Vincent Price is a name recognized by many, most often for his contributions to 20th century horror cinema. Coming onto the Hollywood scene in Service de Luxe (1938), Price distinctive nasally tone of voice and his tall stature were key in his becoming so popular as a character actor. 1944’s Laura paired him with Gene Tierney, and from there Price soon became rather sought-after in Tinseltown. Although his first horror picture was a minor role in 1938’s Tower of London, starring Boris Karloff, he really broke into horror with 1953’s House of Wax. The man’s life has been the subject of many a documentary and biography, and today we’re counting down the top 10 most interesting facts about a very interesting man.
5. Birthday Bonanza
As a very perceptive nun in a famous musical once said, “Let’s start at the very beginning; A very good place to start.” Vincent Leonard Price Jr. was born on May 27, 1911, in St. Louis Missouri. (A town which, by the way, honored the man with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame for his cinematic contributions.) However, he’s not the only famous mid-century horror star who was born within that time frame. As it turns out, Price shares a birthday with fellow horror alum Christopher Lee, who was born on the same day in 1922.
As if the fates themselves hadn’t already aligned there, yet another famous horror actor of the era, Peter Cushing, was born one day earlier, on May 26, 1913. The three teamed up on the screen in a few different films, including Scream and Scream Again (1970), and 1983’s horror parody House of the Long Shadows (where they were joined by John Carradine!).
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4. Kitchen Connisour
One of Vincent Price’s greatest passions was gourmet cooking. He even had his own cooking show in 1971 on British TV! The show was called Cooking Price-Wise, named after his final cookbook. And yes, you heard me correctly. Cookbook. Price published four cookbooks during his lifetime, all of which were co-authored with his second wife, Mary Grant Price. Those were, in order: 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), and the aforementioned Cooking Price-Wise with Vincent Price (1971).
In addition to his short-lived television show, Price also once had a guest spot on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, during which Price taught Carson (and the audience) how to poach a fish in a dishwasher!
3. Vamoosed Vocals
In the late 80s and early 90s, Disney was developing a park in France that would attempt to replicate the success of their American theme parks. But one ride in particular seemed destined for greatness from the start, that being a ride based on Disneyland’s very successful Haunted Mansion called Phantom Manor. And the star of the show? A narration by none other than Vincent Price himself! The Imagineers whipped up an attraction script meant to be performed by Price, Price recorded it, and all seemed according to plan. Until French officials informed the Walt Disney Company that most of the ride’s audio had to be in French. Price’s narration was ultimately scrapped, and replaced after a few weeks of operation by a French narration, recorded by Gérard Chevalier.
Price’s scrapped narration for Phantom Manor can be heard in its entirety on the 1999 CD The Haunted Mansion – 30th Anniversary. But the only contribution of Price’s that can be heard in the attraction proper to this day is arguably Price’s most distinctive vocal feature: His famous cackling laugh.
2. Art Appreciation
Price studied Art History at Yale, and his own private collection of art was certainly something to be seen. Despite this, he was no stingy collector. Sears department stores across the Unites States sold from the “Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art”, selling to the public pieces of fine art they might not have been able to amass themselves. Price and his second wife, Mary Grant Price, donated a massive amount of money and art from their private collection to East Los Angeles College. Today, the Vincent Price Art Museum is still a vital source of art education. The Museum’s mission statement, according to their website, “is to serve as a unique educational resource for the diverse audiences of the college and the community through the exhibition, interpretation, collection, and preservation of works in all media of the visual arts.”
He was even appointed to the Indian Arts and Crafts board during the Eisenhower administration. Vincent Price’s daughter, Victoria, once said that Price’s mission in both teaming up with Sears and in donating so much to form the Vincent Price Art Museum was to, “bring art to the American public.” He certainly accomplished that much.
1. Political Personality
Price was very outspoken about his left-leaning political views. It was no secret that Price felt very strongly about these issues, and he had absolutely no problem letting anybody know that he had hard opinions on the things going on in the world during his lifetime. Along with being vocally supportive of both his lesbian daughter, Victoria, and his bisexual wife, Cora Browne (and quite possibly having been bisexual himself), Price vocally criticized Anita Bryant’s anti-gay propaganda, and appeared in public service announcements which attempted to educate the public about the AIDS virus. But besides his stance on LGBT issues, Price was also a firm believer in anti-racism and anti-religious discrimination.
I think an appropriate way to end this article would be by linking you to an audio clip from the conclusion of a 1950 episode of the popular radio show The Saint. In it, Price outlines a moral philosophy that seems shockingly relevant today. You can listen to the speech in the video linked above, or read it below. Either way, it was very clear that the late, great, Mr. Price was much more than just a hokey horror actor.
Ladies and gentlemen, poison doesn’t always come in bottles. And it isn’t always marked with the skull and crossbones of danger. Poison can take the form of words and phrases and acts: the venom of racial and religious hatred. Here in the United States, perhaps more than ever before, we must learn to recognize the poison of prejudice and to discover the antidote to its dangerous effects. Evidences of racial and religious hatred in our country place a potent weapon in the hands of our enemies, providing them with the ammunition of criticism. Moreover, group hatred menaces the entire fabric of democratic life. As for the antidote: you can fight prejudice, first by recognizing it for what it is, and second by actively accepting or rejecting people on their individual worth, and by speaking up against prejudice and for understanding. Remember, freedom and prejudice can’t exist side by side. If you choose freedom, fight prejudice.