Vincent Leonard Price Jr. was born May 27, 1911, in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest of Vincent and Marguerite Price’s four children. He attended the St. Louis Country Day School and Milford Academy in Milford, Connecticut, before graduating from Yale University in 1933 with a degree in art history. Price taught for a year before entering Courtauld Institute in London for a master’s in fine arts, but he was drawn to the theater.
His acting career began as a character actor in London in 1935, and from there he became a master on stage, television, radio, and in films. Although he is best remembered for his roles in horror, there are few genres he didn’t perform — film noir, drama, mystery, thriller and comedy. He made guest appearances in TV shows such “Daniel Boone,” “Get Smart” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” In 1976, he was a featured guest on “The Muppet Show.” That same year, he recorded a cover of Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash” as a 45rpm single. One of his more serious performances was in “The Ten Commandments.” Price did it all. In the 1960s, he became a guest on “Hollywood Squares,” then a regular in the 1970s, and was a guest panelist on the finale in 1980. For eight years he hosted the PBS TV series “Mystery.” Price provided voice talent for Hanna-Barbera and Walt Disney. He narrated documentaries. He even did horror-themed commercials.
And his acting wasn’t limited to the U.S. Price was host of the Australian TV series “If These Walls Could Speak” and hosted and starred in “The Price of Fear,” which was a BBC radio horror and mystery series. He had a cameo part in the Canadian children’s television program “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.”
Price once said, “A man who limits his interests limits his life.” This was something he never did. He was an art collector and consultant — sometimes consulting for Sears-Roebuck. He lectured and wrote books. He founded the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, California. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him a commissioner to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. Price said the appointment “was kind of a surprise, since I am a Democrat.”
Price was also a gourmet chef. Besides cooking, he and his second wife, Mary, wrote four cookbooks, one being a five-volume series. He also recorded several audio cooking tutorials on international cooking. Price promoted the cookbooks by hosting his own cooking program on British TV in 1971 and on talk shows. On Nov. 1, 1975, he appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and demonstrated how to poach a fish in a dishwasher.
During the 1970s, Price ran his own mail-order book club, “Vincent Price Books.” It specialized in mysteries and detective novels.
Price married three times. His first marriage in 1938 was to Edith Barrett. They had one son, Vincent Barrett Price, before divorcing in 1948. The following year he married Mary Grant. The couple had one daughter, Victoria, and divorced in 1973. Price married Coral Browne in 1974. Their marriage lasted until her death in 1991.
Price was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with two stars (for TV and film) on Feb. 8, 1960. In 1989, he was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
To the world, Price had a very distinctive voice, but he didn’t think so. According to the LA Times, “To me, I sound like everybody else in Missouri. I think I sound like Harry Truman.”
Vincent Leonard Price Jr. died of lung cancer in LA on Oct. 25, 1993. He was cremated, and his ashes scattered off Point Dume in Malibu, California.
On what would have been Price’s 100th birthday, Cinema St. Louis held a public event in his honor at the Missouri History Museum.
Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County and has written Historically Yours for the Boonville Daily News for more than 10 years. In celebration of Missouri’s Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show-Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to [email protected]