'House of Wax' Actress Dies at 79

EntertainmentDeathTelevisionCelebritiesMoviesMGM Inc.Red Buttons

Phyllis Kirk, who tried to escape a psycho wax sculptor in the original big-screen version of "House of Wax," has died at the age of 79.

The actress passed away Thursday, Oct. 19 of complications from a post-cerebral aneurysm at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif., report news sources.

Born in 1929, Phyllis Kirkegaard grew up in New York where she studied with acting instructor Sanford Meisner and had a stage career. She debuted in film with "Our Very Own" in 1950 as a contract player for MGM. With them, she also appeared in "A Life of Her Own," "Two Weeks With Love" and "A Guy Named Mike."

After MGM failed to renew her contract, she switched to Warner Bros., where she filmed "About Face," "The Iron Mistress," "Thunder Over the Plains," "Crime Wave" and "House of Wax," a role she initially resisted since she "was not interested in becoming the Fay Wray of her time." The film, starring Vincent Price as a killer who makes wax statues of his victims, is one of the most well-known 3-D films to this day.

Her other film credits include "River Beat," "Johnny Concho," "Back From Eternity" and "The Sad Sack."

Kirk also made a mark on the small screen with an Emmy-nominated performance in "The Thin Man" series. She and Peter Lawford played the sleuthing couple Nick and Nora Charles based on characters by Dashiell Hammett and made popular by William Powell and Myrna Loy for film. Kirk's other TV credits include appearances on "Your Show of Shows," "The Loretta Young Show," "The Red Buttons Shows," "Studio One," "Robert Montgomery Presents," "The Twilight Zone" and "The F.B.I."

She was also an activist, campaigning against capital punishment in the late 1950s and funding preschool programs in the Watts area after the 1965 riots. Later in her career she became a celebrity contestant on game shows and then did public relations for CBS.

She is survived by a sister, Megan Kirk Flax, two stepdaughters and a step-granddaughter. Her cremated remains will be interred next to those of her late husband, television producer Warren Bush, at Arlington National Cemetery.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading