Camp David

CAMP DAVID FEBRUARY 2004: KIM NOVAK

By • Feb 1st, 2004 •

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2004 began with a bang and no whimper with the arrival in Hollywood of Kim Novak and a special screening of Hitchcock’s restored masterpiece VERTIGO. The American Cinematheque once again outdid themselves with a great 70mm print and a gala tribute party in the historic DeMille barn directly across from the Hollywood Bowl or what used to be the Hollywood bowl since it recently went the way of all Hollywood landmarks and was torn down to make way for the Disney equivalent downtown LA.

Kim Novak had just appeared on the Larry King show the week before to promote the event and to break silence on her career and such hot topics as her “affair” with Sammy Davis, Jr., co-starring with Frank Sinatra and her farewell to Hollywood for a private life in Oregon. After stardom and a long career, a true survivor not only of the star system of Columbia’s Harry Cohn but of the obsessive Hitchcock himself!

I must take a moment to thank Gwen Deglise and Dennis Bartok of the American Cinematheque for making it possible for me to be a part of this special event. The screening of VERTIGO was amazing simply because she was there to witness her audience and the respect they have for her work. As the lights went up and before any of us could recover from the film itself there she was standing. Looking ageless and chic, Ms. Novak wowed the audience with her charm and was very forthcoming about her career, even managing to say some kind words about her old boss Harry Cohn. She said he was a powerful man that loved the business even if he was too controlling of his stars and their private lives. Regarding Hitchcock she remained in his debt for casting her in what is her finest performance on screen. She was candid about her long affair with director Richard Quine who guided her through BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE, and how much she enjoyed working with Rita Hayworth on PAL JOEY even when the gossip columnists wanted a feud between the screen goddesses on cue.

After the Q and A, those of us lucky enough to get into the private party had an opportunity to speak with Kim on a one to one. I found her to be so modest and down to earth that I forgot to ask many of the questions I had prepared from the day before! She loves animals so much that when asked about her love affairs she answered by saying none of her romances with her leading men could hold a candle to the ones she had with her many pets, snakes and horses over the years.

Steve Rebello, author of the definitive book on PSYCHO, moderated the discussion with Novak after the screening, and helped guide her through the party also, making sure I had a moment with her for Camp David. He warned me ahead of time (knowing me as he did) not to bring up the THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLAIRE, as she would have cut me off before I started. I was very aware she felt the film was a mistake yet for me it will remain a highpoint in her post-PICNIC career in a camp sort of way. I regret she would not reexamine LYLAH now that both the Director (Robert Aldrich) and its critics had passed on in one way or another. Also in attendance were Tippi Hedren and Diane Baker, Hitchcock ladies as well, and they enjoyed the evening to the fullest. Kim Novak came to see several of her films and later that week BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE was given a special evening to honor the late Lloyd Rigler who gave so much to Hollywood and the Cinematheque over the years. The balcony was closed off so Kim and her guests could watch the film in private. It was a real kick to know she was watching herself in the role that inspired “Bewitched” years later on the small screen.

A few weeks later the Cinematheque would honor the late Orson Welles with screenings of all his films and projects that remained unfinished after his death. Oja Kodar, Welles’ companion and muse made a rare appearance to raise funds to release the great man’s last film, the now legendary, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND. The amount needed is around $3 million to edit and polish the camera negative which spent most of its natural life in a bank vault in Paris, held hostage by the government of Iran since the fall of the Shah’s regime.
Ms. Kadar, still striking in her sixties, spoke of the legacy Orson Welles has left the world and how important it is to release his final film to silence once and for all the myths surrounding the Welles jinx of leaving projects unfinished. Gary Graver was also present and is responsible for the cinematography in OSOW in addition to most of the projects in Orson’s last ten years in Hollywood.

On another note, the world of DVD’s is all the richer for the release this month of three boxed sets from the UK. These sets of classic television begin with DANGER MAN, the rarely-seen first season of Patrick McGoohan’s SECRET AGENT and remains a cult favorite with this beautiful transfer of five volumes of episodes never seen stateside before. This set is followed by the release of RANDALL & HOPKIRK! (deceased) or MY PARTNER THE GHOST as it was known in the states a few seasons ago. This show has all the charm of TOPPER and the glamour of THE AVENGERS. The first thirteen episodes are included in the deluxe-boxed edition. The final set is equally charming with Roger Moore and Tony Curtis as reluctant secret agents and lady-killers in THE PERSUADERS, filmed in the most exotic parts of Europe. Basil Dearden directs the pilot with a knowing hand, setting the pace for what is to follow. One can see a future James Bond in the making with this early foray into secret agents and beautiful spies. All of these boxed sets are magnificently transferred, looking and sounding as though they were made yesterday instead of three decades ago. My special thanks to my own Miss Lemon (Suzanne Dobson) for making these amazing editions available for CAMP DAVID to enjoy.

Speaking of secret agents and things mysterious, the master of all detectives, the great Sherlock Holmes, is now available in the guise of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce from MPI. All of the films the famous pair made during the war are now remastered for connoisseurs to enjoy once again. The first two films made at Fox are also coming out from MPI this year. Hugh Hefner has made it possible for these films to be cleaned up for the first time in years looking much like they did in theaters in the Forties. A special thanks must also go to Richard Valley, Editor of Scarlet Street magazine for his well-informed and fascinating liner notes that are included in the boxed editions of the three volumes of the great detective. If the brilliant interpretation of Jeremy Brett has your attention from MYSTERY a few seasons ago, then you must see where it all began for those of us raised on television in the Fifties and Sixties when Sherlock Holmes meant Basil Rathbone, period!!!

I had hoped to give a first-hand account of Raquel Welch’s appearance at the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) to kick off the release to DVD of such classics as MYRA BRECKENRIDGE and ONE MILLION YEARS B.C.

The Director of MYRA, Michael Sarne, was in person to screen the film that ended his career along with Welch, whose career survived it. Alas, the event was sold out even to CAMP DAVID. The irony of this is twofold: 1) I championed MYRA BRECKENRIDGE to the extent of committing an interview with Sarne to videotape in my long out-of-print edition of CULT PEOPLE – a half-hour of Michael discussing not only MYRA but his other masterpiece, JOANNA. 2) Sarne always promised if he got an opportunity to sit down with an audience and plead his case, I would be there. Unfortunately this was not to be.

In the next CAMP DAVID this correspondent hopes to fill you in on what transpired on what must have been a most entertaining evening.

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