'Vertigo' Star Kim Novak Slams 'The Artist' Over Music

Email a Friend

Kim Novak accused the French makers of the Oscar-tipped silent film "The Artist" of "rape" Monday for using sections of Bernard Herrmann’s love theme from "Vertigo" in its score.

The 78-year-old star of "Vertigo," the 1958 Alfred Hitchock thriller, took out a full-page ad in Monday’s edition of Variety, in which she criticizes the relatively small mention the music receives in the credits to "The Artist." The ad begins: “I want to report a rape. I feel as if my body—or, at least my body of work—has been violated by the movie, 'The Artist.'

"The film could and should have been able to stand on its own without depending on Bernard Herrmann’s score from Alfred Hitchcock’s 'Vertigo' to provide it more drama... In my opinion, the combined efforts of the composer, director, Jimmy Stewart and myself were all violated."

Of the group she mentioned, Novak is the only living person from "Vertigo" and thus “the only one who can speak now.” Novak called the creative decision "cheating," adding, "Shame on them!"

In response, “The Artist’s” director Michel Hazanavicius released a statement that read:

"'The Artist' was made as a love letter to cinema, and grew out of my (and all of my cast and crew’s) admiration and respect for movies throughout history.  It was inspired by the work of Hitchcock, Lang, Ford, Lubitsch, Murnau and Wilder. I love Bernard Herrmann and his music has been used in many different films and I’m very pleased to have it in mine. I respect Kim Novak greatly and I’m sorry to hear she disagrees."

The news was first reported in the Hollywood Reporter on Monday.

David Garland, host of WQXR's Movies on the Radio, noted that the music Hazanavicius used in "The Artist" was "one of Herrmann's best, most important cues from an iconic classic of cinema." He questioned the use of a 1958 score in a 1920's period drama. "Maybe they felt the Herrmann sounded 'old Hollywood,' but that's just ignorant. To me it's vividly a late '50s film score, evoking the wrong period for 'The Artist.'"

"The Artist” is a black-and-white throwback to early Hollywood that is up for a clutch of prizes in Hollywood's current awards season. As one Hollywood news web site suggested, it remains to be seen whether Novak has jeopardized her status as an Oscar voter, and violated any rules “by publicly maligning a movie that is a frontrunner for Best Picture."

Perhaps it wouldn't be an Oscar season without a controversy about one of the awards categories. In 2008, Jonny Greenwood's score for "There Will Be Blood" wasn't nominated for a Best Original Score Oscar because he had reworked some of it from a BBC-commissioned piece called "Popcorn Superhet Receiver," and thrown in passages from Brahms and Arvo Part as well.

Weigh in: What do you think of Kim Novak's claims?