“I don’t play monsters. I play men besieged by fate and out for revenge.”
Vincent Price will forever be known as one of the great horror movie actors of all time, but his real persona was vastly different from what the big screen shows. He was described as a “consummate gentleman,” a collector of fine arts, and a fan of gourmet cooking. He was the ultimate villain on camera, and the ultimate nice guy off camera.
THE EARLY YEARS
Vincent Leonard Price was born on May 27, 1911, and lived his entire childhood in the St. Louis area. He was born to a wealthy family with a father who owned the National Candy Company. Vincent attended the Community School and prestigious St. Louis Country Day School before studying at Yale University.
Price’s first job after graduating from the Ivy League school was as a teacher. He wasn’t ready for the business of education, so he quit after only one year, which is when he headed to England at the age of twenty-two to study at the University of London. He was working toward a degree in fine arts when the acting bug bit him and changed the course of his life toward a career on stage.
RISE TO FAME
Price got his first on-stage experience at the age of twenty-three in a pair of productions, which included the leading role of Prince Albert in Victoria Regina. That play later transferred to Broadway, and Price went with the show. He stayed with the production for three years in the Big Apple while branching out to other areas of performance. He picked up speaking jobs on the radio, including a role on Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater. After his stint in New York, he moved to Hollywood to try his hand at movie acting. The trip paid immediate dividends as he landed roles in hit movies like The House of Seven Gables, Laura, and Champagne for Caesar.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
Price was one of the leading actors in Hollywood during the late 1940s and early 1950s, both as a romantic leading man and in horror films. He always had the biggest success playing a frightening villain. He used his reputation for fright to land a role in his breakout movie House of Wax in 1953. The movie used a new type of filmmaking technology called 3-D to enhance the horror scenes.
The popularity of that film led to more leading roles in The Fly, The Return of the Fly, and House on Haunted Hill. During this time he expanded his acting repertoire in comedies like Casanova’s Big Night with Bob Hope and in epics like The Ten Commandments. The 1960s were equally successful for Price as he continued to establish himself as the master of horror. He played in dozens of productions, including The House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Masque of the Red Death.
As he approached the age of sixty, he slowed down and pursued his passion for fine arts and gourmet cooking. He still worked in Hollywood, just not on the big screen. He wrote a number of books about classical and fine art and even coauthored cookbooks with his second wife. Many younger movie fans may not recognize his big screen roles but will forever remember his appearances on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Alice Cooper’s “The Nightmare.” He played one last memorable role in 1990 in the blockbuster movie Edward Scissorhands with Johnny Depp.
Price died three years after his last big role at the age of eighty-two. He left an amazing body of work with more than one hundred films. He will forever have
a reputation as a villain in the movie theater, but the Missouri-born actor proved that he was a man of many assets, most importantly, a man with a passion for life.
*Vincent’s grandfather invented baking powder.
*Price is the “evil voice” on Michael Jackson’s song “Thriller,” which is the biggest-selling album of all time.
*Price attended the opening night of the first production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show.