October 14, 2016

Vincent Price: One of America's Best Scary-Men

He had a long film career (having appeared in more than 90 movies) that earned him 2 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures, and another for TV.  Actor Vincent Price was born to a wealthy St. Louis, Missouri family (his father was the president of a candy company) and he traveled through Europe prior to studying at Yale and the University of London before ultimately becoming an actor. He made his first screen debut in 1938.  Although his film career spanned many genres including drama, mystery, thriller, and comedy, and he also had many TV appearances and several stage performances as well, by the 1960's, he was working almost exclusively in the horror film genre, and to a somewhat lesser extent, teen films.  The fact that he worked in the horror genre really did not bother him at all.  But the reason he was so popular in horror movies could be because of his very distinctive voice.

Vincent Price's work in horror films is very well-documented.  Mr. Price's final movie was Edward Scissorhands (1990) with Johnny Depp, which although not technically a horror movie, was nevertheless a dark Tim Burton movie that fits the Halloween genre.  As noted, his distinctive voice really made him a favorite in the horror genre.

Most Gen Xers likely remember Vincent Price for two items he worked on:

Vincent Price and him as  Prof. Whitehead on The Brady Bunch

1.  His appearance in two episodes of "The Brady Bunch" back in 1972 when the entire Brady family went to Hawaii.  He played deranged archaeologist Professor Hubert Whitehead (the episodes were "Pass the Tabu" and "The Tiki Caves").

The "Tiki" Sound Effect from The Brady Bunch can be heard below, or at http://www.bradybunchshrine.com/bradybunch/Sounds1/bbtiki2.wav:

2.  Perhaps one of his shortest works also became one of his most famous, as the man who voiced the eerie monologue in the late Michael Jackson's 1983 hit song "Thriller."  Mr. Price admitted to talk-show host Johnny Carson that when he agreed to do the voice work for "Thriller", he was given a choice between taking a percentage of the album proceeds or being paid a flat $20,000. He chose the $20,000; his career was already well-established at that point, so money wasn't really a huge issue. When Mr. Carson suggested that Vincent Price could have done a lot better if he'd chosen album proceeds, he laughed amiably and said "How well I know!" Considering that more than 110 million copies of the album had been sold to date, Mr. Carson was correct.

The words to that famous monologue are as follows:

Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'all's neighborhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse's shell

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller!

(cue maniacal laughter)

That music video, released in 1982, is a classic, not only because the single was certified platinum on the Billboard charts, but also because the video was an unprecedented 14-minutes in length and showed Michael Jackson in a Halloween-themed performance directed by John Landis that was really more like a mini-movie.  Vincent Price’s monologue is a key part of that video/movie.  Check it out below, or at https://youtu.be/sOnqjkJTMaA:

Vincent Price's Death at Age 82 in 1993

Vincent Price passed away on October 25, 1993 at the age of 82 (see http://nyti.ms/2dvW3UN for the obituary).  His obituaries stated that as a result of being a lifelong smoker, Mr. Price was suffering from emphysema, although his official cause of death was lung cancer, so evidently, he was dealing with both ailments by the end of his life.

About Vincent Price's Personal Life

Mr. Price was married three times.  His first marriage, with former actress Edith Barrett, produced his only son, named Vincent Barrett Price. He later married Mary Grant Price, and they had a daughter named Victoria Price, on April 27, 1962.  She was reportedly named Victoria after Price's first major success in the play Victoria Regina.  Mr. Price's last marriage was to the Australian-born actress Coral Browne, whom he married in 1974.  Ms. Browne appeared with Vincent Price (as one of his victims) in the film Theatre of Blood (1973).

Over his lifetime, Mr. Price denounced racial and religious prejudice as a form of poison and he claimed that Americans must actively fight against it because racial and religious prejudice within the U.S. fueled support for the nation's enemies.  Perhaps not surprisingly, he was also a longtime supporter of gay rights and was one of the most vocal celebrity opponents of Anita Bryant's vicious anti-gay activities back in the 1970's, a position that was only solidified after his own daughter came out as a lesbian.

Vincent Price's Sex Life?

Vincent Price himself was long rumored to be gay in Hollywood circles, or at the very least, bisexual (meaning he had sex with both women and men), with something of a preference for having sex with other men.  Perhaps the best example came from author, former Hollywood escort and hookup connection Scotty Bowers, who in his tell-all book published in 2012 entitled "Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars" (co-written with Lionel Friedberg, see http://nyti.ms/2dyh8u5 for the review), asserted:

"I tricked with Vinny [Vincent Price] for years. Sex with him was pleasant, unhurried, gentle. There was what I can only refer to as a kind of refinement about it. It was erotic, tantalizing, fulfilling. High class stuff all the way."

Bowers added that Vincent Price and his wife Coral Browne didn't have a sex life for years, noting that he was sleeping with Price.  In reference to Price and Browne's marriage, the book says "She worked primarily in England and although she was a dyke—I know because I would fix her up with many tricks with young women in future years—the couple were devoted to one another.  They had virtually no sex life together but they cared deeply for each other."

All of this is kind of left to the imagination since the people (except Scotty Bowers) are now deceased, but the man who was once one of America’s favorite scary men (Vincent Price) apparently had a colorful life, both on on-screen and off!

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