Vincent Price: The Man Behind the Voice of Horror

Vincent Price: The Man Behind the Voice of Horror

Sandra Pandora |
Pandora Writer |
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The world of horror cinema has been graced by numerous iconic figures over the years, yet none have left a mark quite like Vincent Price. His name is synonymous with macabre tales, gothic atmospheres, and chilling performances. Vincent Price was more than just an actor; he was a connoisseur of all things eerie and an enduring legend in the world of horror.

Vincent Price

Vincent Leonard Price Jr. was born on May 27, 1911, in St. Louis, Missouri, to a family deeply rooted in art and culture. His father, Vincent Leonard Price Sr., was the president of a candy manufacturing company and his mother, Marguerite Cobb Wilcox, was a teacher at an elementary school. Growing up, young Vincent was surrounded by creativity and a strong sense of artistic appreciation.

Price attended Yale University (during the Great Depression), where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in English and art history.

After he left Yale, he taught for a year at the Riverdale school on the Hudson in New York. 

Vincent Price

Price proceeded to the University of London, where he studied art history at the Courtauld Institute. While he was there, Price embarked on a professional stage career, marking his stage debut in a production of "Chicago" at the Gate Theatre, which eventually brought him to Broadway. He made his Broadway debut in 1935 in "Victoria Regina," a historical drama starring Helen Hayes. Price's stage performances were met with critical acclaim, and he soon established himself as a talented and versatile actor.

Price's stage success paved the way for a film career. His first film role was in "Service De Luxe" in 1938. Price progressed to more prominent characters, including his portrayal of Raleigh in "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" in 1939.

Vincent Price's transition to Hollywood was a natural progression of his career. In the 1940s, he began appearing in a series of films, showcasing his acting skills in various genres. One of his notable early films was "Laura" in 1944, a classic film noir directed by Otto Preminger, in which he played the role of Shelby Carpenter, a charming but morally ambiguous character. “Shock" is another masterpiece, released in 1946. 

Vincent Price

He starred in a variety of films across different genres, but it was his work in horror that truly cemented his status as a cultural icon. It was in the 1950s that Price began to make his mark in the horror genre. In 1953, Price starred in "House of Wax," a 3D horror film.

Price's distinctive voice, imposing presence, and ability to convey complex emotions on-screen made him an ideal choice for horror roles. He possessed a magnetic quality that drew audiences into his performances, whether he was portraying the villain or the victim. 

Simultaneously taking on supporting roles in major productions, Price remained a prominent figure in lower-budget horror films. Notably, he played the role of the scientist-turned-fly's brother in the beloved cult classic "The Fly" in 1958 and its sequel "Return of the Fly" in 1959.

Vincent Price

One of his most iconic roles came in 1959 when he played the title character in "House on Haunted Hill," a William Castle-directed film that became a cult classic. Price's portrayal of Frederick Loren, a millionaire who invites guests to a haunted mansion, was both menacing and suave, showcasing his ability to balance charm and malevolence. And let's not forget "The Tingler" released later that year.

He was then the lead in the "House of Usher" in 1960, based on Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Fall of the House of Usher." In the film, Price portrayed Roderick Usher, a man tormented by the looming madness and decay of his ancestral home. Price's performance captured the essence of the tortured and complex characters often found in Poe's stories.

Vincent Price

Price continued to collaborate with Corman on a series of Poe-inspired films, including "The Masque of the Red Death" and "The Tomb of Ligeia" in 1964. One of the most memorable aspects of these films was the striking Gothic visuals and elaborate set designs.

From 1966 to 1968, Vincent Price embraced his onscreen persona by portraying the mischievous antagonist known as Egghead in the campy series "Batman."

Price continued to grace the screen, delivering iconic performances. In addition to his film career, Price made a significant impact on the small screen. He became a frequent guest on various television shows, such as "The Brady Bunch," and established himself as a charismatic and engaging personality. He also did TV commercials and appeared in print ads.

Vincent Price

One of the most enduring aspects of Price's later career was his contribution to horror-related documentaries and radio programs. He had a deep knowledge of the horror genre and was a compelling speaker on the subject. His insights and interviews about classic horror films and his firsthand experiences in the genre continue to be treasured by fans and scholars.

In 1981, Price remained active in the horror genre, collaborating with filmmakers such as Tim Burton. He lent his voice to characters in Burton's animated short film "Vincent." He also provided the narration for Michael Jackson's song and video "Thriller" in 1982.

In the 1990 film "Edward Scissorhands" starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton, Price played the role of the inventor.

Vincent Price

Price's influence extended beyond the screen. He authored several cookbooks and was a passionate art collector. Price's extensive art collection was eventually donated to various museums and institutions.

Price's philanthropic efforts were notable as well. He was a dedicated advocate for the arts, and he often participated in charity events and auctions to raise funds for cultural institutions. In recognition of his contributions to the arts, Price received numerous awards and honors throughout his lifetime.

Vincent Price's legacy in the world of horror is immeasurable. His unique ability to embody sinister and twisted characters made him a beloved figure among horror enthusiasts. Price's distinctive voice and his talent for creating an atmosphere of suspense and dread became a hallmark of his performances.

Price's influence extends far beyond his own performances. He inspired countless actors, filmmakers, and artists who continue to draw from his work and his love for the genre.

Vincent Price

After struggling with Parkinson's disease and lung cancer, Vincent Price passed away on October 25, 1993, at the age of 82. His ashes were scattered off the California coast.

His death marked the end of an era in the horror genre, but his work and influence live on. He left a legacy that continues to inspire and captivate audiences to this day. Beyond his acting career, Price's dedication to the arts and philanthropy showcased his deep appreciation for culture and his desire to give back to the world.

In the darkness and shadows of classic horror, the voice of Vincent Price still echoes, inviting us into a world of suspense, intrigue, and the masterful art of the macabre.
Did you know?

His father was Vincent Leonard Price, Sr., who was the president of the National Candy Company.

Vincent Price

His grandfather, Vincent Clarence Price, is credited with the invention of "Dr. Price's Baking Powder," which marked the pioneering introduction of cream of tartar baking powder. This invention played a pivotal role in securing the family's wealth and success.

He was the youngest of four kids in his family.

He said he was friends with his parents, rather than them just being parents.

Price said his mother taught him to cook.

He considered himself an extrovert.

He worked for the wine industry.

He wrote 4 books on art history.

He also wrote hundreds of newspaper articles and an autobiography.

In 1972, he authored the successful coffee-table book "A Treasury of American Art."

He once said, “Frankenstein was one of the great novels of its time.”

In an interview Price said when working for Orson Wells at the Mercury Theater, that "he paid so little that we starved."

Vincent Price

"The Bat" in 1959 stands as one of the early black-and-white films to undergo the process of colorization. Regrettably, during this period, the colorization technique remained rudimentary, resulting in a restricted color spectrum, and leaving substantial portions of the screen in black-and-white. Agnes Moorehead played the role of mystery writer, Cornelia van Gorder, a woman who finds herself in a creepy remote mansion that may be inhabited by a criminal known as "The Bat." Vincent Price played Dr. Malcolm Wells, a prominent physician. Dr. Wells assists in trying to uncover the identity of "The Bat."

Throughout his lifetime, Price was known for his generous contributions to various museums and art foundations. In 1951, Price founded the Vincent Price Gallery (now called the Vincent Price Art Museum) and Foundation, located on the grounds of East Los Angeles Community College. He had donated at least 2000 pieces to the gallery. He made significant donations from his esteemed private art collection to this foundation.

Vincent Price

About art, he said, "I was going to be an art historian, and I guess in a way I still am somewhat, because as an amateur in the arts, a lover of the arts."

Vincent Price bought his first piece of art in 1923, at 12 years old. He paid $37.50 for the Rembrandt etching. As he was only 12 at the time, it took him 3 years to pay it off. When he was an adult, he sold it when he needed money.

Price co-authored several cookbooks, including "A Treasury of Great Recipes" with his second wife, Mary Grant Price. The book featured recipes collected from their travels around the world and showcased their love for fine dining.

Vincent Price

He made 105 movies.

He has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Situated on the campus of East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, California, the Vincent Price Art Museum is dedicated to the arts. Price, along with his wife Mary Grant, was a regular guest at the college. He often spoke at graduation ceremonies and enthusiastically interacted with students and faculty when invited to the classroom. Address: 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, CA 91754

"I don’t know a lot about anything, but I know a little about practically everything." – Shelby Carpenter in “Laura”

"A man who limits his interests limits his life." – Vincent Price

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