The more famous of the Novak sisters, Jane, starred in a number of movies opposite the biggest male lead actors of the early 1900s. She amassed an impressive array of roles at a time when sound was first being incorporated into movies. When “talkies” became more prevalent, her career faded away, along with much of the money she made from her time as a star. She continued to get small roles until she was nearly sixty and then stayed out of the limelight for another thirty years until her death.
THE EARLY YEARS
Jane Novak was born on January 12, 1896, and grew up in the city of St. Louis. She attended Notre Dame convent where her interest in acting was first stimulated. She performed in a St. Louis acting group for a short time before heading off for Hollywood. In fact, legend has it that her career actually took off when a director saw her photo on the make-up table of her famous aunt, actress Anne Seymour.
Jane wasted little time getting to California and was given a contract by the Kalem Company when she was only a teenager. That contract gave her the green light to appear in a number of films, which mainly included low-budget silent films. The pay wasn’t much—only about ten dollars a week—and the allure of being a “broke” Hollywood star quickly faded. That’s when she transferred to the Vitagraph Production Company, where she was able to make more money by appearing in bigger productions with bigger co-stars.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
Novak’s new employer placed her in films that generally cast her as the rugged, western-style heroine. She starred with acting legend William S. Hurt in a number of popular films around 1920. Over the next decade, she appeared in nearly forty films, which won her critical praise and a legion of fans.
During the 1920s, Jane also made a small fortune by investing her acting money wisely. She lived the life of the young, rich, and famous until the stock
market crash wiped out most of her net worth. The advent of movies with sound further knocked her career off track during the 1930s. She appeared in only two films in the 1930s and only a few more in the 1940s.
Novak died in 1990 at the age of ninety-four, largely forgotten by most movie fans despite appearing in ninety-two films.
*She was a niece, by marriage, of actress Anne Seymour.
*She published a cookbook in 1974 titled Treasury of Chicken Cookery.
*Her sister Eva appeared in 119 movies but is generally regarded as less of a movie star than Jane.