Vincent Price – The Merchant of Menace
“I sometimes feel that I’m impersonating the dark unconscious of the whole human race. I know this sounds sick, but I love it” – Vincent Price
That voice, that face, those menacing expressions! Of all the great horror actors, my heart belongs to Vincent Price. He was one of the best and most versatile actors. Sophisticated, elegant, well-spoken, and deliciously menacing.
Vincent Price was born in Missouri on May 27, 1911, into a wealthy family. He went to private school when he was young, and then to Yale, where he got a bachelor’s degree in history and language. He moved to England and studied history at the University of London., and art at the Courtauld Institute. Though he did do some stage acting while he was in school, that was just the beginning.
He was interested in acting through school, but it was after school that the acting bug really took a bite out of him. He started acting in the theatre in England. He starred in several well-liked plays, but it was his role as Prince Regent in a play called Victoria Regina that really got people’s attention. The play went on tour and landed on Broadway, and after performances were over, he was ready for the big screen.
Vincent’s movie career started slowly, with supporting roles in several film noir movies. Then came the role of Henry Jarrod in House of Wax (1953) and his career really took off! He got roles in big-budget films after that, but after he starred in The Mad Magician (1954), his role as the villain was set. Between 1954 and 1958, he acted in a number of movies in different genres. The role that always stands out for me is Baka in the 1956 epic The Ten Commandments. (probably because my mother made us watch it every year when I was a kid).
In 1958 he starred in The Fly, and in 1959, Return of the Fly. Also in 1959 was the classic House on Haunted Hill. He went on to make a bunch of movies with director Roger Corman, that were based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe. Two of my horror favorites together! They’re all fantastic, but by far, my favorite is Tales of Terror (1962). I watched it on tv with my grandfather when I was little and it scared me to death. Especially The Case of M Valdemar. He isn’t the villain in this story, and when I talk about it I can still hear him begging to be let go!
Mr. Price continued his amazing acting career throughout his life, granted with a few missteps here and there. Have you ever heard of a 1974 movie called It’s Not the Size that Counts (a/k/a Percy’s Progress)? Neither did I, thank you vincentprice.com! He went back to stage acting on Broadway and did some voice-over work. His last movie role was in 1990 as the man who invented Edward Scissorhands.
He was just as fascinating off-screen as he is in the movies. He was an avid art collector his entire life and had an impressive collection of fine art. He donated pieces from his collection to The Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College (which he started with his first wife Mary) and was on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles County Museum, The Indian Arts and Crafts Board, and the Archives of American Art. He also collaborated with Sears on “The Vincent Price Fine Collection of Fine Art”. First Lady Jackie Kennedy invited him to be on the Board of the White House Commission of Fine Arts. He also wrote books about art:
He was also a huge foodie! And had a cooking show called Cooking Price-Wise. If you are old enough to remember it, please email me and tell me all about it! He and his wife Mary loved to throw elegant dinner parties. He has also written several cookbooks, which have been updated and re-released by his daughter Victoria:
- A Treasury of Great Recipes
- Mary and Vincent Price’s Come Into the Kitchen Cook Book
- Cooking Price-Wise
I don’t think I can truly pick a favorite film of his. I keep changing my mind. Follow this link to his filmography on IMDb.com, and let me know if you have a favorite. Here are some things you may not know about the Master of Menace:
- He loved to do commercials. He even did one for Chips Ahoy cookies.
- In the 70s he had a horror show on BBC radio called The Price of Fear
- He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
- He was an Alice Cooper fan! He was in an Alice Cooper tv special called Alice Cooper: The Nightmare (I need to find that!), and his voice is at the beginning of Alice’s song ‘Welcome to My Nightmare”.
- And last but not least, he lent his voice to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
I love what I do and I have a great time doing it. A lot of my articles require a lot of research to get everything right. I can say in all honesty, that I had more fun researching Vincent Price than I have above everything else. Make sure you head over to Instagram and follow @the.vincentprice.club