Vincent Price is best remembered for his distinctive voice and seriocomic attitude in a series of distinctive horror films. His tall 6′ 4″ stature and polished urbane manner made him something of an American counterpart to the older Boris Karloff.
Vincent Price was born in St. Louis, Missouri to Vincent Leonard Price and Marguerite Willcox. His father was president of the National Candy Company, and his grandfather invented “Dr Price’s Baking Powder”- the first commercially manufactured one. Vincent Jr. attended St. Louis Country Day School. He was further educated at Yale in art history and fine art. He was a member of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity and the Courtauld Institute, London. He became interested in theater in the 1930s, appearing professionally on stage from 1935.
He made his film debut in 1938 with Service de Luxe and established himself as a competent actor, notably in Laura (1944), opposite Gene Tierney, directed by Otto Preminger. He also played Joseph Smith, Jr. in the movie Brigham Young. During the 1940s, he appeared in a wide variety of films from straight-forward drama to comedy to horror (he provided the voice of The Invisible Man at the end of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948). He was also active in radio, portraying the Robin Hood-inspired crime-fighter Simon Templar, aka. The Saint, in a popular series that ran from 1947 to 1951.
In the 1950s, he moved into horror films, enjoying a role in the successful curiosity House of Wax (1953), the first 3-D film to land in the year’s top ten at the North American box office, and then the classic monster movie The Fly (1958). Price also starred in the original House on Haunted Hill (1959) as the eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren. (Geoffrey Rush, playing the same character in the 1999 remake, was not made to resemble Price, but was renamed Steven Price in honor of Vincent Price.)
In the 1960s, he had a number of low-budget successes with Roger Corman and American International Pictures (AIP) including the Edgar Allen Poe adaptations House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror, The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death, and The Tomb of Ligeia.
These were followed by numerous other roles throughout the 1960s in which he played characters in horror films who were often closely modeled on the Corman Poe films. He has also appeared in The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Theatre of Blood, in which he created a series of campy, tongue-in-cheek villains.Price also recorded dramatic readings of Poe’s short stories and poems, which were collected together with readings by Basil Rathbone. In 1968 he played the part of an eccentric artist in the musical Darling of the Day opposite Patricia Routledge, displaying an adequate if untrained singing voice.
He often spoke of his pleasure at playing “Egghead” on the popular Batman television series. Another of his co-stars, Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), often said Price was her favorite co-star. In an often-repeated anecdote from the set of Batman, Price, after a take was printed, started throwing eggs at series stars Adam West and Burt Ward, and when asked to stop replied, “With a full artillery? Not a chance!”, causing an egg fight to erupt on the sound stage. This incident is reenacted in the behind-the-scenes telefilm Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt.
Price accepted a cameo part in the children’s television program The Hilarious House of Frightenstein (1971) in Hamilton, Ontario Canada, on a local station. In addition to the opening and closing monologues, his role in the show was to recite simple, silly poems about the show’s various characters, sometimes wearing a cloak or other costumes.
He greatly reduced his film work from around 1975, as horror itself suffered a slump, and increased his narrative and voice work. Price’s voiceover is heard on Alice Cooper’s first solo album, Welcome to My Nightmare from 1975, as well as the TV special entitled Alice Cooper-The Nightmare, and on Michael Jackson’s music video, Thriller from 1983. Price recorded the central spoken section in Thriller in just two takes, after it had been written by Rod Temperton in the taxi on the way to the studio for the recording session.
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 from 1986. He also starred for a year in the early 1970s in a syndicated daily radio program, Tales of the Unexplained. He also made a guest appearance in a well remembered 1972 episode of The Brady Bunch, in which he played a deranged archeologist.
In 1982, Price provided the narrator’s voice in Vincent, a Tim Burton’s six-minute film about a young boy who flashes from reality into a fantasy where he is Vincent Price. From 1981 to 1989, he hosted the PBS television series Mystery!. His last significant film work was as the inventor in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (1990).
Price was also a noted gourmet cook and art collector. From 1962 to 1971, Sears, Roebuck offered the Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art, selling about 50,000 pieces of fine art to the general public. Price selected and commissioned works for the collection, including works by Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí. He also authored several cookbooks.
Price was married three times and fathered a son, named Vincent Barrett Price, with his first wife, former actress Edith Barrett. Price and his second wife Mary Grant donated hundreds of works of art and a large amount of money to East Los Angeles College in the early 1960s in order to endow the Vincent and Mary Price Gallery there. Their daughter, Victoria, was born in 1962.
Price’s last marriage was to the Australian actress Coral Browne, who appeared with him (as one of his victims) in Theatre Of Blood (1973). He converted to Catholicism to marry her, and she became a US citizen for him. According to his daughter, Price became disillusioned with the faith after her 1991 death. He died two years later.
|Don’t Scream It’s Only a Movie||Actor||1989|
|Bloodbath at the House of Death||Actor||1984|
|Thriller (Michael Jackson Video)||Actor (voice)||1983|
|House of the Long Shadows||Actor||1983|
|Once Upon a Midnight Scary||Actor..Host||1979|
|Journey Into Fear||Actor||1975|
|Alice Cooper: The Nightmare||Actor||1975|
|Theatre of Blood||Actor||1973|
|An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe||Actor||1972|
|Dr. Phibes Rises Again||Actor||1972|
|The Abominable Dr. Phibes||Actor||1971|
|Cry of the Banshee||Actor||1970|
|Scream and Scream Again||Actor||1969|
|The Oblong Box||Actor||1969|
|Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General||Actor||1968|
|The Tomb of Ligeia||Actor||1965|
|The Masque of the Red Death||Actor||1964|
|Last Man on Earth||Actor||1964|
|The Comedy of Terrors||Actor||1964|
|The Haunted Palace||Actor||1963|
|Diary of a Madman||Actor||1963|
|Tower of London||Actor||1962|
|Tales of Terror||Actor||1962|
|Pit and the Pendulum||Actor||1961|
|House of Usher||Actor||1960|
|Return of the Fly||Actor||1959|
|House on Haunted Hill||Actor||1959|
|The Mad Magician||Actor||1954|
|House of Wax||Actor||1953|
|The Invisible Man Returns||Actor||1940|
|Tower of London||Actor||1939|
Hear Vincent Price recite The Raven.
1911 – 1993
“It’s as much fun to scare as to be scared.”
~Vincent Leonard Price