Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dead Celebrity of the Month, October 2006: Vincent Price

Vincent Price Jr. was born May 27th 1911 in St. Louise Missouri. His father was president of the National Candy Company, his mother a teacher at one of the era's progressive schools. As a child young Vincent was captivated by the villians of the silent screen, and expressed an interest in fine art, begining a life time of collecting with his 1923 purchase of an original Rembrandt etching, he was twelve. At 17 Vincent toured the art museums of Europe and in 1929 began attending Yale as an English major. While at Yale Vincent sang with the Glee Club (the famed Wiffenpoofs) and stared in several of his friends amature movies. After Graduation in 1933 Vincent spent one year teaching in New York, before heading to London to study fine art.

While in London Vincent saw John Gielguads acclaimed version of Hamlet, and decided to persue acting. He got his first professional acting job in a London theater company, largely because he was an American and they were preparing a productiong of 'Chicago'. Vincent impressed his fellow actors however and in his next play was given the male lead in 'Victoria Regina'. When the play went to New York he went with it and starred opposite "First Lady of the American Stage" Helen Hayes, he was only twenty four. After his run in 'Victoria Regina' Vincent joined Orson Wells Mercury Theater group, where he meet his first wife society actress Edith Barret, they were married in 1938.

Around the same time he got married, Vincent recived a contract with Universal Pictures. His first film at the studio was Service De Lux opposite established star Constance Bennett. The film was a success and lead to his casting as a lead in several other pictures. Vincent decided against renewing his contract with Universal having growen tired of the non-challanging leading roles he was being assigned. Instead the young actor signed on with 20th Century Fox as a character player, appering in the 1940 films Hudson Bay and Brigham Young, the latter in the role of Joseph Smith. Also in 1940 his first chid, son Vincent Barret Price was born.

In 1941 Vincent took some time off from the studio to return to the stage, as a psycho villian in the play 'Angel Street', he came to love playing reviled characters. Returning to Fox he had a string of successes in films such as The Song of Bernadette, Wilson, Leave Her to Heaven, Keys of the Kingdom, Dragonwick, and off course Laura. In 1948 Vincent and Edith divorced and the next year he married costume designer Mary Grant. Vincent left 20th Century around this time and became a free agent, using some of his increased spare time to lecture on art at East Los Angles Colloge, where he would endow an art collection. After roles in such comic films as Champaign for Ceaser and The Las Vegas Story, Vincent made his first true horror picture, the immortal House of Wax.

The 1950's saw Vincent in both main stream films like De Miles The Ten Commandments and horror pictures like The Fly. After about 1958 Vincent concentrated on the horror movies teaming up with 'shock master' William Castle in The House on Haunted Hill and the gimmick picture The Tingler. In 1961 Mr. Price signed on with American International Pictures and participated in director Roger Cormans famed 'Poe Cycle' in The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulem, The Raven, and Mask of the Red Death, among others. In 1962 daughter Mary Victoria was born.

Price really spread out beyound movies begining in the 1960's, puting together a fine art collection for Sears Robuck, appering in the role of Egghead on the camp childrens program Batman, and writing his autobiography, along with books on art, cooking (with wife Mary), and an encycolpedia of monsters with son Vincent. The 1970's saw the Dr. Phibs movies, as well as Theater of Blood, the production on which he meet Austrailan actress Correll Brown, for whom he would leave his wife Mary and wed. Vincent broke up his cycle of TV guest apperances, print adds and art lectures when in 1977 he gave the first of what would come to be over 800 performances as Oscar Wilde in the play 'Diversions and Delights'.

The 1980's saw Vincent doing an increased amount of voice work in projects ranging from Tim Burtons Vincent, to Micheal Jackson's Thriller, to Disneys The Great Mouse Detective. Poor health limited his later acting output, and his last two films of note were The Whales of August with Bette Davis and Lillian Gish, and Edward Scissorhands, again for Tim Burton. Correl Brown Price died of cancer in May of 1991, Vincent followerd her in passing on October 25th 1993, he was 82.


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