From the moment the film industry became a burgeoning business that offered actresses an opportunity to seek fame and fortune, millions of girls across America have dreamed of making it big on screen, despite the long odds against them. And yet, among the few that have catapulted to superstardom, few did it as quickly, effortlessly, or as seemingly disinterestedly as Kim Novak. An art student in her early 20s, Novak found herself in Los Angeles by chance and appeared as an extra in a 1954 film to earn money, only to be almost immediately discovered by Columbia and turned into a star when she appeared in Picnic (1955).
Just about every actress would kill to have the success Novak had during her first decade as an actress, but after 1965, she'd decided that she was mostly through with making films, despite still being near the peak of her career. After starring in The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965), Novak only made a dozen more films over the next 26 years, and she has not appeared in a movie since Liebestraum (1991). While her decision to get out of Hollywood presents a classic what-if over where her career may have ended up had she kept going, Novak has been one of the rare stars happier to thrive outside of the spotlight, continuing to paint and raise animals while living on an Oregon ranch with her husband of nearly 40 years.