An American actor best known for his performances in horror films, although his career spanned other genres. He appeared on stage, television, and radio, and in more than 100 films. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures and one for television.
His first film role was as a leading man in the 1938 comedy Service de Luxe. Price became well known as a character actor, appearing in films such as The Song of Bernadette (1943), Laura (1944), The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), Leave Her to Heaven (1945), Dragonwyck (1946), and The Ten Commandments (1956). He established himself as a recognizable horror movie star after his leading role in House of Wax (1953). He subsequently starred in other successful or cult horror films, including The Fly (1958), House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Tingler (1959), The Last Man on Earth (1964), Witchfinder General (1968), The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), and Theatre of Blood (1973). He was particularly known for his collaborations with Roger Corman on Edgar Allan Poe adaptations such as House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), and The Masque of the Red Death (1964). Price occasionally appeared on television series, such as in Batman as Egghead.
In his later years, he voiced the villainous Professor Ratigan in Disney's classic animated film The Great Mouse Detective (1986), and appeared in the drama The Whales of August (1987), which earned him an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male nomination and Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (1990), his last theatrical release. For his contributions to cinema, especially to genre films, he has received lifetime achievement or special tribute awards from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, Fantasporto, Bram Stoker Awards, and Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Known for his iconic voice, Price narrated several animation films, radio dramas, and documentaries, as well as the monologue on Michael Jackson's song "Thriller". For his voice work in Great American Speeches (1959), he was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.
Price was also an art collector and arts consultant, with a degree in art history, and he lectured and wrote books on the subject. The Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College is named in his honor. He was also a noted gourmet cook.
Price married three times. His first marriage was in 1938 to former actress Edith Barrett; they had one son, poet, and columnist Vincent Barrett Price. Edith and Price divorced in 1948. Price married Mary Grant in 1949, and they had a daughter, inspirational speaker Victoria Price on April 27, 1962, naming her after Price's first major success in the play Victoria Regina. The marriage lasted until 1973. He married Australian actress Coral Browne in 1974; she had appeared as one of his victims in Theatre of Blood (1973). The marriage lasted until her death in 1991.
His daughter's biography Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography (1999) details Price's early antisemitism and initial admiration for Adolf Hitler. According to his daughter: "When he went to Germany and Austria as a young man, he was struck by a lot of things going on during the Weimar Republic and the disillusion of the empire... So when Hitler came into power, instead of seeing him as a dangerous force, he was sort of swept up in this whole idea that Hitler was going to bring German pride back." However, Price became a liberal after becoming friends with New York intellectuals such as Dorothy Parker and Lillian Hellman in the 1930s, so much so that he was "greylisted" under McCarthyism in the 1950s, for having been a prewar "premature anti-Nazi", and after being unable to find work for a year, agreed to requests by the FBI that he sign a "secret oath" to save his career. His daughter said that her father became so liberal that "one of my brother's earliest memories is when Franklin Roosevelt's death was announced, my father fell backward off the sofa sobbing."
Price denounced racial and religious prejudice as a form of poison at the end of an episode of The Saint, which aired on NBC Radio on July 30, 1950, claiming that Americans must actively fight against it because racial and religious prejudice within the United States fuels supports for the nation's enemies. He 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". He was supportive of his daughter when she came out as a lesbian, and he was critical of Anita Bryant's anti-gay-rights campaign in the 1970s.
Price suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Parkinson's disease. His symptoms were especially severe during the filming of Edward Scissorhands, making cutting his filming schedule short a necessity.
His illness also contributed to his retirement from Mystery! in 1989. He died at age 82 of lung cancer on October 25, 1993, at his home in Los Angeles.
His remains were cremated and his ashes scattered off Point Dume in Malibu, California.
Remembering Vincent Leonard Price Jr
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