Years and years ago during one Halloween, my dad put on Michaels Jackson’s Thriller album. The end of the title track features a devilish laugh. I didn’t know who the laugh was performed by and I was too young to realize what the song was about, but I remember my older brother bursting into tears at the demonic cackle and run out of living room to find comfort in the safety of his bedroom. It is one of my favorite memories…especially because it didn’t only happen once (mom and dad thought it was hilarious). For those of you who haven’t heard the laugh, stop reading, go to this link and check it out.
That voice belongs to the icon, the legend, Vincent Price. Price has been the face and voice of horror for decades and continues that legacy long after his death. Obviously this talented actor’s career spanned other genres, but he is the indisputable king of horror.
Vincent Leonard Price was born in St. Louis Missouri on May 27, 1911 and was the youngest of four children. He appeared on stage, in movies, radio, TV, was an avid art collector, chef, author, and educator.
His film debut came in 1938 in the film Service De Luxe but really made his mark in Laura (1944). He even played the religious leader Joseph Smith in the film BrighamYoung. His first step into the world of horror cam alongside the great Boris Karloff in The Tower of London and then in The Invisible Man Returns.
After playing the villain in The Web and The Long Night (both in 1947), he went in a comedic direction. One of his own favorite roles was in Champagne for Ceasar. It was during this time that he also stepped behind the microphone with his legendary voice to play Robin Hood in the popular radio series.
Price performed in a litany of horror movies in the 1950s, but didn’t ever become typecast as he also played other roles in movies like The 10 Commandments and many TV appearances.
Personally, Price is most remembered for his roles in Edgar Allen Poe films. These stared with The Fall of the House of Usher in 1960 and many more followed. Could there be a better union than that of Poe and Price? Nope.
One of the oddest roles Price ever played came in the form of a Batman villain named Egghead. This character was seen fighting Adam West and Burt Ward playing Batman and Robin. He was bald with an oversized head, threw a lot of eggs, and made groan-tastic egg puns. There is a story highlighting Price’s sense of humor when he started an egg war off camera because he refused to stop being in character. When asked to stop he replied “With a full artillery [of eggs]? Not a chance!”
He started taking even more advantage of his unmistakable voice, he voiced narration for The Tombstone Historama in Tombstone, Arizona in 1964 and it is still in use today. He also hosted his own radio show called The Price of Fear. He also recorded a number recordings of him reading Edgar Allen Poe stories and poems.
By the time the mid ‘70s came around, Price greatly reduced his filming schedule, but keeping busy with voice recording for commercials, and even worked with Alice Cooper in the Welcome to My Nightmare album. He thankfully didn’t disappear from film heartily accepted when The Brady Bunch and The Muppet Show came calling. He delved into music again in 1976 with a 45-single recording of The Monster Mash.
Price went to the stage in 1977 in a one-man play about Oscar Wilde called Diversions and Delights. His family all agree that this was the greatest performance of his career.
1982 marked a partnership that came far too late. Price provided narrations in a Tim Burton short film about a boy who dreams he is Vincent Price. The next few years were again filled with radio shows, and television shows although most were directed towards much younger audiences such as The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo.
He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989 and partnered one last time with Tim Burton in the eerie Edward Scissorhands. Unfortunately, it was during this filming that Price, a lifelong smoker, found out that he had lung cancer. Due to that disease and well as Parkinson’s, his filming had to be cut short.
He died in 1993.
Price was married three times in his life and spent the majority of his time collecting and promoting art. He was very publically active in denouncing racial and religious prejudice. He is famous for proclaiming that infighting within the USA only fuels the enemies of his country.
Price has done so much to promote good and positive messaged in his personal life while terrifying and haunting fans in his entertainment life. There will never be another Vincent Price. I am and always will be a fan of this hero of horror.
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