The older and more successful of the two Novak sisters (Eva Novak also appeared in films), Jane Novak became known as the strong outdoorsy type and was often cast in Northwest melodramas. A niece, by marriage, of actress Anne Seymour, Novak was awarded a contract by the Kalem company in 1913, mainly because she resembled "a blonde Alice Joyce." Earning ten dollars a week for her services, Novak appeared in a couple of rough-and-tumble one-reelers before switching to the more prominent Vitagraph company, where she was awarded a well-deserved raise and starring roles opposite the likes of Jack Mower, William Duncan, and Western favorite Myrtle Gonzales.
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She did several comedies for novice producer Hal Roach opposite a very young Harold Lloyd (Willie's Haircut) , Just Nuts , etc.) and cowboy actor Roy Stewart, but became a star opposite William S. Hart in five top-notch Westerns between 1918 and 1921. Persistent rumors teamed the two in private life as well and Novak divorced her husband, actor Frank Newburg. Hart, however, married another of his leading ladies, Winifred Westover, and the association with Novak came to an abrupt halt.
Now firmly established as a Western heroine, Novack also appeared opposite Tom Mix (The Coming of the Law ) and Monroe Salisbury (the still extant The Barbarian )) and headlined several independent productions set either in Alaska or the Canadian wilderness (The Trail's End , The Snowshoe Trail , The Lure of the Wild ). She scored a personal triumph in the society melodrama Thelma (1922) as a Norwegian peasant girl falling for a British aristocrat and earned equally fine reviews for The Lullaby (1925) as a wrongly convicted girl whose child is taken from her in prison. Making three films in the U.K. in 1925, she met future director Alfred Hitchock, who became a lifelong friend (she would later play a small role in his second Hollywood film Foreign Correspondent ), but then concentrated mainly on raising her daughter with Newburg.
From 1936, Novak was among scores of former silent stars offered bit parts and extra work in major studio films and she would pop up in many (mostly) unbilled bit roles through at least 1954. In 1989, she was one of the celebrities interviewed for the documentary Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius. She died of a stroke at the Motion Picture Country Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA, less than a year later. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi