Vincent Leonard Price, Jr. (May 27, 1911 – October 25, 1993) was an American actor best known for his performances in horror films, altough his career other geners, including film noir, drama, mystery, thriller, and comedy. He appeared on stage, television, and radio, and more than 100 films. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures and one for television. He was born raised near St. Louis Missouri and has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
He was an art collector and arts consultant with a degree in art history, and he lectured and wrote books on the subject. The Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College is named in his honor. He was also a noted gourrmet cook.
Early life and career Edit
Price was born on May 27, 1911, in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest of the four children of Vincent Leonard Price Sr. (July 30, 1871 – June 18, 1948), president of the National Candy Company, and his wife Marguerite Cob (née Wilcox) Price (October 28, 1874 – September 12, 1946). His grandfather was Vincent Clarence Price who invented "Dr. Price Baking Powder", the first cream of tartar-based baking powder, and it secured the family's fortune. Price was of English descent and was a descendant of Peregrine White, the first white child born in Colonial Massachusetts, being born on the Mayflower while it was in Provincentown Habor. Price had some Welsh ancestry as well.
Price attended the St. Louis Country Day School and Milford Academy in Miford, Connecticut. In 1933, he graduated with a degree in English and a minor in Art History from Yale University, where he worked on the campus humor magazine The Yale Record. After teaching for a year, he entered the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, intending to study for a master's degree in fine arts. Instead, he was drawn to the theater, first appearing in 1934. His acting career began in London in 1935, performing with Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre.
In 1936, Price appeared as Prince Albert in the American production of Laurence Housman's play Victoria Regina, which starred Helen Hayes in the title role of Queen Victoria.
Introduction to film roles Edit
Price started out in films as a character actor. He made his film debut in Service de Luxe (1938) and established himself in the film Laura (1944), opposite Gene Tierney, directed by Otto Preminger. He played Joseph Smith in the movie Briogham Young (1940) and William Gibbs McAdoo in Wilson (1944) as well as Bernadette's prosecutor, Vital Dutour, in The Song of Bernadette (1943), and as a pretentious priest in The Keys of the Kingdom (1944).
His first venture into the horror genre, for which he later became best known, was in the Boris Karloff film Tower of London (1939). The following year Price portrayed the title character in The Invisible Man Returns (a role he reprised in a vocal cameo at the end of the horror-comedy spoof Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein released in 1948).
Price reunited with Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven (1945) and Dragonwyck (1946). There were also many villainous roles in film noir thrillers like The Web (1947), The Long Night (1947), Rogues' Regiment (1948) and The Bribe (1949), with Robert Taylor, Ava Garnder and Charles Laughton.
His first starring role was as conman James Addison Reavis in the biopic The Baron of Arizona (1950). He did a comedic turn as the tycoon Burnbridge Waters, co-starring with Ronald Colman in Champagne for Caesar (also 1950), one of his favorite film roles.
He was active in radio, portaying the Robin Hood-inspired crime-fighter Simon Templar in The Saint, which ran from 1947 from 1951. In the 1950s Price moved into more regular horror film roles with the leading role in House of Wax (1953) as a homicidal sculptor, the first 3-D film to land in the year's top ten at the North American box office. His next roles were The Mad Magician (1954), the monster movie The Fly (1958) and its sequel Return of the Fly (1959).
That same year, he starred in a pair of thillers by producer-director William Castle: House on Haunted Hill (1959) as eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren, and The Tingler (also 1959) as Dr. Warren Chapin, who discovered the titular creature. He appeared in the radio drama Three Skeleton Key, the story of an island lighthouse besieged by an army of rats. He first performed the work in 1950 on Escape and returned to it in 1956 and 1958 for Suspense.
Outside the horror realm, Price played Baka (the master builder) in The Ten Commandments released in 1956. About this time he also appeared on NBC's The Martha Raye Show. In the 1955–56 television season, he was cast three times on the religion anthology series Crossroads, a study of clergymen from different denominations. In the 1955 episode "Cleanup", Price portrayed the Reverend Robert Russell. In 1956, he was cast as Rabbi Gershom Mendes Seixas in "The Rebel", and as the Rev. Alfred W. Price in "God's Healing".
In the 1960s, Price achieved a number of low-budget filmmaking successess with Roger Corman and American International Pictures (AIP) starting with the House of Usher (1960), which earned over $2 million at the box office in the United States and led to the subsequent Edgar Allan Poe adaptations of The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Tale of Terror (1962), The Comedy of Terrors (1963), The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964).
He starred in The Last Man on Earth (1964), the first adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend and portrayed witch hunter Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General (US: The Conqueror Worm, 1968) set during the English Civil War. He starred in comedy films such as Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) and its sequel Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966). In 1968 he played the part of an eccentric artist in the musical Darling of the Day, opposite Patricia Routledge.
In the 1960s he began his role as a guest on the television game show Hollywood Squares, becoming a semi-regular in the 1970s, including being one of the guest panelists on the finale in 1980.
Price made many guest-star appearances in television shows during the decade, including Daniel Boone, Batman, F Troop, Get Smart, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. In 1964, he provided the narration for the the Tombstone Historama in Tombstone, Arizona, which is still in operation as of 2016. He also starred as the host of the Australian TV series If These Walls Could Speak, in which a short history of a historical building (supposedly narrated by the building itself) was covered, and as the narrating voice of the building.
Later career Edit
During the early 1970s, Price hosted and starred in BBC Radio's horror and mystery series The Price of Fear. He accepted a cameo part in the Canadian children's television program The Hilarious House of Frightenstein (1971) in Hamilton, Ontario on the local television station CHCH. In addition to the opening and closing monologues, his role in the show was to recite poems about various characters, sometimes wearing a cloak or other costumes.
Price appeared in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), and Theatre of Blood (1973), in which he portrayed on of a pair of serial killers. That same year, he appeared as himself in Mooch Goes to Hollywood, a film written by Jim Backus. He was an adimirer of the works of Edgar Allan Poe and in 1975 visited the Edgar Allan Poe Museum (Richmond, Virginia), where he had his picture taken with the museum's popular stuffed raven.
Price recorded dramatic readings of Poe's short stories and poems, which were collected together with readings by Basil Rathbone. In 1975, Price and his wife Coral Browne appeared together in an international stage adaptation of Ardèle which played in the USA as well as in London at the Queen's Theatre. During his run, Browne and Price starred together in the BBC Radio play Night of the Wolf first airing in 1975. He greatly reduced his film work from around 1975, as horror itself suffered a slump, and he increased his narrative and voice work, as well as advertising Milton Bradley's Shrunken Head Apple Sculpture.
Price voiceover is heard on Alice Cooper's first solo album Welcome to My Nightmare from 1975, and he appeared in the corresponding TV special Alice Cooper: The Nightmare. He starred for a year in the early 1970s in the syndicated daily radio program Tales of the Unexplained. He made guest appearances in a 1970 episode of Here's Lucy, showcasting his art expertise, and in a 1972 episode of ABC's The Brady Buch, in which he played a deranged archaeologist. In October 1976, he appeared as the featured guest in an episode of The Muppet Show.
In 1976, Price recorded a cover of Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mas" as a 45rpm single, putting, his voice to a backing track laid down in London by record Bob Newby and Ken Weston. It was released on both sides of the Atlantic later that year without much success. In 1977, he began performing as Oscar Wilde in the one-man stage play Diversions and Delights, written by John Gay and dirceted by Joe Hardy and set in a Parisian theatre on a night about one year before Wilde's death. The original tour of the play was a success in every city except for New York City. In the summer of 1979, Price performed the role of Wilde at the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado, on the same stage from which Wilde had spoken to miners about art some 96 years before. He eventually performed the play worldwide. Victoria Price stated in her biography of her father that several members of Price's family and friends thought that his was his best acting performance.
In 1979, Price starred with his wife in the short-lived CBS TV series Time Express. In 1979, he hosted the hour-long amusement park and roller coaster television special "America Screams", riding on many of the roller coasters himself and recounting their history. During 1979–1980, he hosted the "Mystery Night" segment of the radio series Sears Radio Theater.
In 1981, Price Played Grover in the original stage musical production of The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Loveble, Furry Old Grover. In 1982, Price provided the narrator's voice in Vincent, Tim Burton's six-minute film about a young boy who flashes from reality into a fantasy where he is Vincent Price. He appeared as Sir Despard Murgatroyd in a 1982 television production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore (with Keith Michell as Robin Oakapple). In 1982, Price provided the spoken-word sequence to the end of the Michael Jackson song "Thriller". In 1983, he played the Sinister Man in the British spoof horror film Bloodbath at the House of Death. He appeared in House of the Long Shadows with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and John Carradine. He had worked with each of those actors at least once in previous decades, but this was the first time that all had teamed up. One of his last major roles, and one of his favorites, was as the voice of Professor Ratigan in Walt Disney Pictures' The Great Mouse Detective in 1986.
From 1981 to 1989, Price hosted the PBS television series Mystery! In 1985, he provided voice talent on the Hanna-Barbera series The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo as the mysterious "Vincent Van Ghoul" who aided Scooby-Doo, Scrappy-Doo, and the gang in recapturing 13 demons. He was a lifelong fan of rollercoasters, and he narrated a 1987 30-minute docementray on the history of rollercoasters and amusement parks including Coney Island. During this time (1985–1989), he appeared in horror-themed commercials for Tilex bathroom cleanser.
In 1984, Price appeared in Shelley Duvall's live-action series Faerie Tale Theatre as the Mirror in "Show White and the Seven Dwarfs", and the narrator for "The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers". In 1987, he starred with Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, and Ann Sothern in The Whales of August, a story of two sisters living in Maine facing the end of their days. His performance in The Whales of August earned the only award nomination of his career: an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In 1989, Price was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. His last significant film work was as the inventor in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands (1990).
In 1990, Price recorded the narration for Disneyland Paris's Phantom Manor. However, after the attraction opened in 1992, the narration was shortly removed and replaced with one entirely in French, performed by Gérard Chevalier. Only Price's infamous laughter remained on the sountrack. In 2018, it was annound that during Phantom Manor's major renovation, parts Price's narration would be restored to the attraction. For the 2019 re-opening, the new tracks feature Price once again, original excerpts as well as previously unusend material from his 1990 recording, spoken English, with French actor Bernarde Alane doing the parts in French.
Vincent Price, who studied Art History (along with English) at Yale University, was also an art lover and collector. He was a commissioner of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board.
In 1957, impressed by the spirit of the students and the community's need for the opportunity to experience original art works first hand, Vincent and Mary Grant Price donated 90 pieces from their private collection and a large amount of money to establish the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, California, which was the first "teaching art collection" owned by a community colleges in the United States. They ultimately donated some 2,000 pieces; the collection contains over 9,000 pieces and has been valued in excess of $5 million.
Price also spent time working as an art consultant for Sears-Roebuck: From 1962 to 1971, Sears offered the "Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art". selling about 50,000 fine art prints to the general public. Works which Price selected or commissioned for the collection included works by Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí. Public access to fine art was important to Price, who, according to his daughter, Victoria, saw the Sears deal as an "opportunity to put his populist beliefs into practice, to bring art to the American public".
Price armassed his own extensive collection of art and, in 2008, a painting bought for $25 by a couple from Dallas, Texas was identified as a piece from Price's collection. Painted by leading Australian modernist Grace Cossington Smith it was given a modern valuation of AU$45,000.
Finally, Price was also a gourmet cook and he authored several cookbooks with his second wife, Mary. These include:
- A Treasury of Great Recipes (1965)
- Mary and Vincent Price present a National Treasury of Cookery (1967)
- Mary and Vincent Price's Come into the Kitchen Cook Book: A Collector's Treasury of America's Great Recipes (1969)
- Cooking Price-Wise with Vincent Price (1971)
Mary and Vincent Price present a National Treasury of Cookery was a five-volume series, packaged in a boxed set and published by the Heirloom Publishing Company.
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