Kim Novak, the latest of the major stars of the big screen to appear on "Falcon Crest," isn't sure whether she wants to return next season after appearing in 18 episodes of the prime-time soap opera.
The 54-year-old Novak, a screen goddess of the 1950s, had never appeared in a television series before and had worked only occasionally since the mid-1970s. So when the offer came from CBS she was intrigued.
"The producers asked me to be on the show but they were very flexible about what kind of character I would play," she says. "They were fans of 'Vertigo' and suggested something along those lines. That hit home because that was my favorite movie."
Novak starred with James Stewart in the Alfred Hitchcock movie in 1958. The same year she teamed up with Stewart again, this time as a witch, for "Bell, Book and Candle."
Novak, who last appeared two years ago in the TV movie "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," followed such screen stars as Gina Lollobrigida, Lana Turner and Cliff Robertson in taking temporary assignments on "Falcon Crest," which stars Oscar-winner Jane Wyman.
Novak plays a woman on the run after witnessing a mob murder back East. She is forced into an alliance with Richard Channing (David Selby) to destroy Angela Channing (Wyman).
The actress has completed her commitment to "Falcon Crest," except for returning for the cliffhanger at the season's end.
"I'm not on every week, but I still never intended to do this many episodes," she explains. "I was supposed to do 10, but I ended up doing 18. I had to have time off, so I arranged to be at the other end of a phone. My life style is too important to give up. I'd never done a series before because every time they talked to you, you'd have to figure on five years.
"There was no way I could do that. So this arrangement works out for me. I can get home to Carmel or Oregon every week. It turned out to be a nicer experience than I had anticipated."
Novak isn't certain, however, whether she will return next season. "I may do a few but I really have to finish my book," she says.
She is writing an autobiography, tentatively titled "Through My Eyes," that probably will end up in two parts.
"They want to zero in on my Hollywood years," she says. "I believe my life after leaving Hollywood in the late 1960s, and my husband and animals, is a book in itself.
"Writing has always been my love. I've loved to write since I was a child. So it's a joy to do the thing I love."
Novak is married to Robert Malloy, a veterinarian in Carmel who specializes in horses. They also have a ranch near Crater Lake in Oregon.
"We raise llamas in Carmel," she says. "They're very mellow and relaxed. We like to take them backpacking. Most of my husband's work is out in the field, which he loves and I love. He's out in his truck going from ranch to ranch. Sometimes I go with him."
Novak left Hollywood after she lost her Bel Air house in a mud slide. "That gave me the push I needed," she says. At the time, her marriage to actor Richard Johnson was breaking up.
"I'd stopped making films," she says. "I didn't decide to never work again but I did need to pull away and get a better perspective to my life. I did come back to do 'Kiss Me Stupid' and 'The Great Bank Robbery.' But for the most part I wasn't interested in working for a long, long time."
At one time Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, kept Novak on contract as a threat to Rita Hayworth. She starred in such films as "Picnic," "The Man With the Golden Arm," "Jeanne Eagels," "Pal Joey" and "The Notorious Landlady."
Along the way she was linked romantically to Aly Khan, Rafael Trujillo Jr., Frank Sinatra and others.
One of her last theatrical films was "The Mirror Crack'd," in which she played a movie star. She also did a TV movie called "The Third Girl From the Left."
Novak says she has plenty of offers for movies and TV shows, but is declining for the time being. "My priorities are home first," she says. "But it's also good to get away once in a while and do something."