14 April 2015

Vincent Price: the man behind the villain

Although Vincent Price played a variety of roles in various film genres throughout his long career, he is probably best remembered for his macabre, villainous roles in horror films. His most memorable portrayals include the deranged sculptor in "House of Wax" (1953), the tormented Roderick Usher in "House of Usher" (1960) and the insane torturer's son in "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1961). Price relished playing a villain and once said: "I sometimes feel that I'm impersonating the dark unconscious of the whole human race. I know this sounds sick, but I love it."

In real life Vincent Price was a far cry from the villains he portrayed on the screen. He is said to have been a sweet and funny man, who was not just an actor but also an art lover and collector who gave lectures and wrote popular books on fine art. Furthermore, he was a noted cook and the author of several cookbooks. Price's kind, charming personality made him popular with many people including his colleagues in the industry. Antony Carbone, who had played with Price in "The Pit and the Pendulum", called him ".. a marvel, just a professional, fantastic man who was always prepared, always ready, always with a sense of humor." Richard Matheson, screenwriter of "House of Usher", said that Price was "truly the nicest man I ever met in my days in Hollywood, a perfect gentleman and a most genial friend". And there were many others who had nothing but good things to say about him. In 1960, Mark Damon co-starred with Price in "House of Usher" and afterwards wrote him a letter to praise him for his off-screen behaviour. Damon's letter, which shows just how much Price was admired and respected by his fellow actors, can be seen below.

Vincent Price in a publicity still for "House of Usher" (1960).
Vincent Price and co-star Mark Damon in a scene from "House of Usher" (on the right Harry Ellerbe).
Source: heritage auctions (reproduced with permission)

Transcript:

Dear Vincent:

This is an "actor-to-actor" note before the picture has been released. My comments are therefore not on your performance, which I don't have to see on the screen to appreciate, but on your off-screen behavior, which has taught me much.

You remember, I asked you if you had learned anything working on this picture, and you told me that you had. I didn't tell you what I had learned. I learned just how gracious, cordial, and warmly human a star of your calibre could be. You set an example I hope I may follow through the rest of my acting career. Thank you for that.

Thank you, also, for your advice, your help, your unselfishness, and for all the wisdom you imparted to me. I have benefitted greatly by working with you, and I am very grateful to you. 

I hope I will have the pleasure of seeing you again very soon.

Your good friend,
Mark (signed)

February ninth
Beverly Hills


This post is my contribution to The Great Villain Blogathon hosted by Silver ScreeningsSpeakeasy and Shadows and Satin. Click on either link to check out all the other wonderful entries!

6 comments:

  1. while he played an excellent villain, he was a classy and talented man. Thanks for a peek behind the mask of evil!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love reading wonderful things about classic movie stars, because there are a lot of negative things that are published. Thanks for joining the blogathon with this look at the wonderful Vincent Price!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love this angle for the blogathon, and I love that letter! Shows what a nice guy Vincent was. No wonder I always found him more lovable than scary. Thanks for taking part!

    ReplyDelete
  4. How charming! I knew and enjoyed practically every non-horror Price role before I started watching him in that genre later in my adulthood. "Twice-Told Tales" at the theatre when I was a kid scared the *beep* out of me. It was a scene with a bleeding portrait.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks everyone for reading! And Ruth, Kristina and Karen, thanks for hosting this villainy event!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Vincent Price was from Missouri and he used to visit Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State) regularly. While I never got to meet him, I know a lot of people who did! Everyone said he was a very nice, very funny man. That makes the fact that he played some of the most memorable villains in horror movie history all the more remarkable! He truly had a gift for playing bad guys.

    ReplyDelete