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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - 12:26 PM

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?


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Comments [20]

Roland Johnson

In reference to the comment above about the DVD shipping with Bource's music the SAG screeners mailed to SAG members before the SAG awards had the Bernard Herrmann track on them.

Feb. 26 2012 12:01 AM

Please can someone tell me which scene in The Artist uses the Vertigo score? Many thanks.

Feb. 10 2012 01:32 PM
Robert Lafayette, Ph.D. from Lower East Side, Manhattan

Aw shucks, c'mon.

QUOTE: Hang on there, James Klosty and MichaelB. I saw the movie and sat through the credits, and though the type was smaller than I would have preferred and the crawl was quick-paced, Bernard Hermann was, most certainly, credited, as were some other composers whose music was used in the film. If other fouls were committed, lack of attribution to Hermann wasn't one of them.UNQUOTE-Jeff Spurgeon

The film "The Artist" is a great tribute to cinema.

The music was terrific and the use of Pennies From Heaven (also not of the Nineteen Twenties era) also was a terrific insertion.

Go see the film, have fun.

And, though I greatly disagree with her assessment, Ms Novack is entitled to her feelings. I have compassion for Ms Novack.

But don't let that stop you from seeing the movie. The Artist: Try it you'll like it! (Attributed to an ad for which product I can not recall, but please don't sue me!!!)

Jan. 29 2012 05:41 PM

For all "The Artist's" originality, an original musical score would be expected. And you're French??? Go for it, Kim. (For anyone who descended those steps like you did in "Picnic", well....whatever you say is ok by me.)

Jan. 12 2012 07:03 PM
David Garland

As I understand it, the producers of "The Artist" received appropriate legal permission to use Herrmann's music, and when I viewed the film I looked for and saw Herrmann's acknowledgment in the end credits. The issue here isn't piracy. It's just an artistic blunder. Herrmann's music is so well-known and so closely associated with "Vertigo," that its use in "The Artist" is jarring.

During the editing process, most films are given a "temp track," a temporary soundtrack culled from preexisting recordings. I've seen it reported that the climactic scene of "The Artist" was indeed temp tracked with Herrmann's Scene d'Amour from "Vertigo." This was used in the commercial release of the film because for one reason or another it was preferred to the music composer Ludovic Bource was able to offer. Interestingly, you can hear his music for the scene, clearly modeled on Herrmann's famous "Vertigo" Scene d'Amour, here:

Even though Bource's music is overly imitative (and, to be fair, Herrmann was kind of imitating Wagner, anyway), and not as powerful and rich as Herrmann's cue, I'd prefer to see the film with Bource's music in place. And that's apparently the way it will be on the DVD release of "The Artist."

Jan. 12 2012 02:59 PM
barry milliken from nyc

No one is asking the crucial question.
Did Artist buy a license for use of the music or not??

Jan. 12 2012 10:29 AM
Carol from Manhattan

I'm disappointed that the movie had to "borrow" another movie's music. Shame. Couldn't something have been written for it? Aren't there young as well as established composers out there? Bravo, Ms. Novak. There's room for others to create new things....hello Broadway, are you, too, listening????

Jan. 12 2012 09:38 AM

I honor Miss Novack's body of work and her opinions.
She starred in the film "Vertigo". She is an articulate woman
and a U.S. citizen, is she not?
I believe her choice of words and her decision to publish them is her constitutional right. Only Miss Novack knows exactly how she feels and 'she put her money where her mouth is' as the saying goes.
Good for you, Kim.

Jan. 12 2012 09:20 AM

Making a silent film, a modern one,by action ,is paying homage and attribution to creative and brillient talents of the past, as The Artist is a musical montage - befittingly made with creative licence- is neither raping nor bastardizing any sacred scenes from films.

Jan. 12 2012 02:49 AM
Marie from Wanamassa, NJ

If Ms. Novak is distressed about the use, or, in her opinion, the misuse, of Bernard Hermann's music, good for her on speaking up and lucky her for having the means to squander a considerable amount of money proclaiming her displeasure.

However, it is wildly inappropriate to use the word 'rape' in reference to the issue. Such ridiculous hyperbole is especially offensive to anyone who has been the victim of a sexual assault.

Let's keep things in perspective. It is a MOVIE, for heaven's sake.

Jan. 12 2012 01:19 AM
James Klosty from Millbrook, NY

I am glad to be proven wrong by Mr. Spurgeon... in fact, at least, if not in spirit. All I can say is I watched the credits roll to the end, hoping to see the score and composer credited and missed it entirely even though I was specifically looking for it. My movie partner did not see it either so it must have been an exceedingly small font! Perhaps an expression of the production team's embarrassment or guilt? I suppose there's no point in speculating about such things. Nonetheless, motivations aside, it was a disturbingly ungenerous gesture in a movie otherwise filled with delights.

Jan. 11 2012 10:37 PM

To me it was not a matter of theft, giving credit or copyright, I'm certain the filmmakers followed all the rules. Why wouldn't they?

The point is, the music took me out of the film. "Why are they playing the Vertigo music here", I thought. It was too recognizable to work for me, in a film I otherwise thoroughly enjoyed!

Elliott Forrest

Jan. 11 2012 04:31 PM
Ben Robinson from New York City

Theft is theft. While Ms. Novak may have a real charge here, little will be done about it. In the cyber-digital age, content is king, but piracy is the #1 deterrent to creative artists because it saps creativity without recompense. Hence, I feel she is very right to explain her feelings, but, it is sad she will be largely laughed at as "old school" while The Artist basks in the attention. The only way to defend against such thievery (if it is indeed the case) is to sic some lawyers on the property and ask it be removed from circulation until this is resolved.

Jan. 11 2012 03:33 PM
Joe Longo from Los Angeles, California

Rape may be a strong word, but Bernard Hermann's music did not fit in "The Artist." It destroyed the mood that the director was trying to create. I did not see the point in including a musical theme from a 1950s movie in a movie that was trying to evoke the 1920s. It didn't even fit the scene it was over. (Even if you weren't aware of where the music was from it still didn't fit.) It stood out like a black eye. I kept saying to myself while the music was playing: What does "Vertigo" have to do with what is happening on the screen? What is the director trying to accomplish? What he did accomplish is to take me out of his movie and evoke the images and mood of "Vertigo" in my mind. I enjoyed "The Artist," but the "Vertigo" music was an inappropriate choice.

Jan. 11 2012 12:37 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

As I tried to make clear in my earlier comment, not having seen the film, as far as anything I wrote that would require actually seeing the film, I addressed my points only within an conceptual & hypothetical context.

But thanks Mr. Spurgeon, for setting the record straight as far as the facts are concerned. Once in a while, facts DO matter!

BTW, the idea that Ms. Novak -- one of the last of the old-guard Hollywood "royalty" -- might have "jeopardized her status as an Oscar voter, and violated any [Academy] rules" would be laughable if it weren't so hypocritical, especially in light of the Supreme Court proceedings yesterday, where the question of obscenity in broadcast media (TV & Radio) was argued, and with Hollywood coming down on the predictable side -- 100% free speech (including vulgarities), with no limits whatsoever.

Jan. 11 2012 10:50 AM
Jeff Spurgeon

Hang on there, James Klosty and MichaelB. I saw the movie and sat through the credits, and though the type was smaller than I would have preferred and the crawl was quick-paced, Bernard Hermann was, most certainly, credited, as were some other composers whose music was used in the film. If other fouls were committed, lack of attribution to Hermann wasn't one of them.

Jan. 11 2012 09:49 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

There are several issues here, and we shouldn't conflate them.

Let me say at the outset that I haven't seen the film yet, although it's been on my "to-see" list (actually, it's the only one on the list) since I heard the director interviewed by Mr. Lopate several weeks ago.

One issue is the aesthetic one: using an iconic score from the 1950's in a movie ostensibly set in the 1920's. Again, not having seen the film, but I could imagine that that would be quite off-putting if not downright jarring (with apologies to Maurice Jarre.) But that is an aesthetic decision, and it is precisely this type of incongruous that I had thought the director was saying he DIDN'T appreciate in other period-piece films (and which always ruin a movie for me) and it was that expressed sensibility that interested me about "The Artist."

The second issue is the lack of attribution & acknowledgement given to Hermann and the movie Vertigo. If, as some others have commented, the Hermann music loaned that much impact to "The Artist", the creators of the film are seriously wanting in that regard. There is no excuse for not giving credit. (Not to mention the desirable education of the viewing public.)

The other issues it seems to me are Ms. Novak's use of the word "rape" and as one commenter said whether she has any "standing" to criticize those responsible for "The Artist." I think the use of the word is hyperbole and over-the-top. She has raped the meaning of "rape."

But aside from that, I feel she has AT LEAST, as much right to criticize what the creators of "The Artist" have done as much as you or I. And given that, I can fully understand her pride at being connected to "Vertigo", a true cinematic masterpiece in all aspects, and to my mind, her best work.

I cannot say if I agree with the aesthetic criticism leveled against the film until I actually see it -- I suspect I WILL sympathize with the critics if not more -- but I can certainly understand the critic's complaint conceptually.

Jan. 11 2012 09:20 AM
James Klosty from Millbrook, NY

I would like to second Ms. Novack's quite understandable distress and strongly disagree with Frank from UWS. I was literally shocked when the cue of the Hermann music began. And then it went on and on... at considerable length imparting to the sequence an emotional heft it would not otherwise have had. I suppose It could be thought and - hopefully - was surely intended as a sort of homage within an homage.. Nonetheless it was jarring to say the least since it emanates from an entirely different period of movie history than the rest of The Artist. Weird, in a word. I made a point of sitting through all the credits to make sure it received proper credit but I could find no reference to Hermann or Vertigo at all. If it was there, it was certainly dishonorably minimal.

Jan. 10 2012 04:55 PM
Suzanne from New York

The worst part of this is her gratuitous and insensitive use of the word "rape." Also, she is not the composer. Perhaps he would have felt flattered by the use of this music in a work that is so clearly an homage to the silent classics (much like the use of actual silent movie clips in"Hugo."

Jan. 10 2012 03:00 PM
Frank from UWS

I didn't hear this cue that Ms. Novack is referring to but it seems like a rather minor issue to merit a full-page ad in Variety. Isn't film scoring all about borrowing anyway?

Jan. 10 2012 01:38 PM

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