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Vincent Price

This article is about the actor. For other uses, see Vincent Price (disambiguation).

Vincent Price
in the trailer for Laura in 1944
Born Vincent Leonard Price, Jr.
(1911-05-27)May 27, 1911
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died October 25, 1993(1993-10-25) (aged 82)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Lung cancer
Nationality American
Alma mater St. Louis Country Day School
Yale University
Occupation Actor
Years active 1935–1993
Known for House of Wax (1953)
House of Usher (1960)
Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
The Raven (1963)
Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Home town St. Louis, Missouri U.S.
Spouse(s) Edith Barrett (1938–48)
Mary Grant Price (1949–73)
Coral Browne (1974–91)
Children Vincent Barrett Price
Mary Victoria Price
Parent(s) Vincent Leonard Price, Sr.
Marguerite (Wilcox) Price
Relatives Vincent Clarence Price (grandfather)
Awards Hollywood Walk of Fame:
2 stars (for TV and film)

Vincent Leonard Price, Jr. (May 27, 1911 – October 25, 1993) was an American actor, well known for his distinctive voice as well as his serio-comic performances in a series of horror films made in the latter part of his career.[1]

Early life and career

Price was born in St. Louis, Missouri, youngest of the four children of Vincent Leonard Price, Sr., president of the National Candy Company, and his wife Marguerite Cobb (née Wilcox) Price.[1][2] His grandfather, Vincent Clarence Price, invented "Dr. Price's Baking Powder", the first cream of tartar baking powder,[3] and secured the family's fortune.[4]

Price attended St. Louis Country Day School. In 1933, he graduated with a degree in art history from Yale University, where he worked on campus humor magazine The Yale Record.[5] After teaching for a year, he entered the University of London, intending to study for a Master's degree in Fine Arts. Instead, he was drawn to the theater, first appearing on stage professionally in 1934. His acting career began in London in 1935, performing with Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre.[6]

In 1936, Price appeared as Prince Albert Victor in the American production of Laurence Housman's play Victoria Regina, starring Helen Hayes in the title role of Queen Victoria.[7]


As Mr. Manningham in Angel Street, in which he had a three-year run, photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1942.

Despite his lasting association with horror films, Price started out as a character actor. He made his film debut in 1938 with Service de Luxe and established himself in the film Laura (1944), opposite Gene Tierney, directed by Otto Preminger. He also played Joseph Smith in the movie Brigham Young (1940) and William Gibbs McAdoo in Wilson (1944) as well as Bernadette's prosecutor, Vital Dutour, in "The Song of Bernadette" (1943) and a pretentious priest in The Keys of the Kingdom (1944).

Price's first venture into the horror genre was in the 1939 Boris Karloff film Tower of London. The following year he portrayed the title character in the film The Invisible Man Returns (a role he reprised in a vocal cameo at the end of the 1948 horror-comedy spoof Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein).

In 1946, Price reunited with Tierney in two notable films, Dragonwyck and Leave Her to Heaven. There were also many villainous roles in film noir thrillers like The Web (1947), The Long Night (1947), Rogues' Regiment (1948) and The Bribe (1949), with Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner and Charles Laughton. Price's first starring role was as conman James Addison Reavis in the 1950 biopic The Baron of Arizona. He also did a comedic turn as the tycoon Burnbridge Waters, co-starring with Ronald Colman in Champagne for Caesar, one of his favorite film roles.[6] He was active in radio, portraying the Robin Hood-inspired crime-fighter Simon Templar in The Saint, which ran from 1947 to 1951.

In the 1950s, Price moved into horror films, with a role in House of Wax (1953), the first 3-D film to land in the year's top ten at the North American box office. His next roles were The Mad Magician (1954), the monster movie The Fly (1958) and its sequel Return of the Fly (1959). That same year, he starred in a pair of beloved thrillers by producer-director William Castle: House on Haunted Hill (1959) as eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren, and The Tingler as Dr. Warren Chapin, who discovered the titular creature. He also appeared to great effect in the radio drama "Three Skeleton Key," the story of an island lighthouse besieged by an army of rats. He first performed the work in 1950 on Escape and returned to it in 1956 and 1958 for Suspense.[8]

Outside the horror realm, Price played Baka (the master builder) in The Ten Commandments in 1956. About this time he also appeared on NBC's The Martha Raye Show.

In the 1955–1956 television season, he was cast three times on the religion anthology series Crossroads, a study of clergymen from different denominations. In the 1955 episode "Cleanup", Price portrayed the Reverend Robert Russell. In 1956, he was cast as Rabbi Gershom Mendes Seixas in "The Rebel" and as the Reverend Alfred W. Price in "God's Healing".[9]


In the 1960s, Price had a number of low-budget successes with Roger Corman[10] and American International Pictures (AIP) starting with the success of House of Usher (1960), which earned over $2 million at the box office in the United States[11] and led to the subsequent Edgar Allan Poe adaptations of The Pit and the Pendulum (1961),[10] Tales of Terror (1962), The Comedy of Terrors (1963), The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964),[10] and The Tomb of Ligeia (1965). He starred in The Last Man on Earth (1964), the first adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend. In 1968 Price portrayed witchhunter Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General[12] (released in the US as The Conqueror Worm). He starred in comedy films, notably Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) and its sequel Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966). In 1968 he played the part of an eccentric artist in the musical Darling of the Day opposite Patricia Routledge.

Price often spoke of his pleasure at playing Egghead in the Batman television series. One of his co-stars, Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), said Price was her favorite villain in the series. In an often-repeated anecdote from the set of Batman, Price, after a take was printed, started throwing eggs at series stars Adam West and Burt Ward, and when asked to stop, replied, "With a full artillery? Not a chance!", causing an egg fight to erupt on the soundstage. This incident is reenacted in the behind-the-scenes telefilm Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt. In the 1960s, he began his role as a guest on the game show Hollywood Squares, even becoming a semi-regular in the 1970s, including being one of the guest panelists on the finale in 1980.[13] He was known for usually making fun of Rose Marie's age (even though she was a dozen years younger than Price), and using his famous voice to answer questions in a playfully menacing tone.

Besides Batman, Price made guest star appearances in many shows of the decade, including Get Smart, F Troop, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Additionally, in 1964, he provided the narration for the Tombstone Historama, in Tombstone, Arizona, which is still in operation as of 2014.[14]

Later career

From 1962 to 1971, Sears-Roebuck offered the "Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art," selling about 50,000 pieces of fine art prints to the general public. Price selected and commissioned works for the collection, including works by Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí.[15][16]

During the early 1970s, Price hosted and starred in BBC Radio's horror and mystery series The Price of Fear. Price accepted a cameo part in the Canadian children's television program The Hilarious House of Frightenstein (1971) in Hamilton, Ontario, on the local television station CHCH. In addition to the opening and closing monologues, his role in the show was to recite poems about the show's various characters, sometimes wearing a cloak or other costumes.[17] He appeared in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), and Theatre of Blood (1973), in which he portrayed one of a pair of campy serial killers. That same year Price appeared as himself in Mooch Goes to Hollywood, a film written by Jim Backus. Price recorded dramatic readings of Edgar Allan Poe's short stories and poems, which were collected together with readings by Basil Rathbone.

Price greatly reduced his film work from around 1975, as horror itself suffered a slump, and increased his narrative and voice work, as well as advertising Milton Bradley's Shrunken Head Apple Sculpture.[18] Price's voiceover is heard on Alice Cooper's first solo album, Welcome to My Nightmare from 1975, and he also appeared in the corresponding TV special Alice Cooper: The Nightmare. He starred for a year in the early 1970s in a syndicated daily radio program, Tales of the Unexplained. He made guest appearances in a 1970 episode of Here's Lucy showcasing his art expertise and in a 1972 episode of ABC's The Brady Bunch, in which he played a deranged archaeologist.

In the spring of 1976, Price recorded a 45rpm single, a cover of Bobby "Boris" Pickett's, "The Monster Mash", putting his voice to a backing track laid down in London by two record producers, Bob Newby and Ken Weston. It was released on both sides of the Atlantic later that year without much success. In October 1976, Price appeared as the featured guest in an episode of The Muppet Show.

In the summer of 1977, he began performing as Oscar Wilde in the one-man stage play Diversions and Delights written by John Gay and directed by Joe Hardy. The play is set in a Parisian theatre on a night about one year before Wilde's death. The original tour of the play was a success in every city it played except for New York City. In the summer of 1979, Price performed the role of Wilde at the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado, on the same stage from which Wilde had spoken to miners about art some 96 years before. Price would eventually perform the play worldwide. In her biography of her father, Victoria Price stated that several members of Price's family and friends thought that this was his best acting performance.[4] In the spring of 1979, Price starred with his wife Coral Browne in the short-lived CBS TV series Time Express. In 1979, Price hosted the hour-long amusement park & roller coaster television special "America Screams", syndicated world-wide, riding on many of the roller coasters himself and recounting their history.

excerpt from the voiceover session for the 1982 album.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

In 1982, Price provided the narrator's voice in Vincent, Tim Burton's six-minute film about a young boy who flashes from reality into a fantasy where he is Vincent Price. That same year, Price performed a sinister monologue on the title track of Michael Jackson's Thriller album. A longer version of the rap, sans the music, along with some conversation can be heard on Jackson's 2001 remastered reissue of the Thriller album. Part of the extended version can be heard on the Thriller 25 album, released in 2008. Price appeared as Sir Despard Murgatroyd in a 1982 television production of Gilbert & Sullivan's Ruddigore (with Keith Michell as Robin Oakapple). In 1983, Price played the Sinister Man in the British spoof horror film Bloodbath at the House of Death starring Kenny Everett, and he also appeared in the film House of the Long Shadows, which teamed him with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and John Carradine. Though, Price had worked with each of the actors at least once in previous decades, this was the first time all had teamed up. One of his last major roles, and one of his favorites, was as the voice of Professor Ratigan in Walt Disney Pictures' The Great Mouse Detective in 1986.

From 1981 to 1989, Price hosted the PBS television series Mystery! In 1985, he provided voice talent on the Hanna-Barbera series The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo as the mysterious Vincent Van Ghoul, who aided Scooby-Doo, Scrappy-Doo, and the gang in recapturing 13 evil demons. A lifelong rollercoaster fan, Price narrated a 1987 30-minute documentary on the history of rollercoasters and amusement parks including Coney Island. During this time (1985–1989), he appeared in horror-themed commercials for Tilex bathroom cleanser. In 1984, Price appeared in Shelley Duvall's live-action series Faerie Tale Theatre as the Mirror in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," and the narrator for "The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers." In 1987, he starred with Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, and Ann Sothern in The Whales of August, a story of two sisters living in Maine facing the end of their days. His performance in The Whales of August earned the only award nomination of his career: an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.[19] In 1989, Price was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[20] His last significant film work was as the inventor in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands (1990).

A witty raconteur, Price was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where he once demonstrated how to poach a fish in a dishwasher. Price was a noted gourmet cook and art collector. He also authored several cookbooks, in particular A Treasury of Great Recipes (with his second wife), and hosted a cookery TV show, Cooking Pricewise.

Personal life

Price married three times. His first marriage with former actress Edith Barrett produced his only son, Vincent Barrett Price. Price later married Mary Grant Price, and they had a daughter, Mary Victoria Price, on April 27, 1962.[21] She was named Victoria after Price's first major success in the play Victoria Regina.[22] Together, Price and Mary Grant Price donated hundreds of works of art and a large amount of money to East Los Angeles College in the early 1960s in order to endow the Vincent Price Art Museum there.[23] Price's last marriage was to the Australian actress Coral Browne, who appeared with him (as one of his victims) in Theatre of Blood (1973). He converted to Catholicism to marry her, and she became a U.S. citizen for him.

Price, who studied Art History (along with English) at Yale, was a noted art lover and collector. In addition to establishing the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College.[6] Price also spent time working as an art consultant for Sears in the early 1960s.[6] Public access to fine art was important to Price, who, according to his daughter, Victoria, saw the Sears deal as an "opportunity to put his populist beliefs into practice, to bring art to the American public."[24]

One example of his outspoken political action came when he concluded an episode of The Saint titled "Author of Murder,"[25] which aired on NBC Radio on July 30, 1950.[26] Price denounced racial and religious prejudice as a form of poison and claimed Americans must actively fight against it because racial and religious prejudice within the United States fuels support for the nation's enemies.[27] Price was later appointed to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board under the Dwight D. Eisenhower Administration; he called the appointment "kind of a surprise, since I am a Democrat."[28]


Price suffered from emphysema, a result of being a lifelong smoker, and Parkinson's disease; his symptoms were especially severe during the filming of Edward Scissorhands, making it necessary to cut his filming schedule short.

His illness also contributed to his retirement from Mystery! He died of lung cancer on October 25, 1993, at UCLA Medical Center at the age of 82.[1] He was cremated and his ashes scattered off Point Dume in Malibu, California.[29]


In 1957, impressed by the spirit of the students and the community's need for the opportunity to experience original art works first hand, Vincent and Mary Grant Price donated 90 pieces from their private collection to establish the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, California, which was the first "teaching art collection" owned by a community college in the United States. They ultimately donated some 2000 pieces; the collection contains over 9,000 pieces and has been valued in excess of $5 million.[30]

Price himself amassed a large and extensive range of art, and in 2008, a painting bought for $25 by a couple from Dallas, Texas was identified as a piece from Price's collection. Painted by leading Australian modernist Grace Cossington Smith it was given a modern valuation of AU$45,000. It is thought that Price's Australian-born wife Coral may have known the Australian painter's work, and that the appearance of coral in the painting might have attracted Price to it.[31]

From 1962 to 1971, Sears-Roebuck offered the "Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art", selling about 50,000 pieces of fine art to the general public. Works which Price selected or commissioned for the collection included works by Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí.[32][33]

The A&E Network aired an episode of Biography the night following Price's death, highlighting his horror film career, but because of its failure to clear copyrights, the show was never aired again. Four years later, A&E produced its updated episode, a show titled Vincent Price: The Versatile Villain, which aired on October 12, 1997. The script was by Lucy Chase Williams, author of The Complete Films of Vincent Price.[34] In early 1991, Tim Burton was developing a personal documentary with the working title Conversations with Vincent, in which interviews with Price were shot at the Vincent Price Gallery, but the project was never completed and was eventually shelved.[35]

Price was an Honorary Board Member, and strong supporter until his death, of the Witch's Dungeon Classic Movie Museum located in Bristol, Connecticut. The museum features detailed life-size wax replicas of characters from some of Price's films, including The Fly, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and The Masque of the Red Death. [36] A black box theater at Price's alma mater, Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, is named after him.

Director Tim Burton directed a short stop-motion film as a tribute to Vincent Price called Vincent, about a young boy named Vincent Malloy who is obsessed with the grim and macabre. It is narrated by Price. "Vincent Twice, Vincent Twice" was a parody on Sesame Street. He was parodied in an episode of The Simpsons ("Sunday, Cruddy Sunday"). Price even had his own Spitting Image puppet, who was always trying to be "sinister" and lure people into his ghoulish traps, only for his victims to point out all the obvious flaws. The October 2005 episode of the Channel 101 series Yacht Rock featured comedian James Adomian as Vincent Price during the recording of Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Starting in November 2005, featured cast member Bill Hader of the NBC sketch comedy/variety show Saturday Night Live has played Price in a recurring sketch where Vincent Price hosts botched holiday specials filled with celebrities of the 1950s and '60s. Other cast members who have played Price on SNL include Dan Aykroyd and Michael McKean (who played Price when he hosted a season 10 episode and again when he was hired as a cast member for the 1994–95 season).

In 1999, a frank and detailed biography about Price written by his daughter, Victoria, was published by St. Martin's Press. In late May 2011, an event was held by the organization Cinema St. Louis to celebrate what would have been Price's 100th Birthday.[37] It included a public event with Victoria at the Missouri History Museum and a showcase of ephemeral and historic items at the gallery inside the Sheldon Concert Hall.[38][39]

Deep Purple's 2013 single "Vincent Price" is dedicated to him. Price was a friend of the band and in 1975 he appeared on Roger Glover's live version of "The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast" as a narrator.



  • Price, Vincent, I Like What I Know – A Visual Autobiography. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1959.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Peter B. Flint (October 27, 1993). "Vincent Price, Noted Actor Of Dark Roles, Dies at 82". New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2014. Vincent Price, the suavely menacing star of countless low-budget but often stylish Gothic horror films, died at his home in Los Angeles on Monday. He was 82 years old and died of lung cancer, a personal assistant, Reggie Williams, said. ... 
  2. "Vincent Price profile at". Retrieved November 13, 2008. 
  3. Bio of Dr. Vincent Clarence Price; retrieved October 22, 2012.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Victoria Price (1999). Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0312267894. 
  5. Price, Victoria (1999). Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 40.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Vincent Price". Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  7. "'Victoria Regina' Playbill Facsimile". Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  8. One Act Virtual Museum Retrieved: May 20, 2012.
  9. "Vincent Price". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Maçek III, J.C. (October 23, 2013). "Vincent Price: The Poe Cycle". PopMatters. 
  11. Egan, Thomas, Kate, Sarah (2012). Cult Film Stardom: Offbeat Attractions and Processes of Cultification. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 112. ISBN 978-0230293694. 
  12. Vincent Price at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
  13. "Hollywood Squares". June 20, 1980. NBC.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. "Historama, Tombstone, Arizona". Roadside America. Retrieved September 18, 2014. 
  15. Sears and Fine Art: Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art. Retrieved on November 3, 2011.
  16. Laura J. Kells, Paul Colton, and Allyson Jackson Vincent Price. A Register of His Papers in the Library of Congress. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.. (1994). Latest revision: 2006 April
  17. "CH TV Hamilton History". Retrieved January 29, 2007. 
  18. "Silly Vintage Monster Toys". X-Entertainment. Retrieved October 7, 2012. 
  19. "Vincent Price". The New York Times. 
  20. St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  21. Price, Victoria (1999). Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography. St. Martins Press. p. 235. ISBN 978-0312242732. 
  22. Retrieved on October 10, 2012.
  23.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. Price, Victoria (1999). Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography. St. Martins Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0312242732. 
  25. Price. Retrieved on November 3, 2011.
  26. The Saint on Old-Time Radio. Retrieved on November 3, 2011.
  27. Vincent Price on Racism and Religious Prejudice. Annals of Americus (March 15, 2010). Retrieved on November 3, 2011.
  28. Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography — Victoria Price — Google Books. Retrieved October 7, 2012. 
  29. Vincent Price at Find a Grave
  30. Aug. 1992 interview by the Smithsonian. (October 25, 1993). Retrieved on November 3, 2011.
  31. "$45,000 painting bought for just $US25" The Australian (August 15, 2008)
  32. "Sears and Fine Art: Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art". Retrieved on November 3, 2011.
  33. Kells, Laura J.; Colton, Paul; and Jackson, Allyson, "Vincent Price. A Register of His Papers in the Library of Congress". Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.. (1994). Latest revision: 2006 April
  34. Citadel Press, 1995
  35. Hanke, Ken (1999). Tim Burton : an unauthorized biography of the filmmaker (1st ed. ed.). Los Angeles, Calif: Renaissance Books. ISBN 1-58063-162-2. 
  36. "Preserve Hollywood". Retrieved November 13, 2008. 
  37. Vincentennial.Org. Vincentennial.Org. Retrieved on November 3, 2011.
  38. Vincentennial: It's alive! by Joe Williams, Film Critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch/ April 18, 2011 6:15 pm.
  39. Sheldon Gallery Celebrates Vincent Price's 100th Birthday by Patrick Clark, 4:14 p.m. CDT, April 19, 2011.

External links

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