue eyes, himself.

By the time Sinatra came into the fold, the script had been through various iterations, eventually ending with the finished, cleaned up product that moviegoers know as 1957’s Pal Joey.


The film starts off in San Franciso with noted womanizer Joey Evans (played by Sinatra) stepping off the bus in search of new employment. He’s a drifter, a playboy, irresponsible, but that doesn’t stop women from falling for his ‘sweet nothings’.

While walking down the North Beach pier, Evans spots an advert featuring an old friend, bandleader Ned Gavin. He diligently writes down the address and quickly saunters over to the nightclub, hoping to run into Ned; what finds instead, is the club’s owner, Mike Miggins.

Knowing he needs work, Joey haggles Miggins into giving him a job as a singer – which Evans exceeds at. During one his many performances, his warbling catches the eye of a young, blonde chorus girl named Linda (played by Kim Novak.) They get along well, which leads Joey to harass her until she accepts his advances.

Later that night, during a charity auction, a wealthy, older woman shows up to the event, stealing the gaze of every onlooker. Vera Simpson, played by Rita Hayworth, a former stripper who Joey recognizes immediately, turns out to be the sponsor of the auction and the sole investor of the club.

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source: Columbia Pictures

Joey, rudely, suggests that she does another performance for “old time’s sake” which earns him a swift slap to the face.

After striking out with Vera, Evans offers to walk Linda home. She’s hesitant to succumb to his wanton ways but, tolerates him when she finds out that they’re sharing an apartment together.

This doesn’t stop Joey from chasing after the older woman, however. Despite using insults as a disguise for flirting, Vera welcomes him back with open arms.

She reciprocates his advances which gives Joey an ego boost. When Vera returns to the club one night to make amends, he gives her his unbridled attention. Vera toys with him, and at the end of his session, she leaves without paying her astronomically large bill.

Guess who gets fired because of his indiscretions?

Luckily, Joey gets to redeem himself if he’s able to get Vera to return her investment in the club.

At this point in the film, Linda’s cold shoulder begins to warm gradually, and the thought of dating Joey seems to appeal to her.

Oooh, but wait! Not so fast.

You can never teach an old dog new tricks.

Linda breaks things off with him after he misses a dinner date they planned the night before, presumably the night he was meeting with Vera.

Joey couldn’t care less.

A couple of lies and champagne bottles later, Joey succeeds in seducing Vera and they begin to ‘go steady.’ But, their relationship is based on mutual gain rather than one that’s based on love.

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source: Columbia Pictures

Joey uses Vera for cash, and she uses him for companionship. Joey reveals to Vera that he wishes to have his own club one day. That intrigues Vera and she slyly suggests that she could invest in this new “project.”

The new place, dubbed “Chez Joey” is already a step up from his old place of employment. Decked out in chiffon, lace, and a multilevel stage, Joey’s already large ego doubles in size, essentially biting the hand that fed him. Taking matters into his own hands, Joey shrugs off Vera and reconnects with Linda, promoting her as the featured act.

Vera, naturally, is upset at this display of dominance and orders Joey to fire Linda. Instead of doing the honest thing and letting her go, Joey demands her to turn her singing act into a stripping one, knowing that it would make her uncomfortable.

Linda catches on to Joey’s charade and deduces that Vera is forcing him to do this. She takes matters into her own hands when, later that night, she finds Joey waiting for Vera on a ‘houseboat’ of sorts.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Linda gets revenge by sloppily attacking (or kissing, really) Joey until she passes out in a drunken stupor.

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source: Columbia Pictures

The next morning, Linda apologizes for her behavior and agrees to perform the ill-suggested strip tease for Joey. Later that night during Linda’s performance, the men in the crowd get a bit too rowdy for Joey’s liking.

Pangs of jealously ring through Joey’s chest.

He yanks Linda off the stage and tells her to perform a song instead, much to her delight.

Vera, however, can’t believe what she just witnessed. Angered at Joey’s disobedience Vera threatens to pull her funds from the club thus forcing its closure.

For the first time in his life, Joey keeps his integrity. He lets it close.

Linda has other ideas, though.

She reconvenes with Vera to discuss the situation. She suggests that if Linda were to leave town, she would reconsider. Obviously, that’s not feasible so, Linda gives up and goes to find Joey.

While driving around downtown San Franciso, Linda finds Joey walking out of ‘Chez Joey,’ bag in hand. After reflecting on his time spent drifting through the Golden State, Joey realizes that it may be time to settle down and live an honest life. And with that, he suggests that he and Linda continue their act as ‘Linda and Joey Evans’ leaving Vera alone, troubled and companionless.

Conclusion

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source: Columbia Pictures

Take an up and coming starlet whose studio is desperately trying to turn her into the next Marilyn Monroe despite her objections and pair her up with an ‘aging’ femme fetale who’s grasping on to the last vestiges of fame before the Hollywood machine™ puts her out for good and you get the musical comedy-drama Pal Joey.

Directed by George Sidney and spearheaded by Harry Cohn, this iteration of Pal Joey is the watered down version of the stage play of the same name.

In the stage play, Joey is a real piece of work.

He uses and abuses the two women, and in the finale that leaves with nothing but his suitcase and a bruised ego. In the classic ‘Hollywood-ified’ version, in the end, Joey and the much younger Linda run off together, leaving Vera and her millions in the dust.

This difference is the main reason why Harry Cohn had such a difficult time adapting this to the silver screen.

Fortunately for Columbia and Cohn, the film still managed to earn multiple Academy Award nominations, including ones for Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

Pal Joey is truly an underrated film. One of Novak‘s best, it’s a shame not many people know about it.

Hitchcock’s Masterful Use of Colors in 1958’s Vertigo

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source: Paramount Pictures

Vertigo is one of the best films ever to be put on the silver screen.

Directed by the incomparable Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo is a movie unlike anything I’ve ever seen. With its compelling storyline, fantastic acting and incredible location shots, it’s hard to label this film with anything other than the word “perfection.”

An underrated aspect of this movie, however, is the way Hitchcock uses color. There are multiple scenes in the film where color is (in some shape or form) used as a part of the story. For example, the color green is used to symbolize Scottie’s feelings of uneasiness, or more specifically – a dreamlike state. It’s no coincidence that every scene involving Judy or Madeliene the color green in somehow squeezed into the frame.

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source: Paramount Pictures

Even when green isn’t the focal point, Hitchcock‘s liberal use of color touches every single fiber of this movie.

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source: Paramount Pictures

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source: Paramount Pictures

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source: Paramount Pictures

The next time you have the luxury of watching Vertigo, look of for these intriguing tidbits of cinematic genius. It’s most certainly the least appreciated part of such a legendary movie.

Thank you, Alfred, we greatly appreciate it.

 

Classic Film Reviews: Boys’ Night Out (1962)

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source: MGM

When discussing 1960s sex comedies, there is usually a number of different films (usually starring Doris Day) that pop into your head. That Touch of Mink, Send Me No Flowers, and Lover Come Back are just a few of the many memorable films that the decade produced.

However, there’s a lesser known film that I don’t think too many classic film fans are aware of.

Boys’ Night Out is another early 60s sex comedy, but, instead of starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson, we trade them in for Kim Novak and James Garner. Released in 1962, Boys’ Night Out is a charming little movie about human relationships, or in this film’s case, the “adolescent fantasies of the adult suburban male.”

Garner stars as Fred Williams, a good, honest, single, man who is incessantly bogged down by the unpure thoughts of his three married co-workers, George, Doug and Howie played Tony Randall, Howard Duff, and Howard Morris.

One day while the quartet was having their daily post-work stop at the local watering hole, they spot their boss getting a little too cozy with a woman who wasn’t his wife. Shocked and embarrassed Fred hides his face. The other three? Not so much.

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source: MGM

Instead of turning their heads in distress, these 3 men get an idea- a mischievous one at that. Taking inspiration from their boss, they decide to have Fred find them an apartment in the city where they could fulfill their fantasies of having an extra-marital affair.

Here’s the catch: not only do they want to lease an apartment, they also want a blonde *ahem* ‘companion’ go along with it. Fred relents and attempts to rent an apartment from a landlord named Peter Bowers, played by Jim Backus. Unfortunately, there’s another buyer who is also seeking to own this lovely suite.

Conveniently, this ‘person’ happens to be a 29-year-old, curvy, blonde named Cathy, played by Kim Novak.

She looks exactly like the woman the guys were describing earlier, but, as the movie progresses, you’ll see that appearances aren’t always everything.

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source: MGM

Fred tries to explain that the apartment has already been paid for, but he also doesn’t want to lose out on potentially having Cathy stay here as that oh so coveted ‘companion’ that the boys discussed a few days earlier.

Fred brings up this topic with the hope that Cathy would at least consider the offer; to his surprise, she accepts the job, on the condition that she gets to live in the apartment.

The next day at work, Fred tells his friends about last night’s escapade and, naturally, they react like they found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Of course, in order to actually use this new found suite to their advantage, the guys come up with a convenient excuse to tell their wives: once a weeknight classes.

As the men get ready to rendezvous in their new apartment, Cathy, on the other hand, reveals her true intentions.

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source: MGM

She’s actually an undercover sociology student working on her senior thesis about the “sexual fantasies of the suburban male.” Cathy then invites her professor over to discuss what she’s about to do, but he is hesitant to let her continue with her plan. Eventually, he concedes and lets Cathy do her thing.

She invites each of the men individually on separate days and records their conversations together. To get each man to open up to her, Cathy specifically targets things that their wives neglect them from doing at home. Howie gets fed the food his wife won’t allow him to have, Doug likes to fix things, and George can’t quit talking about himself.

When Fred meets with her, however, he doesn’t buy into her game. He’s pretty attracted to Cathy and is petrified by his friend’s (fake) tales about their nights with her. Disgusted by this, he refuses to spend his allotted night with her.

Ultimately, Howie, Doug and George’s wives find out about their late night get together with Cathy. To confirm this is actually happening, they hire a private with the help of Fred’s mother (played by Jessie Royce Landis).

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source: MGM

After a few days, they finally get all the information they need to confront their husbands. A few scenes later, the wives storm Cathy’s apartment demanding answers.

When they get there, they ask their husbands if all of this is true, but the men maintain their innocence. Seeing that the situation is getting out of hand, Cathy intervenes.

She comes clean about her ‘experiment’ she was doing and apologizes for causing any harm. During that whole commotion, Fred, angered by the whole ordeal, storms out of the room. After calming the storm, Cathy frantically runs downstairs to confess to Fred what actually happened.

Luckily, she catches him right as he was heading into the elevator, but before the audience could see what transpired between the two, the doors shut. The next time we see them, the elevator doors have opened and we see the two in a tremendously tight embrace, where they’ve presumably ‘kissed and made up’.

The movie ends with all the wives and husbands (including newlyweds Fred and Cathy) gathered together at the same bar where this harebrained scheme was initially hatched; except this time, no one plans on buying an apartment.

Conclusion

This film is pretty great! The first time I saw it, I was a little shocked that Kim Novak would take this sort of role. She’s normally the kind of actress to take a more serious role.

But, as I researched further, I found out that her production company KIMCO were the people who financed/produced it. Because of Harry Cohn’s death in 1958, Novak‘s film offers dried up significantly.  According to Rob Nixon at TCM, this movie was supposed to be the one that resurrected Novak‘s career.

Unfortunately for Novak, the movie was a critical and financial bust. On the bright side, for James Garner, it gave him a bit more publicity and subsequently propelled his career even further.

In the end, Boys Night Out is a decent film. It will definitely give you a few laughs, and the story is coherent enough for you to not get bored. Out of all the sex comedies that were released in the 1960s, this one is certain to keep your attention. If you have a few hours to spare on a Saturday night, this movie is for you.

Five Stars Blogathon…

Before I begin, I would like to thank the Classic Film and TV Café for hosting this wonderful, very interesting blogathon!

This is my first ever blogathon and I’m quite excited about it, I’ve been wanting to do one for a while. The topic for this specific blogathon is to list my five favorite movie stars and write about what I adore about them, so, without further ado, I present to you my five favorites classic Hollywood actors/actress of the golden age of Hollywood.

Number 5: Doris Day

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It’s no wonder that the band Wham! wrote a lyric in their song Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go about her.

Doris Day is one of those classic Hollywood icons that everyone loves and no one hates- I mean, how could you hate her? Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff was born on April 3rd, 1922 in Cincinnati, Ohio to parents Alma Sophia and William Joseph Kappelhoff.

Doris started her career at a young age. Her mother put her in singing lessons which eventually landed her first singing gig on a radio program named Carlin’s Carnival sometime in the early 40s. This is where jazz musician Barney Rapp first heard her and quickly called her up to come audition for his jazz band. Fortunately for Day, she got the job.

The next few years Doris would spend her days traveling with bandleaders like Jimmy JamesBob Crosby, and Les Brown. While working with the Les Brown Band, she caught the eye of songwriter Sammy Cahn who recommended her for the starring role in Michael Curtiz’s film, Romance on the High Seas. This is where Doris started her movie career that would last around 20 years and includes 43 movies, with memorable ones such as The Man Who Knew Too Much, Please Don’ Eat the Daisies, and Lover Come Back.

Doris Day is the reason I fell in love with classic movies, Pillow Talk was one of the first films from Doris that I ever watched, after that- I was obsessed. Her warm and radiant presence on screen kept me coming back for more. The 1960s alone were a goldmine for great Doris Day movies. I can only hope that you find a classic Hollywood actress that you love as much as I love Doris Day.

Film recommendations: Pillow Talk, Calamity Jane, Love Me or Leave Me, Move Over Darling, Send Me No Flowers.

Number 4: Fred Astaire

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Ahhhh, Fred Astaire. Where would dancing in movies be without you?

This suave hoofer was born in Omaha, Nebraska as Fred Austerlitz on May 10th 1899. Much like Doris Day, Fred got started quite early, dancing with his sister Adele in several shows as a partnership at the age of 6.

By 1918 Fred quickly outgrew the pair and eventually his sister. Despite this obvious talent disparity, the two continued to tour, performing in London in shows like The Bunch and Judy, Lady Be Good, Funny Face, and an early version of The Band Wagon from 1922 through 1931.

Hoping to give the partnership one last shot, the siblings took their act to Hollywood for a screen test- only to be rejected by Paramount Pictures. The pair split in 1932. Adele went on to marry and settle down in a comfortable home life, while Fred honed his craft and continue to work on Broadway. Aspiring to expand his range, Astaire once again went to Hollywood to try his luck, and boy was he lucky.

After screen testing for RKO Pictures, David O Selznick decided to sign Astaire to a contract and the rest was history…

Astaire would go on to become one of the most memorable and recognizable on-screen dancers of the 20th Century. Starring in 8 films alongside Ginger Rogers and dancing with some of the most gorgeous leading ladies of his lifetime, Fred Astaire was a force to be reckoned with.

I love Fred for this very reason. No matter what movie he was in, you could guarantee you’ll have a great cinematic experience. His work ethic was unparalleled and it showed in his dance numbers.

For that reason, I have him on the number 4 spot on this list.

Film Recommendations: Funny Face, Silk Stockings, The Barkleys of Broadway, The Band Wagon, You Were Never the Lovelier.

Number 3: Ingrid Bergman

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Ingrid Bergman is one of those actresses that you wish were still alive today. In her prime, she made some remarkable movies that I still rewatch to this day. I only wished she could’ve made more…

Ingrid was born Stockholm, Sweden on August 29th, 1915 to parents Justus Bergman and Frieda Adler. As a child, she wanted to become an opera singer, so she took singing lessons for 3 years. Even though she longed to become an opera singer, she always knew should become an actress. Later in her teen years, Ingrid received a scholarship to the Royal Dramatic Theatre School in Stockholm. She accepted and quickly got a part in the school’s new play Ett Brott (translated in English to A Crime.)

The thing is, this was completely violating school procedure. In order to star in a play, you’d have to be in your 3rd year of studies, but alas, Ingrid broke that rule.

That summer, Ingrid was hired for her first movie role, which ultimately saw her drop out of University.  Her first role after dropping out of college was a tiny part in the film, Munkbrogreven. She continued her career in Sweden, acting in two more films before she got her big break.

In 1939 she got the leading role in the movie in David O Selznick‘s romantic-drama Intermezzo (a lovely film, by the way.) Selznick brought her to America for this specifically to star alongside Leslie Howard. At first, Ingrid didn’t believe that the American audiences would be accepting of her. But, she recanted and did the movie anyway, only to quickly to return to Sweden with her then-husband Petter Lindstrom and her daughter Pia.

It was only when Intermezzo was a hit that Ingrid returned to America to continue her career which included fantastic films like: Casablanca, Anastasia, and Murder on The Orient Express. 

Film Recommendations: Notorious, Spellbound, Gaslight, Goodbye Again, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Number 2:  Frank Sinatra

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Frank Sinatra. What more can I say? Probably the most influential pop figure from the 20th century we’ve ever had. Singer. Actor. Influencer. Womanizer.

Need I say more?

Compared to the rest of the stars on this list, by the time Frank started his movie career, he was already a full-fledged pop crooner. In the early 40s, he made his film debut in Las Vegas Nights, where he had an uncredited cameo as a nightclub singer. In 1943, he had another cameo in the film Reveille with Beverly before getting a starring role in the movie Anchors Aweigh co-starring Gene Kelly. Sinatra’s fame quadrupled in size when he started his acting career and from that point on, it would only continue to get bigger.

I love Sinatra’s acting career. It has a lot of different genres and themes where Frank was able to show that he could take on a multitude of different roles. From movies like Take Me Out to The Ball Game, It Happened in Brooklyn and eventually winning an Oscar for From Here to Eternity, Sinatra’s acting career is almost as good as his singing one- almost.

Film Recommendations: On the Town, The Man With the Golden Arm, The Tender Trap, Guys and Dolls, High Society, Pal Joey, Ocean’s 11

Number 1: Kim Novak

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Sooooo, Kim Novak.  A blonde bombshell whose career isn’t as appreciated as some of her fellow actresses of that decade. A fairly tragic story if you ask me…

Kim Novak was born Marilyn Pauline Novak on February 13th, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois. One summer while Kim was modeling cross country for a refrigerator company at a trade show in Los Angeles, she and a friend decided to audition as extras for the Jane Russell film The French Line and the RKO picture Son of Sinbad. This is where she was spotted by an agent who signed her to a contract to Columbia Pictures.

It was here that the studio tried to mold Kim into something she wasn’t comfortable with (aka another Marilyn Monroe.) Novak would make her film debut in the film noir Pushover in 1954 then quickly follow that up with 5 Against the House in 1955. Her career would finally pick up when she starred in Picnic in 1955. This movie would springboard her into more film roles like The Man With The Golden Arm, Vertigo, and Bell Book and Candle.

You know, sometimes I feel really bad for her. I mean, she deserved way more then what she got during her career. She has always been overlooked for her acting ability solely on the fact that she happened to be in the same era of the ‘blonde bombshell.’ The studio tried to mold her into something she wasn’t and for that, I truly believed her career suffered. Luckily for the limited amount of movie she did do, hold up just perfectly.

FIN

So, those are my top 5, I’m excited to see what everyone else put on their list!