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Kim Novak offers perspectives on ‘Vertigo’

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Kim Novak, pictured with Matthew McConaughey at the Oscars ceremony in 2014, will talk about “Vertigo” when the San Francisco Symphony plays the score, accompanying the film’s screening at Davies Symphony Hall. (Courtesy John Shearer/Invision/AP)

Legend is a gift that keeps giving and that’s just fine with Kim Novak. The legendary film star returns to The City this weekend to celebrate her work and that of legendary director Alfred Hitchcock with two screenings of “Vertigo” at Davies Hall.

“I guess what I like most is that I am still around to have it appreciated,” says Novak in her trademark dusky tones. “I only wish that Hitch were still around to know how much the film is appreciated.”

She’s referring to the fact that when it premiered here in 1958 at the Stage Door Theater (now Ruby Skye), “Vertigo” received mixed reviews and recouped only slightly more than its production costs during its initial general release.

History has been kinder to the film. It was among the first entries to the National Film Registry in 1989 and it regularly appears on “best film” lists. That makes total sense to Novak, who has seen it countless times and still makes discoveries.

“There are things that you can’t possibly get the first time or even second time,” she says of the work that is a cornerstone of her career. “The music alone has so many nuances that should be picked up on.”

The Chicago-native who fought Columbia Pictures to keep her Czech name rather than become Kit Marlowe (they settled on Kim Novak) will appear onstage at Davies for pre-screening interviews. Then she and the audience will have the chance to listen very closely as the San Francisco Symphony performs Bernard Herrmann’s landmark score while the film plays.

She attended a similar event with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. “I didn’t get to see the whole film but, wow, it was so dynamic. I mean, the hair on my arms stood up. This time I’m going to stay for the whole movie because I especially want to see the love scene at the end with the orchestra playing. I just think that’s going to be amazing.”

Set in San Francisco, “Vertigo” has inspired the renaming of the former Empire/York Hotel on Sutter Street. Various “Vertigo” and Hitchcock tours (“The Birds” begins in a San Francisco birdshop) showcase local film locations or inspirations — at Mission Dolores, Nob Hill, Buena Vista Park, the Argonaut Book Shop and, of course, Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge where Novak and co-star James Stewart took their famous plunge into the Bay.

Novak, who turns 83 on Saturday, won’t be taking that tour. “It’d be nice in a way to revisit some of that, but I’m not one to look back much.”

Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. (interview); 8 p.m. (screening) Feb. 12-13
Tickets: $62 to $160
Contact: (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org