Phyllis Kirk

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Phyllis Kirk
Kirk in 1955
Phyllis Kirkegaard

(1927-09-18)September 18, 1927
DiedOctober 19, 2006(2006-10-19) (aged 79)
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Years active1949–1970
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Warren Bush
(m. 1966/1967; died 1991)

Phyllis Kirk (born Phyllis Kirkgaard or Kirkegaard;[1] September 18, 1927 – October 19, 2006)[2] was an American actress.

Early life[edit]

Kirk was born in Syracuse, New York,[3] although some sources state her birthplace as Plainfield, New Jersey. She contracted polio as a child, which resulted in health problems for the rest of her life.[4] Kirk grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey and graduated from Battin High School in 1945.[1]


As a teenager, Kirk moved to New York City to study acting and changed her last name from Kirkegaard to Kirk. She began her career on Broadway before embarking on a television and film career.[5] Among 1949 stage appearances were My Name is Aquilon in New York and the road company of Present Laughter before beginning her long-term contract with Samuel Goldwyn in Hollywood that summer.[6]

Kirk as Nora Charles with Peter Lawford in The Thin Man television series, 1957

Kirk is best known for her many roles throughout the 1950s. In Two Weeks With Love, she sang and danced with Jane Powell, Richardo Montalban and Debbie Reynolds (1950). She appeared with Vincent Price in the 3D horror film House of Wax (1953), the first major 3D movie. She co-starred as Frank Sinatra's love interest in the western he produced, Johnny Concho (1956).[7] She replaced Gloria Vanderbilt in the role a week before filming began.[8]

Her most notable television role was opposite Peter Lawford in The Thin Man (1957–1959), wherein they played Nick and Nora Charles. A newspaper columnist described what distinguished Kirk's role in the program: "[I]t's her brains that keep her flying high on 'The Thin Man' series."[9] She also received an Emmy nomination as Best Actress in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series in 1959.[10]

She also appeared with Jerry Lewis in his 1957 film The Sad Sack and the 1956 film Back from Eternity. Kirk was a regular on The Red Buttons Show and appeared as a guest on some television programs, including an episode of The Twilight Zone ("A World of His Own"). As her acting career slowed down, Kirk began serving as an activist for various social causes. She vocally opposed death row inmate Caryl Chessman's death sentence and visited Chessman in prison until his execution in 1960. After the Watts Riots in 1965, she funded preschool programs for underprivileged families in South Los Angeles.[5]

She granted interviews and wrote for the American Civil Liberties Union newspaper. Kirk made her last onscreen appearance in a 1970 episode of The F.B.I. before leaving show business altogether to enter public relations. She worked as a publicist for CBS News, and retired in 1992.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Kirk's marriage to television producer and screenwriter Warren Bush was announced in the press in early 1967,[12] and lasted until his death in 1991 at the age of 65.[13][11] A Democrat, she attended the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, California.[14]

On October 19, 2006, Kirk died of a cerebral aneurysm at age 79 in Woodland Hills, California.[15] She was buried with her husband Warren Bush at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.[16]



L-R: Dennis O'Keefe, Phyllis Kirk, and Lloyd Bridges in an episode of TV's Climax! (1955)
Year Title Role Notes
1950 Our Very Own Zaza
A Life of Her Own Jerry
Two Weeks with Love Valerie Stresemann
Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone Kay
1951 Three Guys Named Mike Kathy Hunter
1952 Just This Once Young Lover on Ferry Uncredited
About Face Alice Wheatley
She's Working Her Way Through College Co-ed Uncredited
The Iron Mistress Ursula de Varamendi
Stop, You're Killing Me Nurse Uncredited
1953 House of Wax Sue Allen
Crime Wave Ellen Lacey
Thunder Over the Plains Norah Porter
1954 River Beat Judy Roberts
1955 Canyon Crossroads Katherine Rand
1956 Johnny Concho Mary Dark
Back from Eternity Louise Melhorn
1957 That Woman Opposite Eve Atwood
The Sad Sack Major Shelton


Year Title Role Notes
1952 The Philco Television Playhouse Dolly 1 episode
1952 Tales of Tomorrow Irene Chappell 1 episode
1952–1956 Studio One Various Characters 4 episodes
1953 World by the Tail TV movie
1953 Armstrong Circle Theatre 1 episode
1953 The United States Steel Hour Betty Lou 1 episode
1953–1954 Lux Video Theatre 2 episodes
1953–1954 Goodyear Television Playhouse Girl 3 episodes
1953–1954 The Web Meg Loomis 2 episodes
1953–1957 Robert Montgomery Presents Various Characters 4 episodes
1954 Suspense 1 episode
1954 Your Show of Shows 1 episode
1954 Justice 1 episode
1955 Appointment with Adventure (CBS anthology series), 1 episode
1955 Playwrights '56 Girl Friend 1 episode
1955 Letter to Loretta Jess Blackston 1 episode
1955 The Red Buttons Show Various Characters Unknown episodes
1955–1956 Climax! Various Characters 3 episodes
1956 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Barbara Hunter 1 episode
1956 Celebrity Playhouse Laurie Westbrook 2 episodes
1956 Playhouse 90 Nancy Tennant 1 episode
1956–1957 The Ford Television Theatre Various Characters 4 episodes
1957 The Errol Flynn Theatre 2 episodes
1957 The 20th Century Fox Hour Barbara Sherwood 1 episode
1957–1959 The Thin Man Nora Charles 72 episodes
1958 The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford Herself 1 episode
1960 Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater Ann Bagley 1 episode
1960 The Twilight Zone Victoria West Episode: "A World of His Own"
1970 The F.B.I. Nora Tobin 1 episode, (final appearance)

Award nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Series Result
1959 Emmy Award Best Actress in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series The Thin Man Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Murray's Niece Appears in Film", Courier News, October 25, 1950. Accessed February 9, 2022, via "A niece of Police Capt. and Mrs. Patrick J. Murray. 7 Jefferson Ave., appears in the motion picture Our Very Own, now showing at the Strand Theater. She is Phyllis Kirk, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Kirkgaard of Elizabeth, a graduate of Battin High School in Elizabeth, and a former Conover model."
  2. ^ "Phyllis Kirk: 1927 - 2006 'House of Wax,' 'Thin Man' star". October 23, 2006. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
  3. ^ Weaver, Tom (2001). I was a Monster Movie Maker: Conversations with 22 SF and Horror Filmmakers. McFarland. p. 122. ISBN 0-7864-1000-0.
  4. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 395. ISBN 1-55783-551-9.
  5. ^ a b "'House of Wax' actress Kirk dies at 79". October 22, 2006. Retrieved November 4, 2008.
  6. ^ "Goldwyn Contract for Theatre Ingenue." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 23 May 1949.
  7. ^ "Phyllis Kirk Obituary - Death Notice and Service Information". Associated Press via October 22, 2006. Retrieved March 26, 2024.
  8. ^ "AFI|Catalog". Retrieved March 26, 2024.
  9. ^ Scott, Vernon (April 24, 1959). "Phylliss Kirk's Brain Power Keeps Her Flying on Series". The Daily Inter Lake. p. 10. Retrieved April 13, 2015 – via Open access icon
  10. ^ "Phyllis Kirk". Television Academy. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  11. ^ a b Vallance, Tom (October 23, 2006). "Phyllis Kirk". The Independent (London). p. 2. Retrieved November 4, 2008. [dead link]
  12. ^ Wilson, Earl. "A Bachelor Girl is Wed." Lubbock (TX) Avalanche-Journal, 6 January 1967.
  13. ^ "Warren Bush; TV Producer, Writer". Los Angeles Times. May 1, 1991. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  14. ^ 1960 Democratic Convention Los Angeles Committee for the Arts on YouTube
  15. ^ "'House of Wax' actress Phyllis Kirk dead". October 23, 2006. Retrieved November 4, 2008.
  16. ^ "Burial detail: Bush, Warren V". ANC Explorer. Retrieved March 25, 2023.

External links[edit]