The wide eyes and cool smile of actress/model Phyllis Kirk graced many a magazine cover before she made her film debut in 1950. While her deep, sultry voice precluded most of the typical ingénue roles, Kirk nonetheless achieved film fame as a woman in peril, in André De Toth's 1953 3-D horror classic House of Wax.
Born Phyllis Kirkegaard in Plainfield, NJ, on September 18, 1926, Kirk shortened her name after moving to the Big Apple during her teens to formally train as a thespian. She officially launched her career with a series of supporting turns on Broadway, then migrated to Hollywood in the early '50s, where she landed parts in such films as Johnny Concho (1956, opposite Frank Sinatra) and The Sad Sack (1957, opposite Jerry Lewis). During the '50s, Kirk appeared on television semi-frequently as well, guest-starring in dozens of live and prerecorded anthology series, and briefly appearing as Red Buttons' wife on the comedian's weekly variety series, The Red Buttons Show.
From 1957 through 1959, Kirk starred as the inquisitive Nora Charles on the TV version of The Thin Man (Peter Lawford played her detective hubby Nick Charles). After 1960, Kirk concentrated on stage acting, but devoted the preponderance of her time to various social causes, such as establishing two inner-city preschools in south Los Angeles after the Watts riots. Kirk continued to crop up on television, however, as a celebrity contestant on such quiz shows as To Tell the Truth and Password. In 1965, she hosted an erudite ABC daytime talk show, The Young Set. A hip injury obliged Phyllis Kirk to curtail her acting career; she married a former CBS news executive and turned to the production end of the business, as a public-relations liaison for several TV specials of the 1970s.
Following two decades of big- and small-screen inactivity, 79-year-old Phyllis Kirk died of a post-cerebral aneurysm at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA, on October 19, 2006.