Phyllis Kirk, who played the raven-haired beauty stalked by Vincent Price in the 1950s horror film “House of Wax,” died of a post cerebral aneurysm Oct. 19 in Woodland Hills, Calif. She was 79.
Born Phyllis Kirkegaard in Plainfield, N.J., she moved to New York City in her late teens to study acting and shortened her last name to Kirk. She appeared in several Broadway plays before moving to Hollywood, where she co-starred with such leading men as Frank Sinatra (“Johnny Concho”) and Jerry Lewis (“The Sad Sack”).
She gained the most attention for her role in “House of Wax” because it was the first major 3-D movie.
Kirk later worked in television, memorably playing Peter Lawford’s wife in the series “The Thin Man.” She was also a regular on “The Red Buttons Show” and hosted the ABC talk show “The Young Set.”
Her acting career slowed down by the late 1950s and she turned her focus to social causes.
She spoke out against the death sentence of convicted murderer Caryl Chessman, whom police nicknamed the “Red Light Bandit.” Kirk visited Chessman several times in prison until he was executed in 1960.
After the 1965 Watts race riots, she helped fund two preschool programs for poor families in the South Los Angeles neighborhood. She later launched a career in public relations.