Shortly after this site was originally launched, I was delighted to receive an email from Ms. Cathie Merchant. She very modestly told me that she'd had a "small role" in The Haunted Palace with Vincent Price. When I asked what part she'd played, she replied that it had been that of Hester Tillinghast, Price's mistress! "Small role" indeed!

This page is a tribute to Ms. Merchant's career and The Haunted Palace in general. I hope you enjoy it! She was even gracious enough to allow me to include some of her personal recollections here, which  are both revealing and nostalgic. My heartfelt thanks go out to this special lady!

 

Though she never utters a word, Ms. Merchant registers as a powerful presence and serves as the inspiration for much of the evil that Price's character, Joseph Curwen, perpetrates in the film. Why, he can't even consider continuing his efforts at serving the powerful Cthulhu until he brings his beloved Hester back to life!

Ms. Merchant provided some terrific anecdotes about the making of the film, as well as some great recollections of working with Ray Milland in Roger Corman's The Man With the X-Ray Eyes and with Cary Grant and Doris Day in That Touch of Mink. With her very kind permission, here are some recollections about the making of The Haunted Palace:

Hester (Merchant, center) helps Vincent guide a hapless victim to the chambers below. Hester loses her cold, hard reserve as her warlock lover is burned alive. The villagers, including actor Leo Gordon, hold her back. From the film's pressbook, here's the cast and crew list from The Haunted Palace.
"...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...in the script some discussion came up about the inhabitant of the pit...Vincent said 'It's George, the cameraman.' (You had to be there). Debra [Paget] was very sweet...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 in Man With the X-Ray Eyes, and he really knew how to keep the budget down...

"One point of interest perhaps; 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 Roger's '14-day wonder' productions. Also, the scenes were not shot in sequence. When Ward [Price's character] 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...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)..."
 

Cathie Merchant (center) as one of the carnival entertainers puzzled by Ray Milland's talents in Man With the X-Ray Eyes.  Milland is on the right.

The lovely Ms. Merchant (right) looking decidedly un-sorcerorlike!
 

A Partial Cathie Merchant Filmography

Title Episode (if TV) Date Role Director/Writer Costars
The New Bob Cummings Show "Who Chopped Down the Cherokee?" 11-9-1961   Don Weis / Jerry Adelman, Lee Erwin, Mel Diamond Bob Cummings, Linda Lawson, Charles Lane, Cyril Delevanti
Checkmate So Beats My Plastic Heart 4-11-1962 Sharon Spencer Bernard Girard Celeste Holm, Susan Oliver
The Untouchables "Downfall" 5-3-1962 Singer Stuart Rosenberg / Robert Libott Robert Stack, Simon Oakland
Gunsmoke "The Prisoner" 5-19-1962 Sally Andrew V. McLaglen / Thomas Thompson James Arness, Dennis Weaver, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Andrew Prine, Conrad Nagel
Laramie "The Fortune Hunter" 10-9-1962     John Smith, Robert Fuller
Alcoa Premiere "The Voice of Charlie Pont" 10-25-1962 Sheila Robert Ellis Miller / Halsted Welles Bill Bixby, Bradford Dillman, Diana Hyland, Robert Redford
That Touch of Mink   1962 Irene (uncredited) Delbert Mann / Stanley Shapiro and Nate Monaster Doris Day and Cary Grant
Man With the X-Ray Eyes   1963 Carnival Dancer (uncredited) Roger Corman / Robert Dillon and Ray Russell Ray Milland
Alfred Hitchcock Hour "The Star Juror" 3-15-1963 Lola Herschel Daugherty / James Bridges Dean Jagger, Betty Field, Will Hutchins
Perry Mason "The Case of the Velvet Claws" 3-21-1963 Esther Linten Harmon Jones Raymond Burr
The Haunted Palace   1963 Hester Tillinghast Roger Corman / Charles Beaumont Vincent Price, Lon Chaney, Jr., Debra Paget, Leo Gordon
Alfred Hitchcock Hour "Nothing Ever Happens in Linvale" 11-8-1963 Receptionist Herschel Daugherty / Richard Levinson & William Link Gary Merrill, Fess Parker, Phyllis Thaxter, Burt Mustin
The Third Man "I.O.U." 7-4-1964 Lisa Robert M. Leeds / Robert Bloomfield Michael Rennie, Harry Bartell, Jonathan Harris
Alfred Hitchcock Hour "The Return of Verge Likins" 10-5-1964 Mary Masterson Arnold Lavan / James Bridges Charles Seel, June Walker, Robert Barrat, Jim Boles, Peter Fonda
Alfred Hitchcock Hour "An Unlocked Window" 2-15-1965 Frieda Little Joseph M. Newman / James Bridges Dana Wynter, Stephen Roberts, Louise Latham, John Kerr
 

Copyright 1999-2009 Cathie Merchant and Richard D. Squires

The Vincent Price Exhibit

Created May 27, 2009, Richard D Squires. Updated February 26, 2010.