Hitchcock Blonde: Kim Novak comes to the Castro
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Hollywood legend Kim Novak will appear at the Castro Theatre on Sunday, May 20, for "A Tribute to Living Legend Kim Novak." The evening will include a screening of one of her most iconic films, Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo." This haunting tale of madness and deception was filmed 60 years ago on location in a San Francisco that no longer exists. Hitchcock's masterful eye makes the city appear spectral and ghostly as James Stewart follows Novak through iconic locales such as Nob Hill, the Mission Dolores cemetery, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, and underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. In addition to watching a mesmerizing story, viewers of "Vertigo" will see these locations as they existed decades before the tech boom took over the city. A nail-biting thriller, the film is also a journey back in time.
The show comes to the Castro courtesy of Marc Huestis, the now-retired impresario who has brought many Golden Age movie stars to the theater.
"I was very happy in my cabin, retired and writing my book, or so I thought," Huestis told the B.A.R. "Out of the blue I got a call from Kim Novak's manager asking if I wanted to do the gig. It's the 60th anniversary of 'Vertigo.'" It was not an offer that Huestis was going to turn down. "When Kim Novak's people call, you just drop everything and do it," he said. "Besides, I've always loved her and always wanted to do a tribute to her, so the Universe provided."
"I am so excited to be coming back to San Francisco and the Castro," Novak told the B.A.R., speaking from her home in the Pacific Northwest. "Who doesn't love San Francisco?"
Novak had no idea what an enduring classic "Vertigo" would become while the film was being made. "I don't think you can know something like that," she said. "It either happens or it doesn't. I don't think Hitch or Jimmy Stewart knew. I wish they knew."
Novak said that she was looking forward to watching the film on the Castro's giant screen along with the audience. "Every time I see this movie I find new things in it," she said. "This is the last time I'll see it on the big screen. There will be a lot of electricity and emotion at the theater, and I want to be a part of it."
She spoke of Hitchcock's genius in setting the stage and creating a mood. "He always brought something new to the screen," she said. "He is the magic man. Maybe because there is no finality to any questions that the film brings up in your mind, every answer brings up a new question. Every time I see the film it's a different time in my life, so I have a new question. I'll have a new question when I see it again."
Novak adored Hitchcock, but admits that there could be challenges in working with him. "He would drive you crazy," she said. "He'd frustrate you with questions, but then you'd think it through with him. Sometimes I wanted to call him a bad name, but I got along well with him. He gave me the answers I needed."
Novak, who retired from acting in the early 1990s, is now a full-time artist. She credits what she learned from Hitchcock for giving her the drive she needs to work on her paintings.
"He would cycle your mind with questions and answers," she said. "He'd drive your mind constantly with emotion and excitement. He has become part of my every painting - he has taught me his Hitchcockian ways."
Novak will not be showing any art at the Castro, but will be present for "Nosh and Mingle," a formal reception after the film. She will also appear on stage with Eddie Mueller, the curator of the Noir City festival, for a Q&A.
"He's a wonderful interviewer," she said, "a really nice man. We'll talk about 'Vertigo' and about other movies. It's fun to look back at those old movies."
We wondered, with the Novak show selling out, if Huestis might consider doing more shows in the future.
"I'm not planning to," he said. "But if Doris Day calls -"
"A Tribute to Living Legend Kim Novak" plays the Castro Theatre Sun., May 20, at 7 p.m. Ticket info: www.ticketfly.com/event/1645627-tribute-living-legend-kim-san-francisco/. That same day the Castro offers a Noon matinee of Novak's 1955 film "Picnic," the film that made her a star, free of charge.