Yale graduate, art expert, cookbook author, and beloved father are merely a few of the adjectives that could have described actor Vincent Price. In a career that spanned over 50 years, Vincent Price performed in movies of all genres: historical dramas, film noir thrillers and science fiction. Yet, perhaps it is as the star of a string of B-level horror movies from the 1960’s and 70’s that he is best-known. MGM HD celebrates this master of the macabre with a Vincent Price Birthday Movie Marathon on Thursday, May 27th.
Born in 1911 in St. Louis, Missouri, Vincent Leonard Price jr. was raised in an environment of wealth and privilege. He graduated from Yale University in 1933 with a degree in Art History. While pursuing graduate studies in fine arts in London, Price embarked on an acting career that included performing with Orson Welles’ legendary Mercury Theater. His handsome good looks, imposing stature and regal bearing made him perfect for Hollywood character parts in the 1930’s and 40’s and his mellifluous speaking voice made him ideal for radio drama. But it was in the films he made for Roger Corman at American International Pictures in the 1960’s that Price made his mark on popular culture.
With an acting style that was stagey and a demeanor that was both haughty and campy, Vincent Price proved to be an ideal lead for a series of grand guignol movies mounted by AIP, beginning with “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961). These movies were often based on classic Victorian-era gothic literature, including interpretations of work by authors including Edgar Allen Poe, “The Haunted Palace” (1963), “The Tomb of Ligeia” (1965), and “The Oblong Box” (1969); Guy de Maupassant, “Diary of a Madman” (1963); and Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Twice Told Tales” (1963). Vincent Price’s gleam-in-his-eye-creepiness was perfect for these tales of supernatural horror.
Which is not to say these movies weren’t a lot of fun. Shot as they were in the Roger Corman style, with low budgets and short schedules, they were heavy in atmosphere and quick of pace. The reparatory of actors included horror movie mainstays Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Basil Rathbone. The screenwriters were a murder’s row of some of the best in the business, like Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and Robert Towne. And like Vincent Price himself, the movies entertained without taking themselves too seriously – they even ventured into parody as in “Comedy of Terrors” (1963) and “Theater of Blood” (1973).
Over the course of these movies, Price honed his on-screen persona, imbuing lines with equal parts menace, humor, and Shakespearean gravitas. He capitalized on those charms for the rest of his career, which made him a welcome guest on countless talk shows and served him well as the host of “Mystery” on PBS.
Join MGM HD in celebrating this unique and irreplaceable character actor with The Vincent Price Birthday Movie Marathon, Thursday, May 27th running throughout the day.