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Missing Vincent
October 31, 2008 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Every Halloween I think about him Vincent never wanted to be an actor. What with the degree from Yale in Art History and English. His intent was certainly not to be one the classic Masters (YTV) of Macabre (YTV). Never the less his legend surpasses his own humble ambitions. Part of our collective childhoods (MP3) gone but not forgotten.

Vincent Price. The man that could both freeze (YTV) and warm our blood with his velvet voice (MP3) has been gone since October 25th 1993. Gourmet cook and author. Artist. Devoted husband* (*Scroll down to touching memorial). I want you to take a moment this Halloween (YTV) to thrill to, and shed a fond tear for, one the most sympathetic (YTV) and charming Mad Scientists(YTV) to have graced the silver screen.
Previously, Previously
posted by tkchrist (28 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah, dammit, I can't put my finger on a pic of the outstandingly creepy wheel-chair-bound Vincent wax replica that a particular Seattle antique dealer used to have. Locals, any clues?

Nice post, tk!
posted by mwhybark at 12:22 PM on October 31, 2008


"Where is that infernal clutch?"
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:24 PM on October 31, 2008


Also, he played one awesome archeologist on the Brady Bunch.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:26 PM on October 31, 2008


With Kermit the Frog.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2008


Ah, dammit, I can't put my finger on a pic of the outstandingly creepy wheel-chair-bound Vincent wax replica that a particular Seattle antique dealer used to have. Locals, any clues?

Oh yeah. Man that's a blast from the past. I have no idea.
posted by tkchrist at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2008


(It still surprises me to see him as the gigolo in Laura.)
posted by pxe2000 at 12:29 PM on October 31, 2008


With Kermit the Frog.

I got that one under the "sympathetic" link.
posted by tkchrist at 12:30 PM on October 31, 2008


Thanks for that, tkchrist. It's certainly an appropriate day to remember one of my favorite all-time actors. I have some of his movies at home, I may have to watch them tonight.
posted by threeturtles at 12:33 PM on October 31, 2008


I have quite a few of his books. I'm especially fond of his book on art, I Like What I Know. Price was quite a patron of the arts, and literally directly oversaw the Vincent Price collection through Sears, Roebuck, which was created to make original works by contemporary artists available to everybody, and had some really fine pieces in its collection. (His daughter Victoria, by the way, is a gallery owner, and also authored a very interesting biography of her father.)

Years ago the Walker Art Center hosted an exhibition called Hockney Paints the Stage, consisting of set design David Hockney had done for various theatrical and operatic productions. My father was a donor to the Walker, and, as a result, could bully himself into all sorts of things, and managed to get me and him into the exhibit before it opened. We were not alone, though. A very tall, gaunt man in an overcoat wandered the exhibit quietly with his wife, always right across the room from us. Finally, my father gestured and softly said "It's Vincent Price."

I didn't bother him, and I have sometimes regretted it -- I have read that he was extraordinarily gracious to his fans. But, then, he was just there to look at art, which he loved, and maybe it was better that I left him alone.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:34 PM on October 31, 2008


I can't think about Vincent Price without immediately wanting to see Tim Burton's Vincent, one of the most awesome animated shorts ever.
posted by stefanie at 12:35 PM on October 31, 2008


Price was no less creepy in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, in which he played an almost totally mute villain - who was able to speak only by plugging a phonograph cord into his neck.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:51 PM on October 31, 2008


I didn't bother him, and I have sometimes regretted it -- I have read that he was extraordinarily gracious to his fans. But, then, he was just there to look at art, which he loved, and maybe it was better that I left him alone.

I heard he kilt a kid once at the Guggenheim. Caved in his skull with a raven's head cane yelling "Silence impudent philistine!"

And cops just let 'em go. They were like "Look. It's Vincent Price, okay. No law of man can touch him. Just forgedabouit."
posted by tkchrist at 12:52 PM on October 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Vincent Price spoke at my high school graduation (Newark Academy, 1980).

That's my only Vincent Price anecdote.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:53 PM on October 31, 2008


One of the best things about Vincent Price was that he wasn't pretentious. He was in the business of creating entertainment, and he didn't think he was anything more than an actor who created entertaiment.

He was also realistic about how crappy some of his earlier films were.

In the 1970's, there was something of a TV fad for "unusual" detectives: fat, or blind, or old, or in one case a couple of old women. Vincent Price appeared as a guest on that show, as a parody of himself. (And it was a lot of fun.)

But the coolest thing of all that he did was to narrate "Vincent".
posted by Class Goat at 12:57 PM on October 31, 2008


His daughter says that Price was furious at Michael Jackson because Jackson never shared any of his profits from Thriller, which Price had famously narrated. When word came that Jackson was allegedly a pederast, Price is supposed to have said something like "I'm not surprised; he's been fucking me for years."
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:04 PM on October 31, 2008


I have a supersecret love for SNL's Bill Hader's impersonation of Price.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:05 PM on October 31, 2008


Every time my cell phone rings, it plays Price's laughter from the end of Thriller.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:08 PM on October 31, 2008


I keep remembering Price anecdotes I like, although this one is really a Peter Lorre anecdote. Both went to the funeral of Bela Lugosi and, at the viewing, were startled to see the actor in his Dracula cape. Lorre is supposed to have glanced up at Price conspiratorially and then said "Do you think we should put a stake through his heart just to be sure?"
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:11 PM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Price was furious at Michael Jackson

Jackson took forever to settle up with Ola Ray (the chick in Thriller) as well.

He was also realistic about how crappy some of his earlier films were.

His earlier films were actually the Golden Era classics, Laura it was his films in late 1950 through the sixties (The Corman films) that became so schlocky. Though, I tend to think of them with the most fondness.

The guy was a working actor. And like all the golden era actors they almost got shut out in the fifties when, becuase of Television, Hollywood started making movies for teeny-boppers. Hell, you had Betty Davis doing horror movies. But guys like Price were not so proud as to deny themselves work. And you got to hand to him. He made over 150 films.
posted by tkchrist at 1:23 PM on October 31, 2008




I didn't mention this before, and I really don't know why. About 6 months after Coral died, I was scrounging through my files on Vincent, and found his phone number. So, one drunken Sunday afternoon (actually it was my friend Bo's birthday, and she adores Vincent) I called him, and had Bo get on the other phone. He answered the phone (many dogs barking in the background) and I said, "Hello, Mr. Price, my name is Scott Michaels from Chicago. How are you?" Well, he was honest. "Not very well at all." He went on to talk about how he missed his wife, and I expressed my sympathy again. Really sweet man. He did take a second out of his day to wish Bo a Happy Birthday, and was genuinely not bothered (at least he seemed) about talking. After a couple of minutes I wished him well, and hung up A real nice guy. He died a few months later.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:57 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the early 70's, Price also provided the intro narration and some talking-head skits for a kids show. Here is the intro. The rest of the show is worth watching as well for it's shear kookiness.
posted by dithered at 2:29 PM on October 31, 2008


Having been a child in the seventies, my mind is full of half-remembered oddities such as this.
posted by malocchio at 2:33 PM on October 31, 2008


On preview, dithered sort of mentions the show above. More info, then:

I met Billy Van -- creator and host of the Hilarious House of Frightenstein -- a few years back, and had to ask him about Price's role in the low-budget Hamilton-based spooky kids' show of my youth. He said they could only afford Price for one or two days, so they basically just stuffed him into one costume after another, having him recite these God-awful poems as transitions for the program.

Van kind of expected Price to be an ass, but he was awesome. Put in 16-hour days, improvised his own little poems, brought booze and got cast and crew a bit liquored while they churned through every possible second of Price they could record in two solid days.

HHoF was a huge part of my childhood, and Price was the soul of the program. I can't imagine how many kids like me saw him in goofy outfits and fell in love with the horror genre as a result.
posted by Shepherd at 3:52 PM on October 31, 2008


My mother has his cookbook. I wanted to sneak it home with me but nothing doing. It's a lovely 1950s gourmet collection of his and his wife's favorite recipes. The '50s weren't a time for great food, but Vincent knew how and where to eat, just like M.F.K. Fisher. There was nothing remotely spooky about the book, either -- I looked.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:28 PM on October 31, 2008


I heard he kilt a kid once at the Guggenheim. Caved in his skull with a raven's head cane yelling "Silence impudent philistine!"

And cops just let 'em go. They were like "Look. It's Vincent Price, okay. No law of man can touch him. Just forgedabouit."


Let me guess... and then he peed on their legs, right?
posted by miss lynnster at 4:56 PM on October 31, 2008


;)
posted by miss lynnster at 4:57 PM on October 31, 2008


Such a wonderful actor and enjoyable screen presence, it's a shame that he is often relegated to the kitsch. Especially since the films, even with their sometimes absurd plots, mostly don't often come across that way at all. The Fly, The Tingler, Tomb of Ligeia, Masque of the Red Death, Last Man on Earth, The House on Haunted Hill, all work quite well in no small part thanks to Price's performances. Of course there are films like the Dr.Phibes', Theater of Blood and Dr.Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, but they are only a small part of Price;s career.
Even when there is kitsch he tends to rise above it, for example; The Raven is a delightful chance for Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Vincent to show off their comedic skills and lovingly tweak their famous personae. To find his performance in The Witchfinder General (aka The Conqueror Worm) kitschy, however, would be unthinkable due the bleak and despairing nature of that film and the frightening intensity of Price's performance.
Price could convincingly play historical figures as he did when he played Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, in the film Brigham Young, and James Addison Reavis the swindler who used forged documents and land grants to "prove" he was the owner of the Arizona territory, in Baron of Arizona, and he could be used marvelously in historical dramas like Dragonwyck, The Song of Bernadette and The House of Seven Gables. In some ways, it seems a shame that he, like Karloff and Lorre, was so often pigeonholed into horror films since they were able to do so much more than that. But then again, they are remembered while other actors are largely forgotten, because their films still work, that and, of course, their marvelous voices.
If I had to chose a favorite role of his I think it might be in His Kind of Woman. It's a film that started out as a more or less standard noir type thriller, but the executive producer, Howard Hughes, was enjoying Price's supporting performance as a hammy actor so much that he kept expanding Price's role until he comes to dominate the later part of the film. His performance is wonderful mix of drama and comedy and stands as an excellent tribute to the pleasure Price could provide.
posted by mr.grum at 5:00 PM on October 31, 2008


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