Friday, March 23, 2018

A Chat With the Creator of Dr. Phibes: William I. Goldstein

I was a shy fifteen-year-old Vincent Price fan in 1971 when I spotted the novelization of DR. PHIBES on a bookshelf at a local store. Knowing that the film was due out soon, I

My copy of the film's novelization

bought it right away. I took it with me when we visited my grandparents in Cortland, NY soon after, and read it twice, cover to cover. It had a couple 'racy' scenes (at least to a teenager), and the deaths of the doctors appealed to my horror-loving imagination. It wasn't until almost a year later that the film itself would finally arrive in town (mistitled 'DR. THIBES' in the ad). I dragged my little brother Tim along and finally got to see what the book promised.

The ad for Phibes (misspelled) at my favorite neighborhood theater

The 'racy scenes' were absent, as were some other more descriptive plot points covered in the paperback (including some vivid description of the accident Phibes survived), but I loved every moment. Then, a year later, I found the paperback adaptation of DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN at a Bellas Hess department store while on vacation in Clearwater, Florida. I read

My copy of the sequel's novelization

this book in the car on our homeward trek. When the film itself finally hit Rochester later that year, my dad took Tim and me to see it at one of Rochester's last remaining movie palaces, the Paramount.

Both of these books were written by William Goldstein, who, with James Whiton, wrote the screenplay for THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES as well as that of the original unused script for its sequel. And all the hoping in the world for additional sequels didn't result in any, alas. Both men, as it turns out, were from Troy, NY (as was Vincent Price's grandfather, the inventor of baking powder). Whiton passed away in 2016, but Goldstein has established a strong following on Facebook, where he continues to promote all things Phibes with the assistance of his son, Damon.

William I. Goldstein has written two additional Phibes books (Dr. Phibes: In the Beginning, a prequel published in 2011, and Vulnavia's Secret, published in 2013). He and Damon have also written a screenplay for a new installment of the Phibes saga that they are currently working to get off the ground.

The current Phibes library by William Goldstein

Although there have been several recent interviews with Goldstein, I wrote to him and asked if he'd mind my asking a few questions of my own for the Vincent Price Exhibit. Mr. Goldstein is a delightful correspondent. Kind, intelligent, and considerate, I wished that I could actually sit down with him to have a conversation. For the time being, this long-distance 'chat' will have to do! Enjoy!

Vincent Price Exhibit: You hail from Troy, NY, as does your Phibes co-writer James Whiton. Did you both stay in touch after leaving the area, or did you reconnect somehow to do the Phibes screenplay?

William I Goldstein: We were high school classmates, and had both headed west. Jim moved to Los Angeles and I chose San Francisco. We stayed in touch on various projects and collaborative work, including a satirical novel named the Book of the Year by Mensa, titled The Third Eye of America, and a then modern-day western movie manuscript called THE GREAT BIG FAT TRAIN ROBBERY.

William Goldstein on the cover of the 1963 book he authored with James Whiton. And a blurb about the unproduced film the pair scripted around the same time.

VPE: What were some of your favorite films as you grew up? What particular horror films influenced your writing?

WIG: My father took me to see FANTASIA, which was fantastic and a little scary too for a young lad, THE MUMMY, and then of course there was CASABLANCA, I would say those three are at the top for me.

The Troy Record, September 22, 1954

VPE: How did the Phibes idea come about? Was it always to be a screenplay, rather than a book?

WIG: Dr. Phibes came to me in a dream while I was living in San Francisco, and my immediate impression was that he had this air of certainty about him… that he was someone who could fix things. The manuscript was written as a screenplay only.

VPE: One of the doctors in the first film is named Kitaj, after a friend of yours – Ronald Kitaj. Are there any other ‘inside jokes’ to be found in the script?

Goldstein, Whiton and Kitaj (misspelled, here) The Troy Record, December 31, 1970

WIG: Well they’re really more family inside stories than jokes, adding to that particular fun tidbit is that Dr. Vesalius’ son’s character, Lem, is named after Ron Kitaj’s real-life son, Lem “Dobbs” [Kitaj], who was always playing chess with his father just as he does in the movie.

VPE: I also found a photo of you and your 1949 tennis team back in Troy that included a fellow named Dunwoody. Was he the namesake for the first victim in the Phibes film, the bat victim?

The Troy Times Record, May 14, 1949

WIG: In THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, all of Phibes' victims were Harley St. Regulars and we named them accordingly. 'Dr. Dunwoody' fit right in with that roster.

VPE: How did the idea reach American-International? Were any other studios approached or interested?

WIG: Paul Leserman, our agent at the time, had only given the script to AIP, and as it happened, the rest, as they say, is history.

VPE: Wasn’t the character originally named ‘Pibe’? How was the name arrived at and why did it change?

The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 3, 1970

WIG: Yes, THE CURSES OF DR. PIBE was the original title, but because of a slight lisp, AIP Chief, Sam Arkoff had pronounced it Phibes instead. And so ‘Phibes’ it was.

VPE: Writers often lose control of their scripts once a film company takes ownership. Was this your experience? How closely does the final film reflect your original vision of the character and plot?

WIG: The experience of seeing our work up on the big screen was shear elation as they had closely followed the script and we were especially pleased with the way the First Death Geometry (based upon The G’tach) was done – fantastic, just fantastic.

VPE: What was your experience with AIP like?

WIG: Jim Nicholson, Samuel Z. Arkoff, and AIP's chief counsel Jerry Schwartz were all very high on Dr. Phibes – the feeling was mutual.

VPE: Did you have the chance to work at all with Vincent Price? If so, how did you find him?

The Indianapolis Star, October 11, 1970

WIG: THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES was written before Vincent Price was on board but I must say that he was most engaging and enthusiastic during our contacts with him after the shoot.

VPE: How about Robert Fuest? He seems to have ‘gotten’ what Phibes was all about, never trying to conventionalize the character. You were happy with his handling of your character?

WIG: Robert Fuest had a big pallet to work with and he made the most of it. He did a great job and his directing of Vincent and company was spot on – Jim Whiton and I always felt he did our work proud, and was able to capture the essence of Phibes and make the audience [want to] identify with him.

VPE: The script for DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN is credited to Robert Fuest and Robert Blees. Early reports said that the script was originally written by James Whiton. What happened? Was the project drastically changed?

WIG: Jim Whiton and I wrote PHIBES RESURRECTUS, as the intended sequel to THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, and Robert Blees was AIP’s story editor, and one thing lead to another…

VPE: You wrote the novelization of Rises Again. Was this more closely based on the original screenplay/story? Or did you have to stick to the Fuest/Blees screenplay story?

WIG: I wrote both movie-tie in books separately – the novelizations were based on the first two manuscripts for THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES and PHIBES RESURRECTUS.

VPE: Vulnavia star Valli Kemp has stated that there were plans for an entire series of Phibes films at AIP. Were you to have been involved with those?

WIG: Yes, absolutely both Jim and I were, in fact PHIBES IN THE HOLY LAND and PHIBES IN CONCERT are two of the original manuscripts of the FIVE planned Dr. Phibes movies. [see this blog entry for much more about the unfilmed sequels]

VPE: After AIP dropped plans to extend the series, you attempted to sell further installments to Roger Corman’s production company. What happened with that?

WIG: AIP was adrift after the passing of Jim Nicholson and the planned five Phibes films would total only the two. AIP closed their doors soon thereafter. Roger Corman and Co. were very interested and they talked the talk and we listened, disappointingly they ultimately were unable to walk the walk.

VPE: George Romero was set to direct a new Phibes film in the early 1980’s. Were you involved with that project?

The Shreveport, Louisiana Times, July 14, 1984

WIG: Yes, 1983, the late Mr. Romero was and remained a huge Phibes fan. R.I.P George.

VPE: A few years ago, Tim Burton announced a new Phibes film. Was this to have been based on your prequel book Dr. Phibes – In the Beginning? What happened?

WIG: Dr. Phibes In The Beginning has had its share of followers, Mr. Burton remains among them – Tim, if you’re reading this, let’s talk, contact me directly @

VPE: I know of at least one other individual, an Oscar-winning makeup artist, who has expressed a desire to do a new Phibes film. Have you received any interest from people seriously wishing to do new Phibes films?

WIG: Yes of course – we are always open to meeting with potential interested parties – especially the serious ones.

VPE: You have teased a new Phibes film co-written with your son Damon to star Malcolm McDowall. A friend of mine asked McDowall about it at a fan event, and the actor was very excited about the project. What is the status of this production?

Courtesy of William and Damon Goldstein

WIG: The new Dr. Phibes film is titled FOREVER PHIBES, and Damon was instrumental in securing the talented Mr. McDowell as attached to the project, in fact we are in the middle of negotiations for the new movie now – all discussions are currently confidential.

VPE: Would the proposed film be a sequel or a reboot?

WIG: It is a brand-new story.

VPE: Is there a completed script?

WIG: Yes, Damon and I worked from our own offices with scheduled meetings to manage scenes and such. Good times.

VPE: I have wondered if the film would be live action or animated. Can you tell us what your vision of the film is?

WIG: FOREVER PHIBES is written as a live-action film, although with the technology today, the idea of an animated Dr. Phibes film sounds fantastic, in fact it would go very nicely with the Dr. Phibes graphic novel we are developing right now.

VPE: A graphic novel sounds like an exciting project. Comics great Jack Kirby did some concept art many years ago for a Phibes comic. Were you at all connected with this? Also, I’m assuming that you hold the Phibes copyright, even though merchandise, comic books and other iterations seem endless. Do you receive any royalties for these?

WIG: I have always been intrigued with the graphic novel medium, Damon actually collected Marvel Comics back then, so I’m sure he can chime in on Jack Kirby, who would have been fantastic, in more detail. Ever since his 1971 Premiere at the Hollywood Pantages, Dr. Phibes et al continues to attract fans from all over and as they say “show good numbers” – with four books now where once there were only two, and another one on the way, plus our new social media content and YouTube videos, we are focused on returning Dr. Anton Phibes to the big screen.

VPE: Also, have you considered doing your never-filmed sequels to Phibes as graphic novels? Fans would love to see, in some form, your vision of those.

WIG: Now how did you know Rick, great minds…

VPE: I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate your time in answering these questions, Mr. Goldstein. I sincerely hope FOREVER PHIBES goes forward and finds a new generation of fans for your creation. I would be pleased to assist in publicizing your project as best as I can through my Vincent Price Exhibit website and Facebook page.

WIG: Thank you Rick – it’s always great to hear from fans of Phibes. Your words are those of a true Phibes Fan and are appreciated – I am glad you reached out and inquired. Your questions were interesting and engaging.

Damon and William I. Goldstein (photo courtesy of the Goldsteins)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein - 1948

Perhaps the greatest spoof of horror films began life as a screen treatment called THE BRAIN OF FRANKENSTEIN. Contemporary reports said that the plot concerned the search for the Frankenstein monster's brain, eventually locating it in comedian Lou Costello.  Doesn't make much sense, does it? Well, they worked on the premise a bit and eventually decided that the film should instead be about looking for a new brain for the monster, eventually deciding on comedian Lou Costello's. Still doesn't really make sense, does it?  Oh well. It really works. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were the most popular movie comedy team of the 1940's, appearing in about 20 films (mostly for Universal Pictures), and this film is arguably their best one. During this same decade, Universal had combined all of its popular monster characters in several films, such as FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and HOUSE OF DRACULA. What would be more natural than combining the monsters with the comedians? Apparently, Costello hated the idea initially, but finally relented. Bela Lugosi, who hadn't appeared on screen as Dracula since the 1931 original, had to postpone a stage tour to do the film. Lon Chaney, Jr. had just appeared as Lawrence Talbot/Wolf Man in the aforementioned extravaganzas, and Glenn Strange had taken over the role of the Frankenstein monster from a series of actors, including Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi! The film went into production in late 1947.

In February 1948, the above publicity item appeared in the press, making it appear that the Invisible Man would take his place alongside the other famous monsters. Instead, his 'appearance' was merely the punchline at the climax of the film, after Bud and Lou had seemingly vanquished Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Frankenstein monster. Just as they are catching their breath while sitting in a small boat, a cigarette appears in mid-air to be lit by an invisible hand. A velvety voice says: "Oh, that's too bad. I was hoping to get in on some of the fun. I'm the Invisible Man." Bud and Lou jump overboard and swim away. The Invisible Man laughs. And it's a familiar laugh. Vincent Price, who had appeared as the Invisible Man in the 1940 Universal film THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS, was brought in to record the voice cameo. Price was under contract at the time to Universal and was appearing in at least two of the company's films, so he was easily gotten. And though it is a cameo, his presence adds weight to the film.

Lenore Aubert (Sandra) and Bela Lugosi (Dracula) examine the weakened Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange).

Lou Costello finds himself alone with the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.).

Dracula (Bela Lugosi) commands the monster (Glenn Strange).

Dracula (Lugosi) hypnotizes the hapless Lou Costello.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Incredible Art of María José MontCast

Many who have followed the Vincent Price Exhibit website as well as its Facebook page are familiar with the work of Mexican artist María José MontCast. Immediately following the celebration of Price's 100th birth anniversary in 2011, María José began contributing occasional artwork in honor of the actor, created specially for the Exhibit. Usually themed to coincide with his birthday and other occasions, María José's art is remarkable in its style. 

When I began transferring the contents of the website over to this blog format, I began to reexamine María José's artwork, appreciating it anew. It was then that I decided to highlight her generous contributions to the site, to Vincent's fans, and to Vincent himself.  I think it's important to know why an artist is inspired to create his or her unique works so I asked María José to try and put into words why she pays such tribute to Vincent Price through her art.  Happily, she has written a lovely piece about her work, her inspiration, and her feelings about Vincent Price. I am proud to present her art here, and even prouder that she chose this website to share it with.

"I’m an illustrator and a horror movie enthusiast, but unfortunate timing and logistics didn’t let me have the pleasure to grow up with Vincent Price’s work in films, television or radio. However, when I did stumble upon William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill, it made an impact on me. It was Vincent Price who ushered me into the cult classics, from horror and thrillers to drama and comedy. I got caught in the aesthetics of those films that mirrored the outlook of those times.

Aside from all that, what truly amazed me was how off the set Vincent Price was an indisputable icon, whose personality transcended the ghouls, monsters and madmen, captivating everyone with his kindness, knowledge and humor.

Just as he inspired many other people, his work motivated me to create art based on his performances. I recall a few years ago, learning a lot about ‘The Renaissance Man’ from The Vincent Price Exhibit, when there weren’t many other sources dedicated to his legacy. It was quite special for me, because it was a collection made by a connoisseur and fan for fans, and I wanted to also be part of that enthusiasm to remember Vincent Price in the way I expressed myself best.

What really encourages me when illustrating is having fun doing it, enjoying the journey from watching the film to representing part of the story in paper through certain details, references or even a dash of humor.

Each year is an opportunity to honor another one of his films and to experiment with a different technique or approach; and every time, I look forward to sharing it with fellow admirers, followers, collectors or artists and even with the people that had the opportunity to share moments in life with Vincent Price.

“One thing is certain: the arts keep you alive. They stimulate, encourage, challenge, and, most of all, guarantee a future free from boredom.” – Vincent Price.

It was an on point coincidence that Vincent was a visual minded person and hence, a noted art lover. He treasured artistic expression above many things and believed some of the greatest artwork could also be drawings, etchings and in all kinds of mediums. It only seemed fitting to honor him in a way he would have appreciated and been fond of. I think any kind of art is an everlasting way to show he will always be not only remembered, but also missed."  -  María José MontCast

Following are more of her works, created for the Vincent Price Exhibit over the past few years.

For more examples of her art, please visit

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Gathering of Greatness

Legendary singer Ethel Merman seems to be the guest of honor in this celebrity-packed photo.  No occasion was cited, but gathered here are comic actor James Coco, director Otto Preminger (whose credits include LAURA), English talk-show host David Frost, Ethel Merman, Merman's agent, author Anita Loos, and Vincent Price.  It looks to be about 1971 here. Wouldn't you love to have been at an adjacent table?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Saying Farewell to Vincent Price

Today is the anniversary of Vincent Price's passing in 1993. I want to share this piece I wrote that appeared in our local paper at the time. 

If, after clicking on the image, it's too small to read, right-click on it and select 'open in new window,' or save it to your computer and open it full size.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Three Portraits

Circa 1980's, purchased from the Vincent Price Estate

By Roddy McDowall, 1974 [in character from BAD DAY FOR BLUEBEARD]

By Herb Ritts, 1989

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Cathie Merchant: My Friendship With Vincent Price's Co-Star in The Haunted Palace

Introduction: One of my earliest memories is sitting on my backyard swing, listening to some older neighbor kids describe the film they'd just come back from seeing. I was six. The year was 1963.  One of the most vivid parts of their description was about a warlock raising a long-dead woman from the grave.  What my mind did with their description haunted me for years before I finally discovered what film they were talking about.  It was Roger Corman's THE HAUNTED PALACE, starring Vincent Price.  Now, jump ahead about 35 years, soon after establishing the Vincent Price Exhibit website in 1999. I received the following email:

Friday 11/5/1999 
Dear Sir: 
I had a small part in the film "HAUNTED PALACE."  I am interested in learning if there are any posters available to purchase and wonder if  you would have that information.  Thank you for any assistance.       
Cathie Merchant

It never occurred to me, at the time, to check IMDb to see if she was listed in the cast. So I asked her what part she'd played, expecting it to be a villager or some other truly minor role.

Wednesday 11/17/1999 
Thank you for asking. I played Hester (I believe Tillinghast), Prices' mistress, who was brought back from the dead.  I have the film - I would like any poster I am on. I have other things I would like to have.  Perhaps you can help.     
Darlene Lucht, Cathie Merchant and Vincent Price in The Haunted Palace 

Anyone who has seen THE HAUNTED PALACE knows that, though nonspeaking, her role was hardly 'minor.'  I told her that I'd gladly see where she might find a poster for sale, and asked her what it was like to work on the film.

Thursday 11/18/1999 
...As to working with Vincent, he was a little upset with me, as the costume gal lent me a necklace he had given her.  He got better later.  He really had a good sense of humor and made a great joke about the pit the monster was in - the still cameraman had fallen in at one point (not hurt) and at some point in the script some discussion came up about the inhabitant of the pit and Vincent said “It’s George, the camera man!” (You had to be there) Debra [Paget] was very sweet - her mother was on the set every day and seemed a little out of it. Debra was marrying some millionaire and was seeing jewelry people everyday. 
Lon Chaney, Jr. cooked Chili in his dressing room and it was quite pungent. It was a nice experience if you like making films in fourteen days.  I had worked for Roger [Corman] in MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES and he really knew how to keep the budget down.  I hope you can help me find some posters.  It’s such fun to talk about the past.    
Cathie, Darlene Lucht and Vincent Price looking in the pit (for George the cameraman?)

Cathie with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Vincent Price 

I told Cathie that I would scan some pictures and posters for her from my collection. I also asked her about some of her other acting assignments.

Tuesday 11/23/1999 
I would love it if you could send the posters you have scanned as attachments and I will see if I am adept enough to download same. I was one of the belly dancers in the carnival scenes in "X-RAY."  Yes, TOUCH OF MINK was the second thing I did - had a brief appearance when Doris Day wrecks the machines  and calls [Cary] Grant in the restaurant.  Almost the last time I worked. Grant did not like women to wear makeup and I didn't look too hot. Rumor on the set was he talked Doris Day into the no-makeup routine and when she saw the dailies she wanted to fire the cameraman. Even when you saw him socially he would request no makeup and gave quite a lecture.  He, however, was never without a bronzer. Ray Milland in person was much more the screen 'Cary Grant' type. Lovely man.  I have tried to update the movie base [IMDb] as to other credits, but apparently I am not credible.
I do appreciate your efforts poster wise.  Are you in the industry, other than your Vincent Price site?   
Again, thanks,            
Cathie on the left in Roger Corman's MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES

I asked Cathie if I could share some of her stories on the Vincent Price website. I also found a few sites where she might be able to purchase a HAUNTED PALACE poster.

Friday 12/3/1999 
Rick, thanks so much for the poster web sites.  They are much appreciated. Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful in bringing up your web page.  Would you check that the address emailed is correct?  I have made several attempts and checked the address carefully.  Please hold off on posting any emails until I have an opportunity to review and consider.  As I have been practicing law since 1981 and am in the most litigious state in the nation, I am cognizant of the potential for the most innocuous comments being fodder for litigation. In any event, hope you can help me find your site ----- 
Cathie being restrained by Leo Gordon in THE HAUNTED PALACE
Friday 12/10/1999 
Thanks Rick.  I will attempt to pull it up.  I am still trying to reach your site without success.  Still trying.  I appreciate your efforts and keeping me informed.  Will let you know my success with eBay.   

Cathie finally was able to get to the website, and the page I'd put together about her career.

Saturday 12/11/1999 
I actually found the site!...I...was very touched by the "Merchant of Menace" [the title of the page about her].  The text is very clever.  My only complaint is the pictures.  I have stills and shots on set (that are much more flattering to me).  If you plan on keeping the inclusion in your site for any period of time I will provide them if you wish.
I do not mind you telling the "George the cameraman" story or Lon Chaney's cooking habits...Debra was as sweet and generous as she was pretty.  
One point of interest perhaps [about THE HAUNTED PALACE]. An additional scene was shot which I believe was to be used as the final scene. Lon Chaney, and the wonderful character actor whose name escapes me [Milton Parsons], and myself were pulling the picture which had hung over the fireplace representing the ancestor, from the big fireplace. Roger's brother Gene was directing.
The fire was real. All our makeup was melting.  Chaney was cursing and I was falling apart. If you notice, the dress I wore after the 'resurrection' was the same I wore in the earlier scenes, except there is some light-colored lace added on the neckline and cuffs.  After the scene, the wonderful wardrobe gal, whose name I don't remember -- shame on me -- said the fireman standing by told her the lace was very flammable and if a spark had landed it would have been a shame.  I was crying after the scene and we didn't quite do it to perfection. Lon Chaney would not repeat it.  I think he was the one who had the clout to say, 'this is ridiculous.'  I did a lot of work in the industry and that was one of the most frightening experiences.I guess the fact that we had to be on set at 6:00 and were there until 10:00 or so could have made our nerves raw doing Rogers '14-day wonder productions.'  Also, the scenes were not shot in sequence.  When Ward returns, all we ghouls had green makeup.  You can't really see it on me, but Chaney appears tinged. I would have my makeup changed, as the shots were not in sequence, two or three times per day.  It was quite an experience. I used to sing to  Frank Maxwell [Dr. Willet] "what kind of ghoul am I" (apologies to Sammy Davis). You seem to have a deep fondness for Price.  I would be so interested in how that developed.      

It was after receiving that email that I decided to offer Cathie my own HAUNTED PALACE one-sheet poster as a gift.  She was delighted.

Wednesday 1/26/2000 
Dear Rick: 
How very gracious you are!  You are very kind and I'm sure I would enjoy the poster tremendously.  However, I want you to think about this as I am sure your Vincent Price memorabilia is very dear to you, even if not currently on display.  I am most touched by the generosity and thoughtfulness of your offer.       
Best Wishes, Cathie

I assured her that nothing would please me more than to give her the poster she'd been hoping to acquire for so long. I mean, she even appears on the poster! Of course she should have it!

A poster like the one I gave Cathie. That's her right in the middle!

Saturday 1/29/2000 
Dear Rick, 
I am very touched by your offer and gladly accept.  The particular time of making that movie holds many memories for me. Not just of the film, but of many significant things occurring in my life.  Thank you! 
Again, thank you for your generosity,  

Tuesday 2/15/2000 
Dear Rick:    
Please forgive me for not getting back to you sooner. The dreaded flu bug struck here and I have not been at the computer. I received the poster intact and am so grateful.  How kind of you to make this gift.  Since I have been looking, not knowing anything of posters, I realize now how significant it is to have a poster actually used for display.  You are very generous and it will bring me much pleasure.  I hope we will keep in touch - please remember me to the family and if you are ever in Los Angeles I hope you will let me know and we can meet.  Once again, thank you for your kindness - Much, much appreciation!!! 

I checked in with Cathie again a few months later, telling her that I'd found another Vincent Price poster (not quite as scary) to take the place of the one I'd sent her.

Friday 5/12/2000 
Hi Rick!   
It was good to hear from you. Indeed I am enjoying the poster. I have my friends interested in posters to reminisce by.  I am currently looking for one for a friend who was in BULLITT [Pat Renella] (he also didn't speak a word in the film - was the bad guy running from McQueen).  I'm so glad you found a poster that doesn't bother your wife and still makes you happy.
I was interested to hear MGM bought the American International rights.  Orion had purchased at least some of them and then did a Chapter 11 and the residuals were paid off pennies on the dollar.  They're not much anyway, but every now and again I get something from the old films and TV things.  I am glad people enjoyed any contribution I might have made to the site - you have put such a lot of work in it and it is very impressive.
I am getting ready to go to Italy and France in June.  I am very happy as I have not been for years and figure now or never. And a respite from practicing law! What a sorry profession. How I envy people who enjoy their work, and from what I read about you, you seem to be one of the lucky ones.
I hope the flu is gone from your household for good.  Give my regards to the family and please keep in touch. It is a pleasure to hear from you - 

We continued emailing about current events and the like.  Cathie was very outspoken about things -- mainly politics -- and was always a joy to hear from.

Saturday 8/5/2000 
I visited the site and saw your picture and read your philosophy.  I do not find it corny at all, but very admirable.  You look like a nice guy and that is not a bad thing.  Hope things are well with you and yours.  Still enjoying the poster and thank you again                 
My very best, 
Cathie Merchant

People visiting the Price site started sending me fan mail for Cathie.  I would scan and forward those to her.  I also asked if she could recall other acting assignments so that I could add them to the webpage.

Friday 10/13/2000 
Thanks so much for forwarding the letter.  I will answer in the future and take you up on your offer to send same.  I wrote you a long diatribe about life, the current political scene and personal feelings about life in general. AOL wiped it out - probably quite a cogent commentary on the content. In any event, I hope you and the family are well and surviving these troubled times.   I will attempt to put a resume together, although that is like another life and will strain the memories and evoke others maybe best forgotten.  I do appreciate your involving me in your web site and also appreciate the work you are doing.  Will write with a hopefully appropriate answer to the letter soon.             

Sometimes it was easy to see discouragement in her emails.

Tuesday 10/17/2000 
I wish I could have your positive feeling about the future.  I am pretty cynical and I am sorry about that.  Skeptical is fine, but not cynical...In any event, we do live in interesting times.  I will send something to answer the letter you have forwarded in the future.  Things here are pretty hectic.  I hope you and yours are well and enjoying life.  It is so very short!!!!! 
My best regards.  

I tried to keep her up to date on new releases of her films, and she'd keep me posted about plays and films she had seen.

Wednesday 10/25/2000 
Dear Rick,  
It's always so good to hear from you and about the family. I am not so much down as frustrated.  Sounds like you guys have good "family values" if one will excuse the use of a perverted term by we-all-know-who.
I did not know about the DVD.  I saw the X-Ray thing the other night and I thought 'no wonder Roger didn't let me speak.'  Honestly, these were not my best two lines. I did study at Goodman, for God's sake, and have some ability. Joking, because I did almost every TV show in the 60's - early 70's with my day-player bits and was really quite good.  Breaks and all that, but most importantly, as in everything, you have to want to succeed at what you do above everything.  I really will try to remember and send you a list of credits, but if I don't please forgive me. 
You sound so grounded and so able to live each day with enjoyment.  I do so admire that. That is really what life is.
As an aside, I saw Brian Dennehy last Saturday in Death of a Salesman.  I had seen it on cable and thought he was the best (and most unlikely) Loman I had ever seen.  I hated Dustin Hoffman.  I have seen Cobb, March and others do the role. I was terribly disappointed with Dennehy in the first act.  He may have been thrown off as he had a very dramatic stage entrance in silhouette, and no applause.  In any event, he was off the entire first act. Started way up there with no where to go.  It was a matinee and I don't usually go to matinee's so I don't know the expectation concerning the audience, but maybe he thought we were idiots because of no first entrance applause.  Anyway, the second act was, of course, much better. It is hard to believe Miller wrote that 50 years ago. Every time I see it I see more.  I have almost forgiven Miller for writing After the Fall.  I grew up adoring Monroe and felt she was betrayed...
I seem to be rambling.  I so like the idea of corresponding with an unknown quantity.  I can imbue you with all the attributes one wishes in a correspondent. Don't you dislike knowing exactly what to expect from everyone you encounter? Do write when you have time.  
All my very best to you and yours,  

Wednesday 12/27/2000 
Hi Rick,    
I had every intention of sending an email greeting for Christmas but you know what they say about good intentions.  I hope your family had a great holiday and I'm not too late to say Happy New Year!!! 

Wednesday 1/17/2001 
Hi Rick...Marquez is one of my favorites.  When I finished my first year of law school (which did not allow for any outside reading, unlike a masters where all one did was show up) I got One Hundred years of Solitude and The World According to Garp and the experience of devouring these words after all the linear language was euphoric. Marquez's syntax, even in translation, and metaphors are so masterful.  I thought you would appreciate this. Don't you always wonder what we miss by having to read translations.  I'm sure it's much like that very particular incommunicable experience of existence that isolates us from even those most dear.  

I gently kept after her to help me flesh out her acting assignments.

Tuesday 3/6/2001 
Hi Rick,  
I am delighted to hear from you.  We don't have the winter you are having but we have had so much rain!  I usually love it, but this has become a bit much...I have the picture taken on the set [THE HAUNTED PALACE] to which you refer.  Yes, it does look pretty silly.  When I finally was 'raised,' there was a kiss.  I remember Roger telling me I must keep my lips closed.  Things have certainly changed!  I will try to remember something that might interest someone. Problem is, the most interesting things I am reluctant to repeat for the world to view. I do wish you had more flattering pictures (I mean of me, of course).  Had I known you were going to keep that aspect of the site I would have sent you some.  I may see if my daughter the computer person can scan and email you some to use if you like. As far as other work, the usual 60's things.  Did several Hitchcocks, The Greatest Show on Earth, The New Breed, Burke's Law, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, the very last Sunset Strip, Alcoa Hour, Third Man, Bob Cummings, The Virginian, Untouchables, Laramie and so many others that no one remembers, and that includes me.  I would say all small parts, but 'no small parts, only small actors.'   I studied at Goodman in Chicago and that was drummed into our heads. Your site just keeps getting better - congratulations. Hope your weather (and ours) gets better.  Keep me informed on how things are going and let's hope the country doesn't have to go through the economy we had after Reagan put in his tax fix. Hi to the family,                                      
Cathie with Simon Oakland and Robert Stack on the TV show The Untouchables

Vincent and Cathie 

Monday 8/20/2001 
Hi Rick-  
It is so good to hear from you!  I visit your site (you're doing a great job). I will see if there is anything I can find you might want to use.  I haven't heard Roger's commentaries but would be interested to hear how he describes what you refer to as his 'fast paced' methods. ...Let me hear from you and I do hope you are well. My best to your family and hope your son enjoys high school and that you and your wife survive the experience. Don't be a stranger,  

Thursday 8/23/2001 
Dear Rick: ...I really will look for those pictures. You could never be a pest and I love hearing from you so keep me informed as to how you are doing,  
My very best to you and yours,  


My first email from Cathie following the events of 9/11.
Saturday 9/22/2001 
...I have lost my favorite places [bookmarks] and your site.  Please let me know if you still have a site and if you want me to send the photos.  I do hope you are feeling alright.  You are in my thoughts and I wish health and peace of mind, as much as possible, for you and yours.                       
My love to you and your family in these turbulent times,  

After THE HAUNTED PALACE was released on a new DVD.

Saturday 9/27/2003 
As always, so good to hear from you.  Thanks for letting me know about the DVD.  I will pick one up - after getting the makeup changed and re-changed I would like to see it reflected on film. I am glad your family is well - stay healthy and please keep in touch. 
My regards to you and yours, 

Thursday 1/8/2004 
Dear Rick: 
First, Happy New Year!  As with the best intentions, I was going to send a holiday card - hope this late wish will suffice. I just visited your newly-designed site and was so touched by the article concerning your relationship with Vincent Price [an editorial in our local paper that I wrote following his death, describing how much he meant to me growing up].  I had no idea you were so personally involved and have even greater respect for your wonderful tribute to him. I hope you and the family are well and that this new year will bring all good things. 
My best to you and yours, 

Tuesday 1/13/2004 
Hi Rick, 
So good to hear from you.  Six degrees - so hard to imagine - when it is 50 we complain of the cold.  I have completely forgotten my Chicago background....I have not seen any movies - for one who used to live at and in the movies, I seldom attend.  I have heard SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE is very good.  I did see THE BARBARIANS, a sequel to the French Canadian film of some 17 years previous that won all sorts of awards. Very good. And yes, I would like to be doing almost anything but law. 
Stay well and keep in touch. 

2007 was an intense year for me. My father died, and then I was approached by Fox/MGM to take part in some 'extras' to be included on a new Vincent Price DVD set.  A small film crew came to our house. I told Cathie about it.

Monday 7/2/2007 
Dear Rick, 
It was so good to hear from you. Please accept my condolences on the loss of your father. I am so very sorry. I'm sure having the film crew come to interview you was fun.  You say it is for some films to be released - how would I identify the collection? I would like to see your contribution. At the moment I can't think of anything of particular interest to add to your site (at least nothing I can put in print!).  I may have some pictures and I will take a look if I can find them. How is the family? I hope everyone is well and doing well. Tell them hi for me. Please do keep in touch - I love hearing from you. Again, thanks for thinking of me and keep in touch ~  

The rise of social media precipitated the following email, and lead to Cathie joining Facebook not long after.

Tuesday 7/3/2007 
I came upon your site on MySpace and learned a lot about you.  I am so glad I discovered the site.   I learned so much about you.  You have some very interesting friends (I hope you consider me a friend even if we have never met) and you sound most interesting yourself.  I know things about you I never would have. I would never have know you are a Lovecraft descendant [I'm not. Cathie had seen mention of a book I'd written about the Lovecraft family] - no wonder you are interested in the tale of Charles Dexter Ward. I am so glad your children are doing so well . I know you must be concerned about the London experience as a parent [our son was going there to study for a semester], but we will always be so concerned about our children their entire lives. It never stops, I am here to tell you. But this should not keep us from allowing them the opportunities that will enlighten their intellects and enlarge their souls. You and your wife are brave and will always know that you supported your kids in spite of your concerns. And, if we are realistic, life is random. Better to live the best life we can, in spite of the dangers, than to cower in a small space and think we are 'safe' while we wither inside. Enough of that!  I think your new site looks great.  I have found only a few pictures from THE HAUNTED PALACE.  I should be embarrassed to say they are mostly of me (but I'm not - why would I be interested in anyone else at 20-something?) but I do have a couple stills with Vincent Price. One over the 'pit' and one a close-up of both of us. I have several around the coffin (those people just wouldn't give up, would they) - remind me to tell you of my friend who was Johnny Ross in Bullet [Pat Renella] who turned down a part with Roger [Corman] because my friend wouldn't get in a coffin. Anyway, as  I digress, would you want the pictures as I have described them?  I could attempt to get my daughter to scan them and send to you as I don't have a scanner, or I could just send the prints and you could scan and send them back.  I wouldn't ask you to return them but they are a part of my history and you, I know, are one who respects history that it is important to have our past close to our present.  And please be truthful, as these pictures are much like what you have and perhaps you don't need them.  I just want to help make your site as thorough as you would like.... 
My very best, 

Cathie [right] and a friend with Cathie's good friend Pat Renella

On the ten-year anniversary of our first communication.

Thursday 8/20/2009 
Hi Rick, 
So very good to hear from you. Ten years! Hard to believe. Your children have become adults - although it is so unfair. We become older codgers, sometimes even strangers to them while to us they are always our babies. Pretty unfair I'd say. Of course, I visit your site - you've done such a good job and I do appreciate being included. I hope to get to New York in the not too distant future and hope we can meet in person. Actually, it has been a cool summer here - at least for me. I live in Marina del Rey  and we have been overcast all year and cool although it does get hot in the valley but even there it has been unusually cool. It was so good to hear from you. Do please keep in touch and let's not need another [computer] virus to have contact with each other. Say hi to the family and stay well. My fondest wishes to all of you, 

Wednesday 2/16/2011 
Hi Rick, 
So good to hear from you. I have written before - after I went on Facebook and heard from you I composed an email that was practically a book and for some reason, Facebook said I couldn't send it. It all seemed much too complicated and I couldn't figure out why I went on the thing in the first place, so you never got the email.How is the family? Your kids must be in college now, right? And is Associate Professor a new position? [I'd just been promoted] Do you do any teaching? I thank you for alerting me to the Vincent Price interview [I'd found an interview online that author David Del Valle had done with Price in which he'd mentioned Cathie]. It may not matter what they say as long as they spell your name right, but I felt uncomfortable and found his memory regarding me a bit degrading. I don't recall the incident (perhaps repression). After studying at Goodman and with Jeff Corey, Stanley Marks and others, it is sad to think  the only  thing memorable about me or my mute performance was my boobs, which just happen to come with the package. I rather suspect he only noticed as the wardrobe lady told me the pendant I wore Vincent had given to her and he pouted for days when he saw she had given it to me to wear in the film. Oh well, this is the man that thought Debra Paget would have been a great actress. She was lovely and so very nice, unlike her mother, who was plopped on the set everyday and who appeared to dislike me thoroughly as she never spoke a word to me through the entire film, although she was more than loquacious otherwise. Nevertheless, it was so kind of you to tell me of the site and I enjoyed reading the article. I'd love to hear about you and the family.  Please give them my best and do write when you have the time. Maybe you can explain how Facebook makes money. Anyway, it is so good to hear from you. As they say in the song, 'Don't wait too long' for another email talk. 
The very best to you and yours,                                             

A birthday greeting I posted on Cathie's Facebook page in 2011, and her reply, which still touches me to the core.

In early 2011, I was asked to introduce a showing of HOUSE OF WAX to a college film class where I work. Then I was invited to attend the 100th anniversary of Vincent Price's birth in St. Louis (to be called Vincentennial). But before that, I learned I would be undergoing hip replacement surgery.  I wrote to tell Cathie about it all.

Thursday 2/17/2011 
Dear Rick, 
Sorry I complained about the remarks in the article.  I think when I responded I was in one of those dark places. I am so grateful you pointed me to the article and remember Vincent had a wicked sense of humor, so I was most ungracious. On second reading it is funny and was meant all in fun. Thank you so much for directing me to the article.I am sorry to hear you must have surgery and I am glad it is a hip.  I had to have a total knee replacement last April and got a hospital infection and it has been hell, but I was told by the physical therapist that recovery is at least a year. I have always had high pain tolerance but for the last four months I average maybe three hours sleep a night, which is not good for a naturally cranky person, but I think things are improving, although slowly. I say, if it has to be anything, good the hip.  I have several friends, much older than you (and even me) and they all had easy hip surgery and quick recovery. One friend didn't even need rehab. He used the pool and walked everyday..  He plans to live forever although I cannot imagine why as this will likely entail having to make a lot of new friends. I will be holding a good thought for you.Sounds as if the family is doing well. The fact that Andrew [my son] has work in these times is quite impressive. You must be proud of Hannah's choice [to become a librarian, like her old man].I'm sure the students indeed enjoyed your information and knowledge when introducing HOUSE OF WAX.. I do hope you are able to attend the St. Louis event. It sounds like a super experience and, if my friends are any examples, you should be fine to go.I will really have to give Facebook another chance.  I will have to do something. I haven't worked since July 2007. I fell backward downstairs in my townhouse and shattered my humerus (right hand of course). No surgery, but took forever doing P.T. to finally be able to raise my arm any distance. Then the left knee started and I spent a year trying to avoid surgery and now recuperating and to the point where I realize I have to find a way to fill the remaining years. I have always had a goal in life and when reached, set another. Now is the time in life when reflection and the past seem to predominate. I am sure I will find a direction that intrigues me soon and set another goal - although I suspect at this period in life that goal may be to try to remain upright and breathing. Please stay in touch and forgive me for being such a grouch about the article. I am just pleased to be remembered by anyone at this point. To an easy surgery and a quick recovery. Keep me informed as to your progress - 
Always love hearing from you,          
Cathie and her very good friend, actor Pat Renella 

I learned that author/film lover David Del Valle was working on a book about the Roger Corman Edgar Allan Poe films and asked him if he was acquainted with Cathie.  He was not, but was very excited to have the opportunity.

Thursday 2/24/2011 
Dear Rick, 
How very kind  and thoughtful of you to speak to David Del Valle, and I do hope he understands I am honored to be mentioned in his book. My initial reaction was really to many things other than the interview and mostly of the 'if  only' feelings that come as time shortens.  I would be happy to contribute anything I might  to his Poe/Corman  book that might  be of help to him and will contact him with the email address you provided. Alas, I am afraid I will not be able to see Mr. Del Valle's  posting on Facebook as I am still unable to convince them I am me (I am even beginning to believe them). As to Mr ____ [a fan who wanted me to forward an email to Cathie], I would be happy to drop him a line and sign any picture for him. How kind of him to have noticed and remembered me.  And again, thank you for all the time and trouble you have taken on my account. I have come to consider you a special friend....You be sure and let me know how the surgery goes. I will hold the very best thoughts for you - make sure everyone that touches you washes their hands! 
Again, thank you for everything 
until next time. 

 Cathie at a book launch for David Del Valle's latest work in 2011

After searching eBay for months, I finally found -- and obtained -- this beautiful still of Cathie from THE HAUNTED PALACE.  I scanned it and sent her a copy. I had no idea it would mean so much to her.

Thursday 2/24/2011 
My dear Rick, 
How kind of you and touching. That is one of my favorite all time pictures as it is so very flattering. All camera people on that shoot were wonderful. This is a still, but the wonderful camera man on the film was indeed a genius [Floyd Crosby]. All reviews mention Debra Paget had never looked better and he made all of us (save poor Lon Chaney) look so good. And believe me, he worked quick -- a necessity in a Roger Corman film. Thank you so much for going to all this trouble. Now, you have made my day! 
With much affection, 

Cathie and I continued our correspondence, both in emails and on social media.  Her lively political discussions on Facebook with her other friends were always a delight.  But Cathie suffered several setbacks during this time as well. Her dear friend, Pat Renella, passed away. Her home was flooded in a terrible plumbing mishap, causing her to have to relocate to a hotel while restoration slowly proceeded, and she continued her recovery from her painful fall.  

Then, on February 2, 2013, Cathie's daughter Victoria posted on her mother's Facebook page that Cathie had passed away from natural causes. I have so missed her wit, viewpoints and warmth ever since. But it wasn't until after I'd had a chance to process the suddenness of her departure that I considered the irony of it all. That Cathie Merchant -- part of one of my earliest memories -- and I had become friends.  That's something I'm still so grateful for.

Cathie Merchant was so much more than the beautiful actress we see all-too-briefly in many of her screen appearances. She was a complex, extremely intelligent individual. I so hope that I've done her justice in this tribute.

Cathie's listing in the Academy Players Directory from the early 1960s

A Partial Cathie Merchant Filmography
[Program/Episode/Air Date/Role/Director/Main Cast]
TitleEpisode (if TV)DateRoleDirector/WriterCostars
The New Bob Cummings Show"Who Chopped Down the Cherokee?"11-9-1961Don Weis / Jerry Adelman, Lee Erwin, Mel DiamondBob Cummings, Linda Lawson, Charles Lane, Cyril Delevanti
CheckmateSo Beats My Plastic Heart4-11-1962Sharon SpencerBernard GirardCeleste Holm, Susan Oliver
The Untouchables"Downfall"5-3-1962SingerStuart Rosenberg / Robert LibottRobert Stack, Simon Oakland
Gunsmoke"The Prisoner"5-19-1962SallyAndrew V. McLaglen / Thomas ThompsonJames Arness, Dennis Weaver, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Andrew Prine, Conrad Nagel
Laramie"The Fortune Hunter"10-9-1962John Smith, Robert Fuller
Alcoa Premiere"The Voice of Charlie Pont"10-25-1962SheilaRobert Ellis Miller / Halsted WellesBill Bixby, Bradford Dillman, Diana Hyland, Robert Redford
That Touch of Mink1962Irene (uncredited)Delbert Mann / Stanley Shapiro and Nate MonasterDoris Day and Cary Grant
Man With the X-Ray Eyes1963Carnival Dancer (uncredited)Roger Corman / Robert Dillon and Ray RussellRay Milland
Alfred Hitchcock Hour"The Star Juror"3-15-1963LolaHerschel Daugherty / James BridgesDean Jagger, Betty Field, Will Hutchins
Perry Mason"The Case of the Velvet Claws"3-21-1963Esther LintenHarmon JonesRaymond Burr
The Haunted Palace1963Hester TillinghastRoger Corman / Charles BeaumontVincent Price, Lon Chaney, Jr., Debra Paget, Leo Gordon
Alfred Hitchcock Hour"Nothing Ever Happens in Linvale"11-8-1963ReceptionistHerschel Daugherty / Richard Levinson & William LinkGary Merrill, Fess Parker, Phyllis Thaxter, Burt Mustin
The Third Man"I.O.U."7-4-1964LisaRobert M. Leeds / Robert BloomfieldMichael Rennie, Harry Bartell, Jonathan Harris
Alfred Hitchcock Hour"The Return of Verge Likins"10-5-1964Mary MastersonArnold Lavan / James BridgesCharles Seel, June Walker, Robert Barrat, Jim Boles, Peter Fonda
Alfred Hitchcock Hour"An Unlocked Window"2-15-1965Frieda LittleJoseph M. Newman / James BridgesDana Wynter, Stephen Roberts, Louise Latham, John Kerr