Sunday, October 25, 2015

13 Films Of Halloween: Vincent Price

Vincent Price died on this day (October 25th) in 1993 at the age of 82.

He was born in St. Louis, Missouri on May 27, 1911, into a fairly well-to-do family. His grandfather had invented “Dr. Price’s Baking Powder, used in kitchens across America and his father was the president of the National Candy Company (Jellybeans! Their factory in St. Louis is now a National Historic Landmark building). He graduated from Yale with a degree in Art History, and continued his education at the University Of London aiming for a Masters Degree in Fine Arts... but got mixed up with the wrong crowd (Orson Welles) and ended up acting on stage with the Mercury Theatre in London in 1935. By 1936 he was back in America playing the male lead on stage opposite Helen Hayes in a production of Victoria Regina. As an actual actor, who played a variety of very different roles, when Hollywood called they made him a character actor. His first film was SERVICE DE LUX (1938) but he became “famous” when he played the “kept man” in one of my favorite movies LAURA (1944).

Like all actors under studio contracts, Price had been working in dozens of films up until then, including his first horror film TOWER OF LONDON (1939) with Boris Karloff - who he’d work with in these AIP horror ficks that we’ve been looking at. In 1940 he filled in for Claude Raines in THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS and played that role again in one of my favorite horror films ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.

Being a character actor in studio B movies meant Price also ended up in a bunch of other Film Noirs besides LAURA - he’s in THE WEB and THE LONG NIGHT and THE BRIBE and several others. His mid-Atlantic accent and ability to play all types of characters made him a great villain or suspect in these films.

In 1956 he co-starred in the epic blockbuster THE TEN COMMANDMENTS with Chuckles Heston, who would later play the same role as Price had played in LAST MAN ON EARTH in the schlocky mega-macho version OMEGA MAN.

He returned to horror films in the 3D HOUSE OF WAX (1953) and continued with films like THE FLY (1958) and RETURN OF THE FLY (1959) and THE TINGLER (1959).

Which brings us up to the films that we’ve been looking at in this series - THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) and the Roger Corman Poe films.

After doing dozens of TV guest starring roles (including villain Egghead on BATMAN) and becoming a regular on THE HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, Price “retired” in the mid-1970s and returned to the stage, plus his love of art and cooking. He hosted a cooking show! The strangest piece of his biography is that he became an Art Consultant to Sears Department Stores which actually sold fine art and reproductions to suburbanites who wanted to seem sophisticated through a kind of “art of the month club”. Price personally selected the art works and thought of this as bringing an appreciation of fine art to a mass audience. Price also donated hundreds of pieces of art from his collection to the East Los Angeles College and established a museum there. He died of lung cancer at UCLA Medical Center on this day in 1993.

I was trying to figure out the best film to highlight Vincent Price’s career today... and decided on an early animated film by Tim Burton you may not have ever seen, called...

VINCENT (1982):

- Bill

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