48: Abertoir’s Patron Saint Vincent Price
November 19, 2015 11:32 p.m.
Episode 48: Abertoir’s Patron Saint Vincent Price
Abertoir: The International Horror Festival of Wales lists Vincent Price as their patron saint. I speak with the horror icon's daughter about her famous father.
Related Story: Podcast Episode 48: Abertoir's Patron Saint Vincent Price
Beth Accomando: Welcome back to the KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast. I’m Beth Accomando and I’m still in Wales. In fact, I’m still at Abertoir, the International Horror Festival of Wales. Not many film festivals have an official Patron Saint, but Abertoir does and it’s been a surprise. Each year it shows at least one of Price’s films and in 2011 the festival celebrated the Vincentennial which would have marked the actor’s 100th birthday. That’s when Victoria Price, the horror icon’s daughter made her first trip to the Wales festival. And this year she decided to return to celebrate Abertoir’s 10th anniversary. And what a celebration it turned out to be! First, Price fan and historian Peter Fuller brought a collection of memorabilia that included an Edward Lionheart doll and a Shrunken Head activity game that Price was promoting.
Then Victoria Price did an amazing hour-plus tribute to her father with some wonderful personal photos and stories to share. And that’s not all, the festival closed with a dinner for Vincent. It was a meal prepared from the actor’s famous and massive cookbook. Attendees could also see Price horror films such as The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rises Again and Scream and Scream Again. Price makes the perfect patron saint for Abertoir. Not only because the actor made so many classic horror films, but also because, as his daughter pointed, out he was a man of passion and joy. Abertoir above all else is about finding passion and joy in the horror genre and then sharing it. Plus having Price as their patron saint emphasizes the value the festival places on appreciating the genre past as much as it’s future. So here is my interview with Victoria Price followed by her presentation at the festival, and also Peter Fuller’s presentation about Vincent Price’s films.
So, we’re here at the Abertoir Film Festival and you just completed a presentation about your father. What made you decide to come to Abertoir to do this? Do you have a special connection here?
Victoria Price: I was invited in 2011 by Gaz, who is the Organizer, to celebrate the Vincentennial in the UK which would have been my dad’s 100th birthday. And I had such an amazing time. I loved it. And so when I knew I was coming to the UK and Ireland to do the Legacy Tour I reached out to Gaz, because I knew it was his 10th anniversary of the festival and my dad is their patron saint. Vincent Price is the patron saint of Abertoir, so it seemed like we should celebrate together.
Beth Accomando: One of the things you mentioned during the course of your discussion is that personally you’re not a big fan of horror. So what was that like growing up with a father who was making all these horror films? Was that something difficult for you to watch or to know about?
Victoria Price: I didn’t really know he made horror movies. The first time I saw him do something scary, he was playing Captain Hook in a production of Peter Pan and that was scary enough. So after that I knew he did horror movies in theory, because I watched him spoof himself on television, but I never saw any of them.
Beth Accomando: When did you finally see one, or have you ever?
Victoria Price: Yes, I’ve seen them when I was in my teens, and I didn’t like them then. Now I’ve grown to like them better, yes. I don’t like watching my dad do mean things. He was the least scary person on the planet. So it always seemed a little hard to watch and a little bit ridiculous that he was so mean, because he wasn’t mean at all.
Beth Accomando: And what have you come to enjoy about doing these talks about your father?
Victoria Price: I had the privilege of having an amazing father who I loved very much, and who I think was really an extraordinary human being in how he loved his life, his philosophy of life, how generous he was, how much he gave back. And so I wanted to really continue to share people – with people his philosophy of his life. And in exchange for doing that, I get to hear stories from thousands of people of how much he meant to them. And then that’s a huge gift to be able to share that kind of love.
Beth Accomando: You mentioned that you’re not a fan of horror, but a fan of horror fans?
Victoria Price: Yes, for a couple of reasons. First of all, horror fans really get who my dad was and they’ve kept his legacy alive. He certainly was not the most famous actor of his generation by any stretch of the imagination. But his legacy has lasted. He is iconic and beloved, and remembered, and that’s because of the horror fans. But also I feel like the horror fans have embraced me even though I’m not a fan of the genre, with so much love, and honestly horror fans are just the most awesome group of people. They’re kind and they’re sweet, and they’re funny and they’re smart, and they’re very dedicated to their genre, and I feel like it’s an absolute privilege to be as embraced as I am by the horror fans.
Beth Accomando: Horror films and horror stories, sometimes, do you feel last more than some of the more mainstream actors from like MGM or things like this? What do you think it is about horror that maybe allows them to become more iconic like that?
Victoria Price: I think any actor or many actors will tell you that they enjoy playing villains more than they enjoy playing good guys. And at the end of the day horror actors have longer careers probably than most leading men, because they can be craggily scary at the end of their lives, whereas some of the prettier people weren’t so pretty at the end of their lives. So unless they were really amazing actors, the prettiness fades and then what you have, whereas horror actors just they can change their appearance and still remain wonderful villains or scary monsters. And maybe also some of them get to exist behind masks and make-ups, so it doesn’t even really matter what they look like.
Beth Accomando: And do you have any memories of actually being on the set with your father?
Victoria Price: Sure, I went to the set a lot. My funniest memory is going to the Old Theatre Warehouse where he filmed Theatre of Blood when I was younger. We got out of the car we had a driver in London and he drove us out to this really rundown area and I got out of the car, and all of a sudden I was just attacked and mauled by all these just terrifyingly scary people that had open sores and no teeth, and they were begging and asking me for money and I was like… and then my dad swept out and he said, get away from her, she is my daughter, don’t bother her, you people! and that was all that happened. It took me years to realize that he had told them to do it as a joke and they were all the extras on the movie, so that’s my dad’s humor for you.
Beth Accomando: And how old were you then?
Victoria Price: About 10.
Beth Accomando: During the course of your presentation, it seems like doing this is kind of going through a journey for you personally and it’s more than just about your father.
Victoria Price: Absolutely. I think that the longer I’ve sort of tried to stand in my father’s footsteps, I’ve recognized that, aside from the fact that he had very large feet, I have large feet and footsteps to follow in. And that’s really because of how he lived his life. I always have thought and I’ve had an incredibly privileged life and I had many, many famous and ridiculously successful friends. But I still think my dad is the most interesting person I’ve ever met, because he lived life with such curiosity and such generosity of spirit. He had a philosophy of saying yes to life with just a wholehearted sense of assent to whatever was offered to him or put in front of him. And the longer I follow in his footsteps and continue his legacy, the more I realize what an extraordinary thing it is to live. And my life has certainly been enriched by it and been enriched by hearing the stories of what he’s meant to so many people.
Beth Accomando: You also mentioned that you had been kind of a finicky eater for some time; your father is quite renowned for being such a great cook. But you’ve even kind of changed your mind about that as well.
Victoria Price: I’m still a finicky eater in my personal life, but if I have the opportunity – the other day we launched the 50th anniversary of the iconic cookbook that my parents wrote in the UK at Harrods and they prepared us a special meal in their private dining room. It was incredible. We were at the food halls all to ourselves and for the special meal there were all these amazing things that I really would never eat in real life. But I had to try them like I think it’s black putting, I think that’s what it’s called and I’d never tried black putting before and never thought of it. But I thought here we are at Harrods. If it’s going to be good, it’s going to be good here and, oh my god, it was delicious, who knew. So I will always eat anything that is in the spirit of their way of living which is exploratory and affirmative. So – but in my real life I still remain a picky eater.
Beth Accomando: Do you like to cook, though?
Victoria Price: Yeah, I’m a lazy cook. I love cooking breakfast. I love cooking with friends, but mostly I’m a pretty lazy cook. I have to admit. I’m a lazy eater. I eat so little. I basically eat protein and greens. So cooking isn’t super exciting when all you’re making is protein and greens.
Beth Accomando: Here at Abertoir though they did have what they call Dinner with Vincent, so how is that?
Victoria Price: It was delicious. I mean, like I said, I will always eat at events like these, because I want to try everything and people have put so much love and energy and joy into making the dishes, so of course I’m going to have them and it was really good. In fact, I still see some leftovers over there, so I might go and snag some, take back to my hotel.
Beth Accomando: You have out here this immense volume of your parent’s cooking. So tell me a little bit about the book itself and what people can find inside here?
Victoria Price: This cookbook is really iconic. It’s the eighth most popular out-of-print book of any kind. SAVEUR Magazine called it one of the 100 most important culinary events of the 20th century. And so this is a new version. Everything is intact. I’ve written a lengthy sort of historical preface, Wolfgang Puck, who is a dear friend of my father and stepmother, has written the introduction. And it really is a book that contains almost more than anything, the philosophy of how my parents lived their life which was a philosophy of curiosity and interest of exploring and savoring and celebrating their lives through the journey of food and sharing meals with others. And it’s a beautiful book and it has some delicious food in it, but more than that it’s a recipe for living.
Beth Accomando: Do you ever cook anything from the recipes?
Victoria Price: No. I used to, but not really. I’m really – I said I’m a lazy cook. I can’t remember the last time I cracked open a cookbook.
Beth Accomando: Do you have a particular film that you remember most fondly of your father, either from the experience of him making it or the experience of you actually watching it?
Victoria Price: ‘Laura’ is my favorite of his films. It’s a wonderful film and a great cast, great director. For me it’s really fun to glimpse my dad in a way that I never would have seen him, because I was born when he was 51 and that was made almost 20 years before I was born, at least 15. And so I get to view the young man in a part that at least visually was very close to of how he actually looked. And I think it’s just a fantastic movie.
Beth Accomando: One of the things that Peter Fuller had tonight was a clip from your father’s cooking show, which you said you hadn’t seen before, so is that something that you’re not familiar with and what was it like saying that?
Victoria Price: I knew about the cooking show, but there are no copies in America because of the difference in tape. So Peter got that and that’s why I could see it here. Oh my god, it was hilarious. I laughed so hard as like my dad asked Julia Child and it was done on a shoestring, probably less than a shoestring, a filament it was done on. So it was just – he was completely winging and just laughing as he was doing it and I just – that was one of my favorite things I’ve seen in a long time.
Beth Accomando: You also included a lot of family photos in your talk, how did you decide what you wanted to pick and what you wanted to share with people, because that’s very private too?
Victoria Price: I was brought up by a man who believed that if you’re an actor you’re a public servant and my parents brought me up to be a representative of their lives. So my mother didn’t take those pictures for me, she took those pictures for posterity and I’ve always recognized that as the caretaker of my dad’s legacy, I’m just sharing it with others. And so are there things that are private, how much is private in a public person’s life? I think what’s private to me is really the little moments that he and I had that are ours. But even those, when they capture something that I want to share with people that feels to me like something that is an important key to how to live life, then I share it. And I think that’s something I’ve known my whole life.
When I was 12 years old my dad decided to give me a big gift for my birthday which was we always went to the amusement park, so we went to Magic Mountain. My dad had never said no to an autograph his entire life and for my 12th birthday he told everybody who came up and asked for an autograph that he wasn’t going to give one that day because it was his daughter’s 12th birthday. I’m like the fifth kid; I was the most reviled child in Los Angeles. I mean everybody hated me and finally I looked at him and just signed the autographs, this is way worse. So honestly, I’ve understood from the time I was born that I shared my father with millions of people who love him. And so sharing those photographs and giving people a glimpse of who he was behind the scenes brings me great joy.
Beth Accomando: You talked about how iconic he is as an actor and I think most people are familiar with the fact that he loved art, but what you really emphasized is just how much and to what extent he really used his own celebrity to help spread the word on that.
Victoria Price: Yeah. I’ve come to realize over the years that I think celebrity was given to my dad by the universe, because A, it was maybe the only platform big enough to hold them in who had that big of a view of life, but also because he was somebody who could use celebrity to get back. And that’s a rare thing particularly these days. Celebrity is a commodity, celebrity is a currency. I like to think of it more as a currency which means it’s a means of exchange. And so there is an exchange between an actor and his audience and my dad understood that. And so one of the ways that he could give back was to encourage people to follow their passions and to do what really mattered to them. He knew that he had been given the gift of being encouraged to do that by his own family and he wanted to use his celebrity to encourage other people to do that and encourage the families of young people to support their children in whatever their artistic dreams and endeavors were and I think that’s an amazing thing to do as a celebrity.
Beth Accomando: All right. Well, I want to thank you very much for your time and do you want to leave us with one quote from your father as your parting words?
Victoria Price: Sure. My dad said, if you’re always curious you will never be bored, and that’s really a wonderful way to live to always look around you and understand that if we pay attention and take notice of what’s going on and really listen and see and smell and be present to where we are then not only our life is going to be much richer, but we’re going to enrich the lives of those around us. So it’s not just about not being bored, it’s about being engaged and giving back and that’s a wonderful way to live.
Beth Accomando: All right, thank you.
Victoria Price: Thank you.
[Movie Presentation] [00:15:38 - 00:15:48]
Gaz Bailey: I’ve always felt deep down that Vincent would have probably enjoyed himself at Abertoir. And I like to – so I will give you with excitement when back in 2011 we were celebrating the Vincentennial and Victoria agreeing to come all the way over from the states just for us. And I think you all will be excited as I am to welcome Victoria Price back to Abertoir.
Victoria Price: Hi everybody. First of all I’ve got to say Gaz, you’re awesome. Abertoir, this festival is really, really amazing. I mean this is really – when I wrote to him, this is one of my – if not my – you’re not supposed to say these things especially because Peter is owning this, but I think this is my favorite [inaudible] [00:16:40]. I love coming here. I love what Gaz does to make everybody feel like a family and I love Wales. So here I am and Peter has given you all of the – I actually learned a lot. Peter has given you a lot of great information. So I’m going to talk to you a little bit more about who my dad was kind of behind the scenes and how he lived his life. And to get you all in the mood, I’m going to play a little clip. And I think the feeling that you will get from this clip is the feeling I certainly have every time I think about my dad that I actually think it’s the feeling that we all have when we hear the name Vincent Price, at least, all of us probably here in this room.
[Movie Presentation] [00:17:25 - 00:17:47]
Victoria Price: Right, it’s actually impossible to listen to that without smiling, let alone laughing, isn’t? So I started it in 2011 as Gaz said for the Vincentennial, how brilliant is that name, what would have been my dad’s 100th birthday, going around the world and talking about my dad. And I didn’t really – because I’m a daddy’s girl. I loved my dad and this is really been an opportunity initially for me to reconnect with him. I wrote his biography back in 1999 and I actually did my UK Book Tour in 2000 and then I went on with my regular life, the job that pays the bills. And this was an opportunity to come out and not really talk about what my dad did, but how he did it. And so that’s what I’m going to share with you this evening, really who he is and actually how he has affected all of our lives, but in particularly mine.
So this picture is really a picture of a daddy’s girl with her dad. And I love it because it really captures the affection between us. I was looking at something I had written recently and it was about things I miss and one of them I said listed was my dad’s hands; what I wish I could see again are my dad’s hands. He had the most awesomely strong hands and gentle at the same time. And so that’s one of the things I like about this picture. But also what I really love about it is that it tells you a little bit about him that you might not otherwise know. So, all of you know of course that in the movies, Vincent Price was this smoking jacket wearing, ascot wearing, elegant [indiscernible] [00:19:38] man not so much in real life. My dad was far too interested in living to worry about what he wore.
So Jo Rivers’ husband, Edgar, introduced my dad to this Waiter’s Supply Company where you could buy $10 Waiter’s pants made out of 100% cheap polyester. I mean honestly those things if he had been within 10 feet of an open flame, he would have gone right up like in the movies. But he thought, Edgar, it was cheap and you can just roll them up and roll them out and put them on, and ironically I realized it when I went to go on this tour. I thought what can I wear; I’m going to be on the road for six weeks, so I ended up wearing one of these completely synthetic pant. So I’ve become my father apparently which is a little bit terrifying. Okay, but actually it’s kind of awesome I have become my father. That’s actually what this whole talk is about.
Since he was in college, my dad had a complete penchant for Brooks Brothers Shirts, these preppy American shirts. And the idea of the preppy shirt is that you wear these crisp button-down shirts with a tie, not my dad. He would usually wear the shirt that he had worn yesterday or the day before the one that was on the laundry. He would be completely rumpled up, he will throw that up – throw that on, because he was just – as I said he was too busy thinking about what he was going to do and what he was going to learn and what he was going to get out of life to worry about what he wore. And then the ascot wearing Vincent Price, what is that, it’s not, he is wearing his bathrobe tie around his neck. I mean it’s ridiculous. But the thing that I think captures my dad more than anything in this photograph, if you look very closely, you will see in his pocket there not one, but two plastic forks. My dad love to eat and so God forbid something delicious should go by in a tray then he couldn’t just [laughter] [00:21:33] mouth, so there you go. So that’s sort of man who my dad was in a nutshell. He had a numerous appetite for food and for life.
My dad, I think if there is one word that captures who he was, it is joy. And I read this wonderful definition of the word joy, the pure and simple delight in being alive. And as Peter showed you in his talk, this is a man who had fun, who took absolute delight in being alive. I mean that hilarious monologue about be else above and piss off, right. That – I mean honestly most actors would have said it would have just been beneath them and he just had so much fun with it. He took delight in whatever was put before him, and one part of delight I think is platitude. It’s hard to take delight in life if we’re bitching about what’s in front of us and my dad did have a lot of concern as he got older that he wasn’t getting the roles that he wanted. But he loved his job. He loved being an actor. And so he chose to find joy in what he did. And that’s a pretty awesome lesson for living. That’s who he was as a young man, that’s who he was as an older man and that is one of his great lessons to me, how to find joy in being alive.
He certainly found joy on the set. I love this picture. It was a publicity shot and here is my dad, they’re all in coffins, right. So they’re eating lunch, I think it’s called Lunch Break. So there is Basil, Boris who you can see is completely giggling and my dad human enough with the entertainment rag variety and Peter Lorre, I’m sure just sleighing in zingers under there making them all laugh, but again always willing to find joy.
So I’m going to give you a little bit of background into who my dad was. He was obviously a horror actor, but he was much more than that. And people always say was Vincent Price his stage name, but it wasn’t. He was in fact the Third Vincent Price. The First Vincent Price was this gentleman, Dr. Vincent Clarence Price who invented baking powder. He also patented in the first extracts of vanilla and other things like lemon extracts and cinnamons and he created many of the first breakfast cereals in America and he wrote four cookbooks. He was a household name in America in the 19th century and when he died in 1916, the Chicago Tribune called him The Housewife’s Best Friend.
So his youngest son, he had seven children, was also Vincent Price. And I love this picture of my grandfather who went on to run the largest candy company in the United States and also he was the head of the National Candy Maker’s Association. But this picture was taken when he was in high school performing an incredibly JC Magic act. But it was a wonderful little tie-in in Hollywood history, because here is Vincent Price senior, and here is a boy with his head on a plate and his name is Richard Welles and he is also the father of the Hollywood legend, because son was Orson Welles. So – and we’ll come back to the Orson Welles-Vincent Price connection in a little bit.
My dad grew up in an upper-middle-class St. Louis family and right from the beginning he felt different than his siblings. He was much younger. This is his next oldest sibling and obviously she is much older. They were all dark haired, he was blonde. They were all music lovers, he loved art. He fell in love with the visual arts when he was eight years old. He found a book that had all the reproductions of the great works of art. He will just pore over them looking at them. And when he was 12 he was walking by one of the two galleries in St. Louis in the 1920s and he saw a Rembrandt etching and he fell in love with it. And he walked into the gallery and he asked how much it was and the gallery owner said $37.50 which might seem like nothing now, but for a 12-year old boy in 1922 is a lot of money.
And to this day I bless that gallery owner who didn’t laugh but figured out a way that my dad could make a payment plan. So for three years every penny of his allowance went toward that Rembrandt. And at age 15 he took possession of this first piece of art. And then it really changed his life. He felt like that piece of art gave his life meaning. It gave him an idea of what was outside St. Louis and that’s what he wanted to do. And so as Peter told you, my dad saved up enough money by the time he was 17 to come to Europe for the first time and then he went to Yale where he studied art history.
But he also had this little secret ambition. He loved acting. So this is Vincent Price’s very first play and that’s him as Robin Hood. It’s also a very – Vincent Price’s very last play until much, much later on, because he was never cast again. Maybe a bit part here and there, but he kept auditioning for things and he never got cast and it was this great disappointment in his life. So he took out his fantasy of acting by making movies, home movies. And they all had very similar plots. It was really curious. So he was always rescuing some girl who was in great distress and inevitably he needed to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. So it was fine when he pulled her out of the surf and gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but when he tied her to the railroad tracks it was stretching it a bit. But he made a lot of home movies. It was apparently a great seduction technique.
My dad went on as I said to study art history at Yale and when he was at Yale he met the most famous man he had ever met, a man named James Thurber. And James Thurber was the great American cartoonist, essayist, humorist and he told Thurber that he had the secret ambition to be an actor. And Thurber just said that’s ridiculous. You haven’t even got cast at the Yale School of Drama, what you think you’re going to be an actor. And my dad thought you know what if Thurber thinks it’s ridiculous then probably it is. I’m going to go on and become an art historian and that was really what he thought he will do. What I have to tell you is that my dad did had the last laugh, because I found this great essay from the New Yorker in 1944 and it was about giving young people advice. And in it Thurber wrote, ever since I told Vincent Price not to become an actor I never give young people advice.
So my dad came to London after graduating from Yale to study art history at the Courtauld Institute at the University of London. And he studied the School of Durer and traveled all over Germany and Austria. But the main thing he did when he was in London other than socialized, he socialized a lot in all of his letters from that period. He is always going to tea with these amazing people, tea with the royal family, tea with Mrs. Bram as he called her; he had a private tea with Mrs. Bram Stoker which is pretty cool, right. But other than that he just went to the theatre incessantly because he was obsessed with the theatre. He saw [indiscernible] [00:29:13] Hamlet eight times and finally his friends were like you know what, you love the theatre so much, why don’t you just audition for something, so he did. He auditioned for an American play at a private theatre club, it was a play called Chicago and he got the part. Well, that was it and he was bitten by the acting bug and he thought I’m going to go out and get headshots and become an actor.
So he was still a graduate student. So when the photographer said I will tell you what, I will cut you a deal. I will shoot your headshots for free if you let me shoot a few shots for my portfolio so I can show the people the quality of my work. My dad said fine. Well that was the last time he did that, because two weeks later this photograph was life-size over Piccadilly Circus Advertising Deodorant Soap, lesson learned.
So the next play at this little theatre club was called Victoria Regina. And my dad decided to audition for the part of Prince Albert. He thought he had a good shot at it. Albert was taller than the average guy in the 19th century. He was blonde. He spoke German. My dad was studying German art. He thought he had a good shot and he got the part. And literally my dad went overnight from being a grad student to being an actor and not just an actor, he was named male newcomer of the year at British Theatre and the female newcomer of the year that year is kind of a cool thing was Vivien Leigh. I’ve always wanted to find a photograph, because they were awarded a big prize at Regent’s Park and I think it will be an amazing photograph of the young Vincent Price and the young Vivien Leigh.
So an American producer heard about the play and came over and bought the play as a vehicle for his leading lady, Helen Hayes, the first lady of the American Theatre. And he was all set to go, but the playwright, Laurence Housman, refused to sell the play unless Vincent Price was a part of the deal. And that’s how my dad ended up on Broadway in the biggest hit of the year. He was a matinee idol, and that’s when Hollywood came calling; 1935, middle of the depression and Hollywood offers my dad $1 million movie contract, amazing, right?
Now here is an interesting thing. I think great success requires great humility and my dad had the humility to go and ask Helen Hayes’ advice and she asked him one question, she said, do you think you know your craft? My dad said, no, I don’t know my craft. I’ve been in like one and half plays, how would I know my craft and Helen said, exactly. If you do not want to be a flash in the pan, turn down the contract and learn your craft, and my dad did. He turned down the million dollar movie contract. He stayed in the play for two years and every summer when Broadway closed, because there was no air-conditioning, he performed in five or six different Summer Stock plays with some of the great ladies of Hollywood and the theatre. This is my dad and one of the plays he did which was turned out with the great Chinese-American movie actress, Anna May Wong. And so when Hollywood came calling again, he was ready to go. And he was brought out to be a leading man and when you see this picture, you can see why. I mean he was as handsome as Robert Taylor any day.
So he was cast in this group of comedy called Service de Luxe, which he loved. He loved that and you would have thought he would have liked it; he loved playing comedy as you can see from a lot of the things we saw that Peter showed. But this was fluffy and it didn’t feel like acting to him. What acting to him was getting into a role and he admired most actors who are character actors, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Cagney, Edward G. Robinson. But picture in your mind how those three looked and look at that and you can see why Hollywood didn’t think of him as a character actor, he was far too handsome.
And so my dad left and he went back to Broadway where he joined Orson Welles Mercury Theatre, and Orson Welles was the all fun [indiscernible] [00:33:22]. He loved the British – I mean the American stage and he was doing sort of these avant-garde productions of classic plays in modern day dress and my dad and this great troop of actors just sunk their teeth into it. And that is where my dad met Joseph Cotten with whom he appeared in Dr. Phibes and Norman Lloyd who became a friend for life, the ageless, I think Norman Lloyd actually is Dorian Gray. He is still alive and still on television in America. He is an amazing, amazing human being who has some great Vincent Price stories. But he also fell in love for the first time with a woman and married her. And so her name was Edith Barrett and she had this great, great theatrical lineage. Her grandfather was Lawrence Barrett who was the acting partner of Edwin Booth. They were the great Shakespearian acting team of the 19th century and Edwin Booth of course was famously the brother of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Lincoln. They also looked alike, Barrett Booth found at the Players Club in New York, the great theatrical club. And so she had this amazing lineage that my dad married into.
And so he went back to Hollywood with his new wife and he began getting costume parts, this is Private Life of Elizabeth and Essex which was actually a really good movie. My dad was very proud to be in with Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. But the rest were sort of a mixed bag, some good, some not so good. Tower of London obviously was one he was quite proud of and not only was he proud of, but he got to meet two men who were becoming incredibly dear friends for life, Basil Rathbone and in particular, Boris Karloff. Boris and my dad were wonderful, wonderful friends, and I think their friendship was submitted by something that Boris and Basil did to my dad when he was in the movie. So my dad’s character was supposed to be drowned in a vat of Malmsey, and Boris and Basil thought it will be quite amusing if they prepared a little special something in that vat of Malmsey for my dad. So they asked everybody on the set to dump their cigarette butts, the renaissance of their coffee grounds and all sorts of other lovely things in this vat of Malmsey. And so when they dumped my dad in there, they held him down just a little too long and you will get a good idea of who my dad was when he thought that was absolutely the most endearing thing that anyone could have done to him and they became friends for life.
This movie was a different story, however, Green Hell and it really was Green Hell for everybody who was in it. It should have been great. It had an amazing cast. James Whale, incredible director. It was so horrible. The screenplay is actually one of the worst things ever written. There is dialogue in there that is cringe worthy. And it was so cringe worthy that my dad did this great wonderful interview for French television in the 1980s and he quoted verbatim at one of the lines, it was so bad that he remembered it and it’s something like do you think it’s possible for a man to love two women at the same time, be faithful to both and yet want to be with neither of them. Seriously, how do you say that with a straight face? Apparently, each of them got killed off as the movie progressed and it was so bad that when they go killed off they would actually throw a party, they were so grateful. But look at that cast, it’s amazing, Joan Bennett, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., George Sanders, Alan Hale, I mean a really great cast, horrific movie. So if you’re really depressed and you need a good laugh you can find it on YouTube, it will cheer you up, I promise.
In 1940, Edith gave birth to their first son, Vincent Barrett Price. But my dad didn’t remain in Hollywood for very long, because he went back to Broadway. And there he did something that was incredibly rewarding to him. It was a play called Angel Street which later became the movie Gaslight. And the movie, it’s a play about a man who tries to make his wife believe that she is crazy, and so he at once gets her locked up in an insane [indiscernible] [00:37:38] so he can get rid of her, kind of a brilliant plot. And he said that the first time he stood on stage and he felt the audience’s heat on him. He knew he had come home and he realized that is who he wanted to be as an actor, a character actor who played villains. And it was so great, because then he was hired by 20th Century Fox, put under contract and he began getting more villainous malevolent roles, this is him as the evil inspector in The Song of Bernadette which is a terrific movie.
His favorite movie, and certainly mine, is Laura. And he is not really a villain in it, but he is a cad in it and he is a cad that you know he has the capacity to be the villain in the movie and that’s what makes his part so great. It is such a terrific film and a very, very special movie, I think. I think however, the part that was sort of the precursor to everything he will do is the kind of horror was Dragonwyck. He wanted this part so badly. He lost 60 pounds to get this part. And in it he plays this opium addict dragoon in upstate New York who kills off not one but two of his wives including the very beautiful Gene Tierney. And it was a tremendous part and I think it really sort of was as I said that first real leading man that gave everybody an idea of who Vincent Price could be as an actor. And for movie buffs another fun movie sighting, that’s a very young Jessica Tandy.
So the mid-1940s were difficult time for my dad. He fell out of contract to 20th Century Fox. Both of his parents died within two years and he and his wife were divorced in an ugly, ugly divorce chronicled by all of the gossip columns and he found himself alone. But not for long; handsome leading men do not stay single for long. And so he met a woman named Mary Grant who was a costume designer. She was born in Wales. She was born in Broadhaven which is right near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. She grew up in Wales till she was five. Then her family moved to Shanghai, China, and then they moved to British Columbia. She came to the United States to be a costume designer. Well, she came to be a dancer, a Martha Graham dancer.
She ended up becoming a costume designer on Broadway and in Hollywood and that’s how she met my dad. And one day they went down – they were dating; they went down to Tehuana with my dad’s great friend, Perry Rathbone, who is the head of a museum in America, and Perry Rathbone said, you know what, I think the two of you should get married one day and so they obliged. This is their wedding picture, completely spontaneous. I love this. Honeymoon trip like it was planned, right, on an ass, which my dad undoubtedly was just a bit and their best man was the ass. But this picture captures the best of who they were. They were just two people who had a great apatite for life, a curiosity about life and an interest in being alive. They were also both very forward thinkers.
So this is a wonderful picture of them at the beginning of their marriage, my dad with his art collection. He always collected art from the time when he was 12. But his taste was very venturous, as you can see he collected a lot of ethnographic art, a lot of oceanic and African art, Native American art, in fact my mom with her groovy dungarees and boyish haircut is wearing a Navajo Sand Cast Belt and they were pet lovers, so my dad with his dog, Joe, and my mom with her cat, Josephine. And they loved to travel the world together. And it wasn’t a bucket list approach to travel, they dove in. They wanted to learn about a culture. And the way you learn about a culture is not to view it from a far, but to be a part of it, to learn about the customs, to wear the clothing, to eat the food, to see the art, to go off the beaten track. And that’s what they love to do even if they were making a movie some place that’s what they do. They didn’t stay in their five start hotel and eat room service. They jumped in and learned about a culture. And it was a wonderful, wonderful partnership.
And meantime in the 50s, my dad was under contract again to Howard Hughes at RKO and he made a picture that at least in America on TV, I think every other week and it’s a wonderful, wonderful movie called His Kind of Woman and my dad was just hilarious in it. And he made a few other movies during this period and then everything ground to a halt. It was not a good time either in my dad’s life or in America. It was the McCarthy era and McCarthy and his henchmen and the United States Congress went about accusing people of being communists. And this wasn’t just idle accusations, people took their lives, people lost everything, people had to flee the country. It was the – McCarthy was the modern day equivalent of Matthew Hopkins. It was a witch hunt. And many other people had their lives affected by being put on grade lists and what that meant was that you were not hired. So my dad was on a grade list and was not hired, did not work for over a year. For somebody who adored working, it was a disaster.
And when he finally was able to clear his name, he was offered two parts almost within a week. One was a play on Broadway and he loved being in the theatre, but the other was a movie that was in this new technology and he thought you know what, Hollywood is technology driven, I think I should do that. But the other reason he took it was that the story really appealed to him. It was about an artist. So that was already good. But it was about an artist who had lost everything, just like my dad almost had and many of his friends had. And so he took his revenge for losing everything and it was just a little movie called House of Wax. Well, House of Wax went on to become a massive success. It literally ran in First Run Houses for over a year. I mean Avatar didn’t run for over a year.
And a year later my dad was on Broadway doing Richard III and it was still running. He couldn’t believe it. He thought can people actually be going to this movie. So he decided he will go to a matinee, because he was in a play at night and see if there was anyone there and sure enough the theatre was packed. So he thought well, I will sit behind these two teenage girls that were lovely, have a good time and let’s see if they’re scared. Well of course they were scared; they were like clinging to each other. And so my dad as the credits rolled and they’re shaking in their boots he decided that he would lean forward and say did you like it. Just a little example of my dad’s humor, I thought that was hilarious.
So by the 1950s, my parents had become kind of cultural ambassadors in Los Angeles and in the United States. My dad was as well known for his art collection and his promotion of the visual arts. He started a museum in Los Angeles called the Vincent Price Art Museum. He and my mother donated 90 pieces of art to that museum to begin with and over their lifetimes donated 2,000 pieces of art. It is an incredible, incredible place. If any of you have a chance to go there, well worth a visit.
He was on a TV show called the $64,000 Challenge and the premise of the show was that you have a vocation that is one thing, but an avocation, a hobby that is another. And you compete as experts in your hobby. He won the show twice, but the really cool thing that he did was he used the show and it was hugely popular like Britain’s got talent, I mean that kind of popular. People tuned in, everybody wanted to know who was on, what was happening. And so every week he plugged a different regional museum and apparently regional art membership went up all over the country. He ended up writing a syndicated art column and it was an incredibly rewarding thing for him to be able to now a public advocate to use his celebrity to advocate for the visual arts.
But of course he is also now on a roll with his horror career. He joins up with this amazing showman William Castle to make I think some of – all of our favorite movie, House on Haunted Hill. I just got to watch that in his hometown in St. Louis. It was a wonderful screening at 10:30 in the morning and 300 people turned out and it was packed. It was so much fun. I thought the movie is really great at the Tingler, another one in – Castle was such a great showman with all his little gimmicks. The seats buzzing and the skeletons flying around and my dad loved pairing with that kind of showman.
So he was invited to go to Rome to make a movie that I think is one of his most famous. The first – one of the first certainly zombie movies and it was called Last Man on Earth. And while he was there, he and I mom moved there for nine months and they loved being there. He will go to art everyday when he wasn’t shooting. Obviously he loved all the food. But it was this very weird thing, because my mom started craving Chinese food and I was the Chinese food craving. 45-year old Mary Grant Price and 51-year old Vincent Price gave birth to a complete and total surprise which was me. In the mean time as Peter told you, my dad was under contract to AIP and made all of the Poe movies. And it was really this incredibly rewarding period of his life. But he was on the road constantly always working, always making movies.
So I often was on the road with my dad and those were amazing, amazing times. He was such a wonderful person to explore the world with and my favorite way that we explored the world certainly was glamorous, getting on a plane and flying to some wonderful hotel in London or New York or Paris. But what I really loved most of all was when we got in our little brown milk truck of RV and drove all over the United States, because my dad was on something called the Indian Arts and Crafts Board which supported the art of the Native American culture in the United States. And so to get to some of the places, you couldn’t get there really by plane and so we would go in this RV all over the place. And the great part for me was I got to just be with my dad. He is not being Vincent Price and we got to go and have root beer floats and go to soda shops and eat hamburgers and it was just a wonderful, wonderful time to get to be with my dad that way.
For us, home was very much about celebration. My mother was very grateful for her life. She was somebody who was constantly aware of gratitude. Thanks Giving was her favorite holiday. And so celebrations were a way of expressing that gratitude and showing her joy. And she was a baker, so pretty much anything was an excuse to bake a cake. So we gave my dad this pug for his birthday, of course we had to have a cake with a pug on it. But my favorite celebrations were very simple celebrations, they were Saturday or Sunday morning spent with my dad. On Saturday mornings we will make breakfast together.
My favorite thing to make were pancakes or popovers which are essentially Yorkshire puddings. And just getting to be with my dad one-on-one learning how to cook was so wonderful, but he was an amazing cook. And my favorite meal, I would love to show it to you, but this is the remanence of it. He will make this soufflé that was so light and airy, but had this pungent sharp cheese and this crispy top with this leafy green salad and just a sharp garlic dressing. And oh my god, I will go back in time to have that meal again, it’s so wonderful. But so the dad I knew, the professional dad was not necessarily the actor you guys have all famously heard that I don’t really love horror movies. I don’t love horror movies because they scared me. I know that was the object, but I didn’t want to see my dad doing scary things. I didn’t want to see my dad killing people, lopping off their heads and hacking them to beds and I certainly didn’t want to see him hack to beds. We were – the other day we took a couch out to Lavinium and Peter was showing Witchfinder General. I had to put my headphones over, oh my god, they’re screaming all the time and I’m like – I was like a kid, I had my head down, I was reading on my phone, I’m like if they killed [indiscernible] [00:51:08], they hacked into that, I didn’t want to see it. So the dad I knew and loved was the dad who was the art expert.
And he had this amazing opportunity happen in the 1960s. He was approached by Sears Roebuck, the American Department Store to sell art for them. Now really they just wanted him to be a spokesman for their art collection. They were doing things like that. They brought in Sir Edmund Hillary who just climbed Mt. Everest and he was their outdoor and campaign gear, spokesperson, you can by a Sir Edmund Hillary sleeping bag for example. So they thought they do the same thing with Vincent Price and my dad took one, look at the art, its Sears and he was like oh god, no. So my mother again, always the forward thinkers, do not throw baby out with the bath water. What would you like to do with Sears if you can do anything and my dad said well I mean I’d like them to give me a cheque book and buy all their art and she said well you suggest that, so he did and they said yes.
So as Peter told you, he had the opportunity to buy art all over the world so he could make movies, go by art, go on tours just to buy art. He bought 20,000 pieces of art for Sears. My mom framed almost all of them in our basement and you could go into a Sears Department Store and buy up a Picasso, a Daly, an emerging artist, a Whistler, We Art, great works of art on your Sears credit card paying overtime with the money back guarantee. And the reason my dad did this was that he was a populist. He believed that art had given his life meaning and purpose and he believed that if everyone could afford to live with the work of art it will change their life, it would expand their horizons of the world and that’s what he wanted to do it. So this is literally our house with all the spreadsheets and all of the arts spread all over as he is picking out which art to sell for Sears. Oh my god, he loved it so much.
So out of that came something rather interesting which one of the things we’re celebrating this year. My dad was a collector of everything, but he was as much a collector of experience as anything. So he loved going all over the world and eating as I said and when he love to eat something, he would go back and say to the chef oh my god I love that, Spaghetti Bolognese, how do you make it and my dad could turn a light out of a light post honestly. So he will go home with his Spaghetti Bolognese recipe which would have not happened today, I’m telling you, maybe the Vincent Price would, but most people couldn’t accomplish that. And then he would prepare that for their friends, my mother loved collecting design elements.
I came to realize when I was a teenager that honestly we could have eaten off of a different dish for five years without washing a dish. My mother had so many dishes. I mean she was just obsessive. But she would create these dinner parties that where thematic and they would make the meals and they would all share it with their friends. Well they became so famous for this that the executives at Sears decided that they should create a cookbook that sort of captured this experience. And this is that cookbook. It sold 300,000 copies when it came out. It has gone on to become regardless one of the 100 most important culinary events of the 20th century. And it is still in America the eighth most popular out of print book of any kind. I think Madonna Sex is number one, I think there is a Stephen King novel on the list and this cookbook. I mean it’s amazing. But the more I thought about actually, I think that’s pretty logically you got sex, you got Stephen King and you got food, what else do you need.
So I look at these two pictures and I know that this is the beginning of an ending for my family. And we all recognized that all good things must come to an end. But I cheer myself up with the fact that bad things also come to an end. And mercifully we are no longer wearing clothes like this. I mean really what was my mother thinking; I look like I’m wearing the drapes. She actually really doesn’t look much better than I do. So this was our last family trip together. We all went to France on the QE2. And it was an amazing, amazing trip except for about three days which were among the worst three days of my life and they should have been glorious. We were all going to Mont St. Michel that wonderful medieval, Ireland of the Northern Coast of France and you could only get there when there is a low tide and you can drive over the causeway and neither of my parents had been there. They were so excited. And on Mont St. Michel is the best omelette restaurant still there in the world. And so they kept talking about how excited they were to eat at this omelette restaurant.
So true confession moment, I was not the child of my parent’s dreams when it came to food. I was then; I am now an unbelievably finicky eater. My list of no’s is like this long and my list of yes’s is like six things. So as a child omelettes were among and still are my most loathed foods. I still really with a gun to my head I would barely eat an omelette. So they argued for two days leading up to it and my dad was sort of, oh she is a kid, don’t bother her and my mom kept saying when in Rome, this is the greatest omelette restaurant in the world. So of course as usual both my dad and acquiesce to my mother and then I threw up for the next two days all the way across Brittany. So why do I share that story with you? I use to feel a little bad about sharing that story in public, but then I realize you guys are horror fans, you [laughter] [00:57:03]. That’s my old. So I share it because for me to come out and talk about the cookbook has been a little bit of a redemptive healing journey. So I will share that in a bit.
Anyway, as I said my parents marriage came to an end and I discovered this picture about a year ago and it’s become a little bit of a touchstone for me, kind of a talisman, an object lesson, because you saw the picture of my parents at the beginning of their marriage, these two people so full of joy and life and love and these are the same people 23 years later. My dad is still the same person. These are two people sitting at the same table at the same event theoretically having the same experience but in very, very different ways. So my dad, there he is, full of life and joy and love and my mother looks stricken. So I look at this picture and I think I am the child of these two parents and what happened to them.
Well I’ve come to realize that as we get older we have a choice and I think the choice is very simple. We can choose to continue to expand into our lives or we can begin to contract. There is all kinds of reasons to contract as we get older, but none of them are very good. I’ve come to realize we can come to choose love or we can come to choose fear. We can come to say yes or we can come to say yes, which of those are we going to choose? I am the child of two parents who were workaholics frankly and they were driven by celebrity, but in very different ways. My dad used his celebrity to give back. He understood that because he was famous he could touch people’s lives. He could encourage people to follow their passions just as he followed his. He could use his celebrity to live a huge light filled life to shine his light on the world and give other people permission to shine theirs. My mother became so fearful that she wasn’t good enough, that we weren’t good enough and it really ended up eating her up. And in a way I get to look at this picture everyday that I see it and I get to choose which one do I want to be. And the reason I’m standing here talking about my dad’s legacy with all of you is because I choose this.
So my dad made the movie Theatre of Blood as Peter told you and in it my dad fell in love. And it’s not every kid who has a clip of his or her famous parent falling in love, but I do, so I’m going to share it with you theoretically.
[Movie Presentation] [01:00:14 - 01:00:53]
Victoria Price: So no, it wasn’t the portly policeman with [laughter] [01:00:56]. My dad fell in love with the pretty, brilliant, witty, sexy, talented, beautiful Australian-British actress Coral Browne. And not two minutes later he electrocuted her. I will be less than honest if I didn’t admit pure glee at looking at this picture from time-to-time of my father electrocuting the women who called herself my wicked stepmother. It’s never a good thing when they call themselves your wicked stepmother. Coral was for me an incredibly mixed blessing. On the one hand she was an incredible example of what a powerful, beautiful, strong woman could be. She was really brilliant, but she was also mean. And she had this incredible whit that everybody love to tell Coral stories, but that whit was used at the expense of other people. And I watched that and I watched it tear people apart, but I also watched her tear our family apart.
She kept me in the loop, because I think she knew she couldn’t get away with getting rid of me, because I think my dad would have probably – that would have been the final straw, but she was horrible, horrible to my brother and his kids and it really tore our family apart. But for me, because I understood who Coral was and I admired many parts of Coral. I really was happy for my dad. But it wasn’t really that made me happy for my dad; this is what made me happy for my dad. Coral allowed him to be that. My dad’s great friend Billy Bryce said your dad was a kite. He needed to be able to fly and your mother began as a kite with him, but gradually she came under the impression that his string needed holding and then she held it just a little too hard. And then your dad chose to have a kite again who could fly with him and it’s really a beautiful thing and Coral was that kite. She flew with my dad.
And I really think that it’s very hard to maintain your joy when you’re with somebody who is so afraid of it and that is what my mother became, she became afraid of that kind of joy, of that kind of life. And so I was easily able to forgive Coral. If we had to put up with the arched eyebrow of Coral Browne from time-to-time, it was okay, because she allowed my dad to have that joy. She also as Peter told you, my dad was in a play with Oscar Wilde called Diversions and Delights and that was all Coral. Coral had an incredible eye for talent. In fact that is really how she made her fortune in her name. During World War II, she lived at the Savoy Hotel all through the blitz. She made a complete choice to stay in London and not leave and entertain people during the war. It was really her view of what she could do for the war effort. And she was one of the producers of all of the plays at the Savoy Theatre and she chose plays that nobody thought would work in England and they became huge hits.
And so when my dad was at that point in his career that we all just witnessed in Peter’s talk where the good parts weren’t coming, she was the one who suggested that my dad playing Oscar Wilde in this incredible one man show. I saw it probably 15 times and absolutely it was the best thing he ever did. It was extraordinary. But it was also a very controversial thing and a risky thing for him to do. It was 1977, it opened in San Francisco and it was at a time when a woman named Anita Bryant was all over the airwaves denouncing homosexuality and here is Vincent Price playing pretty much the most famous gay man in the world, Oscar Wilde. So here she was on every talk show saying, giving her two sense about being gay and my dad was kind of invited on to be the counterpoint for that. And I think it was on the Johnny Carson show where he gave the most perfect response to her. So Johnny Carson said what do you think of Ms. Bryant and what she is saying and my dad paused and then said yes, Ms. Bryant, I think that Oscar Wilde have written a play about her, it’s called a Woman of No Importance, right.
So my dad loved doing this play as Peter said over 800 performances, not all of them were at First Run Theatres after he ran at all over the world at major theatres. He took a parent down version of it on the road in a van and took it to small colleges all over America. He loved doing this play. It was so important to him. And of course he did get some good things at the end of his career. He – I mean that clip was awesome, oh my god, wasn’t that clip amazing. I’ve never seen that before. It’s hilarious. It’s like Vincent Price’s Julia Child. It’s just – and got to act with some of his great, great friends. So he was really – I think fairly well satisfied at the end of his career. But then two things came along that I regard as the great gifts to a man who really invested so much of his life in his career. One was a phone call from the man named Quincy Jones asking my dad to recite a little poem for a new album, that album was Thriller. And I really feel like Michael Jackson gave my dad one of the great gifts, because honestly as long as there is Halloween there will be Thriller and as long as there is Thriller there will be Vincent Price, everyone will know that laugh. So that is a rare kind of immortality.
My dad also kept going lecturing all over the world, but he lectured in the United States every year, 60 cities in 65 days on the visual arts. That’s how important he felt it was. It was one of his great joys to go out and talk to young people. And he wouldn’t just give a talk and then leave; he would often stay for hours and hours talking to kids afterwards. If he met a kid who was an artist he will write them letters. He will send them tickets to do things. He will commission them to do works of art. I’ve so many amazing artists who got their first commissions from my dad. And then a young artist gave my dad a gift back. So my dad was doing a show called Read, Write & Draw and it was on the Disney Channel and he heard about this young animator who was a big fan. So he went down to meet him and he fell in love with this guy’s penning drawings, he thought they were fantastic.
And this guy have written a little movie called Vincent, about a little boy named Vincent Malloy who wants to grow up to be Vincent Price, so my dad agreed to narrate it. And in return Tim Burton wrote my dad his one song which was the role of the inventor in Edward Scissorhands and what a gift that was. What I love about that part is that it captures all of my dad’s qualities and it is so incredibly pointed and sweet and what a wonderful, wonderful and fitting small song.
So my dad said this about my stepmother at the end of this life, I come to believe that remembering someone is not the highest compliment, it is missing them. And for many years I really thought that was true, but lately I’ve come to think that there is something that is even higher compliment. It’s not missing them; it’s continuing to live their legacy. When we carry the people we love in us and live as they lived and bring them with us in everything we do, that to me is the highest compliment we can give. And so that’s kind of what I’ve ended up doing. I wrote my dad’s biography and as I said I did the two book tours and I was kind of done. And then I ended up coming out on the road and giving these talks and I got asked to go to horror conventions. And I will be honest, I thought what the heck am I going to talk about it [laughter] [01:09:23]. All you guys know way more about my dad’s movies than I do, honestly, and then you guys started talking to me.
And so people now quote this back to me, I’ve heard you’re not a horror fan, but I’ve heard you’re a fan of horror fans. Yeah, I’m a huge fan of horror fans for a number of reasons. One of them is that my dad was certainly not the most famous actor of his generation. There were many actors who’re way, way more famous. But some of those actors are people, unless you’re a massive Turner classic movies or old movie buff, there you don’t really know who they are. But Vincent Price gets 3,000 new Facebook likes a week, 22 years after he died, that’s you guys. You guys get him and what I realized was my dad spent a lot of his life playing roles where he played outsiders.
And I think he knew how to play an outsider even though he was an upper-middle-class kid from St. Louis with a Yale education, he knew how to play outsiders, because to be somebody who loved art in the 1920s makes you kind of weird. And he knew that he could be anything other than that art lover. So he knew what it was to feel like you didn’t feel like the mainstream and he embraced that he encouraged other people to embrace that. I grew up the same way. I never felt like I could find my drive. I never knew who they were.
And so I started coming to horror conventions, and you guys had no reason to embrace me. You knew I wasn’t a horror fan, but you have and you come up to me and you tell me these stories about how much you love my dad and I cannot tell you what they mean to me, because I loved my dad. And you know when you really love something or your dog or your husband or a hobby, you want to talk about it all the time. But how much could you talk about kayaking without boring somebody, right. I’m at the third-party that you talked about kayaking; I’m guessing you’re not going to be invited again. But not only do I get invited to talk about my dad, I get paid for it, I mean it’s awesome. I get paid to go around the world talking about the person I probably loved most in the world to people who loved him just as much as I do and we get to share that love and how awesome is that. And so it’s really become this amazing, amazing gift and I thank you from bottom of my heart for it.
So I had this very weird relationship with the word legacy. I started calling it the Vincent Price Legacy of what I was doing, but legacy was kind of a weird thing. My mother didn’t believe in inheritance. She told me that for the first time when I was eight years old and just to make sure I got the point she reiterated that every year until she died when I was 40. My dad was off the Hollywood generation were nepotism, was a very dirty word. And my favorite story around that, you heard that the two producers for AIP were Sam Arkoff and Jim Nicholson. And so in Hollywood you didn’t recommend your child to sweep the stage, you probably didn’t even tell most people you had a child. My dad’s agent never even knew he had a kid.
And so there was this actor who was hired on a movie and Boris and Basel and Peter Lorrie, they didn’t think this guy was a very good actor particularly and he has the same last name as one of the producers, so they were kind of rude to him. They would walk by him and mutter under their breath and they will tease him and oh my, play little tricks on him while he had the last laugh. He was no relation to Jim Nicholson, he was Jack Nicholson and he was kind of just [laughter] [01:13:21] his career.
So I began thinking about what my legacy was and my legacy really is what I’ve learned from all of you guys, it’s the sharing of love and joy and how my dad lived his life. But the final clue came when I found a handwritten copy of the graduation speech my dad wrote for my high school graduation. And I didn’t really remember much of it, who remembers their high school graduation speech, you just want to graduate. But I always remembered the poem that he recited at the end. I thank you, God, for this most amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; for everything which is infinite which is natural which is, yes, so I will be really honest. I remember thinking of the time what the hell is he talking about. I mean this is a man who definitely did not use the word God in public on a regular basis and frankly he was not a nature boy, he would rather see a painting of a tree than a tree. If you’ve got to walk through the trees, he was definitely not interested. So I felt what is the point and then I got it, it all came down to that one word. My dad was giving us his entire philosophy of life in that one last word “yes”.
So when I got the opportunity to go out and talk about his cookbook, I realized that I was getting the opportunity to talk about a book that I think contains in a way his philosophy of life, both of my parents philosophy of life more than anything else in the world and it is that philosophy and yes, look large in how to living. And I distilled it down to what I think are sort of the three verbs that allowed them to do it, explore, savor and celebrate. And so I decided that I would – if I was really going to walk my walk, walk my talk, I better learn how to explore, savor and celebrate my own life. So I took some clues from my dad. He said if you’re always curious, you will never be bored.
Now honestly, he used to say there is no excuse for boredom, boredom is turned out to be the eighth deadly sin and literally no one should be allowed to be bored. The world is so interesting. How can you possibly be bored? So I was given by a wonderful amazing friend of mine, a trip to China and I decided to just use that trip as an opportunity to live that exploration of life. And so all of a sudden that finicky food eater who has like five things that she eats on her food list, forget it, I’m in China, when I am ever going to go back to China, I ate everything that was put in front of me, everything. I would hike and this was an amazing day. I hiked two hours up a mountain, spent the night in a village with no electricity during a massive lightening storm. They cooked my breakfast over an open fire. I walked out in this 1,500-year old rice paddy is covered with water, oh my god, it was incredible. I went to every kind of temple you can go to and any kind of ritual there was, I did it. Light something grey, tie something on a tree or put coins in something, absolutely, get your hands red, I will do it. It was amazing, amazing and of course I’ve revealed we were a family of – and or a family of animal lovers.
So I had the opportunity to – well I paid for the privilege of getting to feed the pandas which was really awesome. What they don’t tell you is really what you’re paying for is the privilege of picking up panda poop. You have to – actually I have to – I look like my dad in Scream and Scream Again, you’ve don those whole blue outfit and booties in a whole mask just to clean up panda poop, but it was very exciting.
The most fun though was eating and my favorite, favorite day was with this woman. I went into a – I was hungry, I went into a truck stop by the side of the road and it was filled with smoke, the Chinese smoke all the time. You couldn’t even see the other side of the room. I definitely was the only western who had ever been there and the conditions were so wildly unsanitary that my driver who spoke no English was like running back and forth to the hot water tea dispenser to clean his chopsticks. He was just horrified in how unsanitary it was and he was Chinese. She brought out this hot pot that was the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. And I would pull something out and I would sort of point to her, because none of us spoke each other’s language and ask what it was and because I had no clue what it was. And she will bring this thing out in its raw form; I still had no clue what it was. I mean she was like [indiscernible] covered with acne and things with [laughter] [01:18:18] going off of them. I mean truly the most, it’s I was like Dr. Seuss food. It was the best meal I’ve ever had in my life and completely memorable.
And all of a sudden the light bulb went off for me, I got it exploring, savoring and celebrating was the philosophy of the cookbook and the conduit of the cookbook was food. It wasn’t the focus of the cookbook; it was the way they got there. And so my whole history of being the finicky child, would have threw up all the way across Brittany, went right out of the window, I got it. You learn about a culture by willing to jump in both feet first and that’s what I did in China and it was amazing.
My dad said when you limit your interest, you limit your life. And so we all know that Vincent Price was famously called a renaissance man, right. So the further I get away from my dad being alive and the more I realize that they call you a renaissance man when you’re famous. When you’re not famous they call you what they call me which is a workaholic multitasker. And we laugh about that, but being workaholic, is it’s like an alcoholic, it’s just – it’s an alcoholic that has societal approval, because we all value work so much. But it can kill you just as quickly as anything else and it was killing me. I just worked and worked and worked. And those of you who follow me know that I tend to work too hard which is why Gaz did me this incredible sweet gift of bringing me here today early and telling me I was not allowed to work yesterday. And I actually took the whole day off Gaz and I just lounged around my beautiful room and I went and explored the Wales countryside and thank you. I mean that from the bottom of my heart it was such a gift.
So I decided that the thing that I needed to do was to learn how to savor my life and what savoring means is to taste deeply. But the only way you can really taste deeply is if you stop long enough to taste it. Now, I am the worst at that. I literally – I never sit down and eat a meal at home. I stand on the kitchen corner and shove something down and go on to the next thing. So for me savoring my life was turning up to my dad’s lifelong habit of joy. And so I started a blog called Daily Practice of Joy and the purpose of what that was I had to show up and find joy everyday in my life. My best friend was like super helpful about it. She said so you’re going to write a blog about practicing joy without even knowing if it works, do you think that’s a really good idea. But I decided that if I have to show up and be accountable to the people who’re reading this blog every week, it would make me show up to joy and it has worked and I love it. And it has taught me how to say yes in such profound ways and taught me how to savor my life.
My dad also said so what do you owe yourself and really, what I owe myself is the opportunity to be that little girl. I remember that day so fondly. My family and I were coming back from Santa Fe, New Mexico going back home to Los Angeles, California. We were about to catch the train and we missed it. And in those pre-cell phone days the station master only really had the capacity to radio ahead, but in New Mexico there were lot of mountains and he didn’t know whether he would catch the train. But he said, you know what, hopefully I will, so why don’t you just drive on the train tracks trying to catch up with the train and hopefully it will stop. So we’re driving along and saw something out of a movie, there is dirt building behind the thing, we’re graveling along the rain – train tracks and the train stops and we shriek in joy and we grab our bags and we get out and we throw them in the train compartment and my mother snapped that picture just as we sat down. And I look at that little girl and I think that little girl knew how to have fun. That little girl knew what joy was.
And so the celebration of my life is celebrating the joy I learned how to have with my father and one of the ways I get to do that is by handing that one to horror fans. I mean because honestly who doesn’t have joy with a cleaver over there. But it’s true. I get to go around sharing my love of my dad’s life and the philosophy of my dad’s life with people who get him, and get who he was and that is a tremendous gift. I was a little girl. I always felt like I had my daddy is here. I knew on some level that my dad loved me more than anyone in the world and that is an extraordinary feeling to be loved by somebody that much. But when my dad and I got to the end of his life, my stepmother had mercifully died first and we got some time together. And we would sit on the end of his bed together and we will talk about art which was our mutual passion.
And I think I was a little bit unfair to him, because I wanted that relationship back. I wanted us to be that little girl and that dad then, but we weren’t, we couldn’t be. I was in my late 20s and early 30s and my dad was dying and it wasn’t a fair thing to do to him. But one of the other real gifts of coming out and sharing his legacy, writing about it, talking about it, being with you guys and hearing what he meant to you is that I feel like I have my daddy is here again. I feel like I get to hear him through all of what he meant to you and I feel like I get to share who he was by sharing his stories. And that is just – I can’t tell you what a profound gift that is.
So my dad loved poetry and you can hear it in all of the clips that Peter played. He was an incredible, incredible speaker of verse and I think that’s why Theatre Blood is my favorite of my dad’s horror movies, because he gets to recite Shakespeare. So my dad loved poetry so much that he wanted his little girl to love poetry. How do you get an eight-year old girl to love poetry? You pay them. He is a smart man. So I got $0.25 a week from my allowance. He paid me a buck for every Shakespeare soliloquy or poem I memorized. I was a mercenary child. I wasn’t stupid. I memorized all of the poetry, but it worked.
I fell in love with poetry and one of my favorite poet is an American Poet named Mary Oliver and her poems have saved my life more times than I can possibly tell you. This is a very short poem by Mary Oliver, but honestly you can’t leave it, Instructions For Living Life. Pay attention, be astonished, tell about it and that’s what I get to do. Ronnie McDowell said to me when I was younger, Hollywood doesn’t know that it has a history. It doesn’t care about its own history. It doesn’t pay attention. He said listen to that history and I did. I did. I paid attention to what was going on and the further I get away from how I grew up, that incredible life that I grew up with, the more astonished I am and the good fortune in meeting some people who I think we can all agree, people like Christopher Lee and my dad and Boris Karloff and Joseph Cotten, amazing people who were truly, truly unique. And then I get to go around and I get to tell about it and that is an awesome way to live life.
So we get back to explore, savor and celebrate. I’m often asked what was it like to grow up being the kid of Vincent Price? So I’m going to tell you how you can know what it was like to grow up being the kid of Vincent Price. You can know if you go out and explore, savor and celebrate your own life. Now you don’t have to have enough money to go to [indiscernible] [01:26:48] Paris to do that. One of the ways my dad taught me how to explore, savor and celebrate life was by teaching me how to do it right where I lived. One Saturday morning he said to me, I was about 12, he said okay come on; let’s hop in the car, today we’re going to find the best taquito in Los Angeles. I’m 12; I’m like what’s a taquito. He said it doesn’t matter, let’s go.
So we drove to the nearest carwash and there was this little hut outside the carwash and there we ate a rolled up corn tortilla filled with some kind of meat, dipped it in a sauce, it was amazing. And we talked about which sauce we like best, what we thought of that and then we found out from somebody there that Pablo down the way had another hut near another carwash and we should try that. We ended up driving 200 miles that Saturday all over Los Angeles eating taquitos, and not just taquitos, we ate the sauces, we ate the other specialties of whatever carwash hut we were at. On the way we passed like this little Bodega, we would stop in and we would eat something or buy something. And if there was a mural we would talk about, that day was one of the great adventurous of my life and I never left the Los Angeles city limits.
So exploring, savoring and celebrating your life does not require anything other than a yes. So I’m going to suggest to all of you that if you want to know what it’s like to live like Vincent, you have to do one thing and one thing only, and that is say yes. And I’m going to ask all of you between now and, oh let’s say the end of the year, to try to do just that. If there is something that someone has been asking you to do over and over again and you’ve had a million good reasons not to do it, try saying yes to see how it feels. If there is something you’ve always thought of doing but what you hear in your head is well maybe you’re – yeah, I could or yeah but, yeah but is a good one. I had a partner one time who said my nickname should be yeah but. Let me tell you right now, yeah but is not yes. Yeah, but is no way to live. It will speed bump you right through life. Yes is very different. Yes is an extraordinary way to live.
Maybe it’s just going to be some spontaneous thing that comes up and your first instinct is no, say yes, because really honestly, what I’ve learned from going out and living my dad’s legacy, because that yes is how he lived his life and yes is an extraordinary way to live life, because in saying yes we are choosing love, not fear. We are choosing to expand to life instead of contract into fear. So that’s why I’m out here. I’m out here to share the love of Vincent Price and I’m out here to share the legacy of Vincent Price and I’m out here to exert all of you to do just one simple thing, say yes, thanks for coming.
Gaz Bailey: Peter Fuller.
Peter Fuller: Thank you everyone. A little talk I’m going to do today is I’ve entitled Vincent Price is a Treasury of Terror in the UK, because it’s to compliment the exhibition to go to upstairs and outside and we’ve got this wonderful illustration done by – does anyone guess who, which I hold actually in compliments the exhibition and also the films that Vincent did in the UK. And so let’s start.
Right, it’s 1963 and in November, 1963 Roger Corman came to the UK to film his 7th Edgar Allan Poe film and it was for international – American International Pictures, The Masque of the Red Death. Only this one is going to be shot in Borehamwood rather than Hollywood and that was because of a new exhibition tax that allowed Corman to get a bigger project budget and a longer production shoot for his film which was his lovely stylishly choreographed 12th century stannic tile of like – of Vincent Price and as Prince Prospero. But of course this wasn’t the first time that Vincent Price had actually set foot in UK soil, because you see it really started back in 1928. In the summer of ‘28 Vincent Price was just 17 years of age and he came to London for the first time as a part of a tour of Europe that he was going to take where – which was quite informed him as a young man and also in seeing the great treasures of Europe, the art treasures of Europe. He was able to inform about his actual love of the visual arts himself and it was just continued throughout his life.
After graduating in Yale of course, as he returned to London in 1934 to undertake an art history degree at the Courtauld University, at the Courtauld Institute and of course it was during that time that he ended up getting the acting bug and joining the Gate Theatre where, of course, he performed in Victoria Regina which of course was his springboard to Broadway and beyond.
Of course, over the next 25 years, Vincent really established himself as an actor. He owned his stage craft in the Mercury Theatre with Orson Welles and also in Broadway, Broadway is like Angel Street. He found his wish on radio. He wasn’t flipped back to the first ever Simon Templar, The Saint and he became absurd after actor on television and on – in Hollywood films. But in between those all romantic leads and the occasional comic side kick or even a palace, a poetry spelled in GI, Vincent found himself that his best roles were always playing the cat and the villain and it was a potent of things to come.
In the 1960s of course he became the kind of horror, for American International Pictures, Edgar Allan Poe cycle all directed by Rodger Corman. And of course he ended up having a whole [indiscernible] [01:33:31] gallery of characters who he later described as not monsters, but men diseased by fate and out for little revenge. And so in the 1960s you’re going to see a Vincent Price film, it was actually an annual event that people looked forward to, because he knew exactly what you were going to get. And of course that all kind of got back to The Masque of the Red Death.
Now, this was the first of a series of films which Vincent would actually make here in the UK and it was his sixth poet adaptation and it came out in June ‘64. But that was not before a lawsuit for plagiarizing was filed against – by another producer. Now that was eventually rejected and that was on the grounds of this that the scripts nearly reflected standard ingredients as standard ingredients for every Vincent Price hall of [phonetic] [01:34:23] performance. So by The Masque of the Red Death, the 10 plate was actually formed of what you were going to see and he knew exactly what you were going to get, the kind of performance you were going to get.
Now the film ended up to be more of a critical favorite than a box-office one. And Roger Corman himself actually felt that the film was a little bit too hoity-toity for its own good. However, times tell – time has shown that in fact this has become a real classic of the genre and that’s down to the stylish camera work, the expensive looking sets which were all borrowed and of course Vincent Price playing dastardly Prince Prospero.
Now I felt I think he gives a really chilly hypnotic performance in this and it’s a worthy – his character of Prince Prospero a worthy addition to all of the characters that he want to screen monsters that he portrayed. And we’re going to actually see a little clip.
[Movie Presentation] [01:35:18 - 01:36:42]
Peter Fuller: Now of course Vincent was not only an accomplished actor, but he was also a well-known art of authority. Now he was – at this time he was working also with Seuss and he is in the States supplying visual art which they would sell through the department stores. Now when he was on this trip alone he had 20 grand to actually go up and buy some Rembrandts and some goyas. I always wonder how much they will be worth today.
And during his day of course did one thing – something that he loved to do and that is to hangout at Portobello Road Market buying art for his own personal collection. And of course the press took advantage of this with his – as you can see in his photos with him and Jane Asher going around and having a look at Portobello markets. Of course, Jane was actually – this is her debut, she is only 17 at the time and still living at home. But of course everybody knew her at the time, of course she was then Paul McCartney’s girlfriend and he actually visited the set one day I believe.
Now we move on to The Tomb of Ligeia. Now this one gave Roger Corman some of the best reviews of his entire career. And it was a love story fused with gothic horror, black magic and melodrama. And it became a fitting swan song for the Roger Corman directed Poe Cycle. Now Corman knowing that he was going to be moving on to more [indiscernible] [01:38:03] projects wanted to go out with a bang. And so he left the studio and went into the English countryside. Now Vincent arrived in the UK on the 20th of June, 1964 and headed straight to Norfolk for a five-week shoot. And that took place around Swaffham and Castle Acre, Priory. Now playing the tormented widower, Verden Fell, he gives an passionate performance and his co-star Elizabeth Shepherd, really shines in the dual role of the – as the witchy Ligeia and also the spirited Rowena. While the film’s romance actually went over the heads of a lot of horror fans at the time, the film scored well at the box-office and as it’s become Corman’s finest achievement as a director on screen.
Now Vincent was 53 at the time and he was rather old to be really playing the kind of Byronic protagonist that the role required, because it was actually Richard Jamin [phonetic] [01:39:04] who is in lead for that role, but of course he came with a package. And so to make him look younger, he got a lovely black wig which actually gives him same sort of dashing hair that he had in Dragonwyck. But of course one thing that Vincent didn’t like about it is the fact that he got to be clean shaven as we have this look. I looked at the mirror and for once Vincent Price didn’t look back.
Now there are many regions why Tomb of Ligeia is regardless Corman’s finest work. It’s gorgeously photographed. It has a great script by Robert Towne and Corman brings a real hero feel to the whole proceedings. And it all comes together in scenes like this one which also features I think Vincent’s iconic voice at it’s best.
[Movie Presentation] [01:39:51 - 01:41:43]
Peter Fuller: Often asked if his horror – if horror films actually frightened him, Vincent once said, I was never afraid of the applause, the scariest thing was all those fires blazing. Now the Corman-Poe films have lots of recurrent flames and fire is definitely one of them. In fact, it was a running joke for Roger Corman to use a shot of a burning bond roof which he couldn’t put passive Asher over and over again. And Vincent also had his fair share of mishaps with fire over his career. In – he had a close call in House of Wax where a burning beam almost collapsed on him and he took a flaming torch by – from Errol Flynn in the Adventures of Captain Fabian. And while filming Ligeia’s climatic scenes the fire effects got out of control when someone with a cigarette, but the sets were actually painted with a rubber cement which was highly flammable. So that’s actually have been ended up having to help Elizabeth Shepherd to safety while the fire extinguishers were coming out.
Now the critical success of Tomb of Ligeia was the prime reason why American International Pictures decided to plunder Poe ever with Price of course as a help. Now first that was this film, City under the Sea which came out in November of 1965. Now it used the title from Poe’s 1854 Poe of City under the Sea and it had Vincent decidedly truncated version at the beginning of the film, but that’s where any similarities to Poe actually ends and an excuse to actually play Vincent’s voice, so…
[Movie Presentation] [01:43:25 - 01:44:07]
Peter Fuller: Now in the U.S. it was known as War-Gods of the Deep and it was made in the tradition of fantasy films like Disney’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Now despite his gothic look and Vincent’s great performance and a really fun adventure score, the production was made in crisis. The British and American crews didn’t get on and the Director, Jack Tourneur who had actually done The Comedy of Terrors the year before was really not up to the task. The result is what I would like to call a solely bottom adventure.
Now, Vincent often said that his sole job as an actor was to make the unbelievable believable and he certainly does this in the role of the captain who is a cross between Captain Nemo and Roderick Asher [phonetic] [01:44:51]. And it’s a subdued performance, but it lacks his customary flamboyance. But he does have a good step at the preposterous dialogue. The script which he only received three days before the camera is rolled and here is an example of what he had to recite.
[Movie Presentation] [01:45:10 - 01:47:01]
Peter Fuller: Now who can forget the film’s 10-minute underwater chase sequence where the war chicken keeps popping up with a diving helmet. Now the man responsible, Louis Jack, Louis Heyward, and he was commonly known as Deke, and he is responsible for all of Vincent Price’s outputs in the UK from – for the next 10 years. And he was also responsible for putting that chicken in the script. He thought it was going to be humorous. Now on reflecting about working with Vincent, Deke actually said this wonderful thing. Occasionally Vincent would realign then look at me and say, Deke, dear, sweet Deke, you are screwing up my career in the ground and indeed I’m naive. But of course Vincent’s next project would prove to be just as difficult, but a lot more rewarding.
In 1967, Vincent found himself in a bit of a rut, but this film would prove to be his most controversial, his most challenging and his most discussed of his career and that was in achieving [indiscernible] [01:48:16] and of course it’s famous clash between star and director.
[Movie Presentation] [01:48:26 - 01:50:49]
Peter Fuller: Now Vincent’s playing abilities have certainly got a wake up call when he was cast as Matthew Hopkins from Witchfinder General. It was shot in East Anglia in 1967 between September and November. And this face of Vincent has been – it has never been more enjoyable in this role and he really – he’s Hopkins, he gives Hopkins a – basically a butcher from Scotland of this mask riding behind – of the near of puritan [indiscernible] [01:51:23] it was straight. And he has great subtle nuances and a conviction that really is second to none and it’s probably his finest performance on screen. And I’m going to play a little clip of Vincent in action and this is when the subtle comes.
[Movie Presentation] [01:51:43 - 01:52:38]
Peter Fuller: Getting into character proved an arduous task for Vincent, because he was clashing with Michael Reeves who was very young and he really did not know how to deal with actors, especially someone of Vincent’s structure. And of course Vincent kept thinking he was actually just in a run of a little horror film. He didn’t realize what the result will be. And it wasn’t until he actually saw it on the screen that he felt that he needed to write a letter to Michael Reeves basically apologizing and saying you know what, thank you for giving me one of the finest performances.
Now while it was released of course in May 1968, Witchfinder General is called the Conqueror Worm in the U.S. to tie in with Poe was met with a mixture of interest and revulsion from the UK where it was heavily sensitive. But in the U.S. it was [indiscernible] and actually become a box-office success. And today of course it’s regardless of true British classic and that famous clash between Vincent and Michael Reeves was the subject of the BBC4 – Radio-4 Drama back in 2010.
Now following the success of Witchfinder General, Michael Reeves is scheduled to do two more films for AIP; the first was this one, Edgar Allan Poe’s of The Oblong Box which we all knew about from the pub quiz last night. A tail of grave robbing and family curses and it was originally attended to be filmed in Ireland, however it ended up being directed by Gordon Hessler at [indiscernible] [01:54:08] in the studios because Michael Reeves have collapsed because of his health and he actually later died on February 11th, 1969 apparently from overdose of barbiturates.
Now although built as another Poe film, it has nothing of Poe in it. This time Vincent doesn’t even get to do a voiceover, how disappointing was that. Now, long thought of his correlation to the other Poe AIP films, he does actually manage to generate an air, an atmosphere of [indiscernible] [01:54:40] call that’s very poetic. Vincent even felt that both Hessler and Christopher Wicking who did the script did an admirable job despite the circumstances.
The rich consumption was mixed, but the film again did well at box-office earning six times its production value which is great. And after his restrained performance in Witchfinder, Vincent actually reverted back to some eye rolling and some eyebrow arching. Now, Gordon has [indiscernible] [01:55:10], but he felt that Vincent’s tenancy towards high melodrama actually gave the film a little bit – more of a push that it needed and here is an example.
[Movie Presentation] [01:55:24 - 01:57:15]
Peter Fuller: It was The Oblong Box marks the – marked to the beginning of a lifelong friendship with of course Christopher Lee, but it was here that the two of them met on the set. Now the picture of them playing chess was actually a setup, neither of them could actually play chess. I found it very amusing. And of course Christopher Lee had to spot a silver betel wig. And he gets very little screen time with Vincent. However he did find that Vincent had a brilliant sense of humor, particularly so in their only scene together and I just want to read you something here. While he was filming one scene, I was lying of the floor expiring in a welter of blood and Vincent was wearing this big voluminous cap. I had to kneel down and he had asked me who did this to you which didn’t make any sense, because I would have not been able to talk if I had my throat slit. Well, I could remember him saying under his breath very slowly you’re lying on my drain which of course Christopher Lee ended up cracking out which is exactly what Vincent wanted him to do.
1970s Scream and Scream Again which we’re going to show tomorrow morning. This was an Amicus co-production with AIP and using the same take from The Oblong Box, Gordon Hessler and Chris Wicking. Now is adopted by a pulp novel for the disorientated man in this bizarre complex and surreal. In fact it confounds all horror film stereotypes. The plot is very, very complotted and I’m not going to give all to you, I will tell you tomorrow about it. But the fact is that Vincent was very, very good in this and even though he has only three scenes, it comes off quite well as the mad scientist. However, in a last minute decision and to help the box-office in states, Deke Heyward, you will hear a lot about him during this talk decided that to get Peter Cushing to have a cameo and that’s bring together for the very first time the three kings of horror. However, it was viewed by lot of fans me included that this was a huge disappointment, because let’s face it, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price only get one scene together lasting 50 seconds and Peter Cushing only gets a three-minute scene.
Now shot in 1969 at Shabbaton [phonetic] [01:59:40] and all location in London, it was released in the following February and the reviews were mixed, but it actually gave AIP one of their biggest money earns of – in their career apart from The Abominable Dr. Phibes, because that really hit Poe with all the hipsters in London at the time.
Now what Vincent said about this film, the only thing I remember about is that I dive at the end by falling in a vat of acid or some such nonsense. And as you can see this wonderful quote from Christopher Lee is, they were having to do the scene and poor Vincent look like he was a [indiscernible] himself. But there was a serious side, this is – the chemicals that we used in that last sequence actually affected Vincent’s sinus conditions, well for quite a while he had sinus problems.
Cry of the Banshee, now this was the last of AIP’s Poe films and with a note to Witchfinder General, Vincent is now playing a 16th century magistrate who gets cursed by Oona played by Elizabeth Bergner after killing off some of her coven.
[Movie Presentation] [02:00:55 - 02:02:48]
Peter Fuller: And of course what happens next is that she conjures up a lovely evil spirit. He takes down with Vince one-by-one that played by Patrick Mower in a terrible mask. Now filming to plays for four weeks in early October, 1969 and it all shot in location at Grim’s Dyke House in Harrow, North London and that was the former home of W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert in Sullivan play. Now with his tiny budget and box script and terrible makeup, it was a troublesome affair for both Gordon Hessler and his [indiscernible] [02:03:23] which really does a great justice to all his films. But he sort works it away and I think it’s all down to the director of photography and that was a chap called John Coquillon and he did Witchfinder General and Oblong Box and I think in all three films he does bring a real sense of atmosphere and in this one not a very – makes it very claustrophobic, it’s hugely shot.
Now the film was issued, was released in July of 1970, but it suffered terribly at the hands of AIP’s editors. As a result two versions were released and they were ended up on the cinema and then on television and then on via chess. And finally next year we will be able to see both edits together, of course Scream Factory is going to be releasing them which is great, because the music on this one is falling, the other music was done by Les Baxter and that’s terrific, a well worth film.
Now, Cry of the Banshee was falsely promoted as Vincent’s 100th picture and a party was held in his home with a big cake and all of the actors arrived in their costumes which had all been used before in Anne of Thousand Days. Now AIP has had a home show, Sam Arkoff and James Nicholson were always present, but Vincent who was currently undergoing some problems with his contract with AIP did not want to turn up, especially he found out that Sam Arkoff was going to actually give a speech in his own. But he was eventually persuaded and ended up heading to the bar.
Now when it came to cutting the cake, they couldn’t find the knife and of course his famous quote, ‘please use the knife off my back’. Now, it was – this was the dead of winter and it’s grimes dark, there was no heating, no electricity. But the actors, they were great, because they were all in their costumes, but for the naked girl who popped out of the cake that was another matter. Vincent was greatly embarrassed by that.
Now we come to what I like to call the London cotat [phonetic] [02:05:35]. Four films in which Vincent got his mojo back and four films which perfectly capture his horror screen to so now. First up of course, The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Now the Motion Picture Guide called it and said what more could a horror freak desire and what a great tagline that was! Vincent gets his first recurring horror screen role and, let’s face it, this film has everything. It’s got an ingenious concept, it’s stylishly directed, it got great sets, brilliant script, Vincent is brilliant, I mean it’s the perfect Vincent Price film.
Now only did that give Vincent a chance to have one of his signature role, he also got a chance to perform with Joseph Cotten who he had actually worked with in the 1930s at the Mercury Theatre. And Joseph Cotten’s character was Dr. Vesalius; it was originally supposed to be for Peter Cushing. But Peter Cushing had to like bow out, because his wife Helen was gravely ill at the time and in fact, she died in the January.
Now, Dr. Phibes was – hit the purpose for Vincent, he completely immerses himself in the role despite the obvious discomforts of the makeup that he had to wear. It was a thing called colonial and it was a plastic that made a new skin on his face and it constantly cracked up, because he was always laughing. And so the makeup man was constantly patching him up. But this meant that Vincent would have to arrive at the set 6:00 AM in the morning, but to treat all the other costume crew, he would make big homemade bowls of pate to bring in every day which just showed how much of a great guy he was working in such conditions. Just to treat you with a scene just today.
[Movie Presentation] [02:07:31 - 02:09:36]
Peter Fuller: I was too ashamed of Dr. Phibes. Now I think this sequel is just as good as the original. I think Robert Fuest actually does very well with the time period that he had to make this film, because they rushed it out after the success of The Abominable Dr. Phibes. And as I spoke to you early this day they had about four months to actually make the film and get it out and I think it works in a lot of ways. But Vincent Price got a new protagonist in Robert Quarry. Now much as been said about this and I’m sure you all know about it that Robert Quarry was lined up to become the new start for American International Pictures because Vincent was having huge fights with AIP.
And a lot has been said about this, there is one thing that Robert Quarry said to himself, he said, Vincent Price was a lovely man, we pull each other on so terribly all the time, some people thought we were at odds about something, but it was just our way of showing affection. And one of those examples is – comes from Robert Fuest, the director, who recalled an episode that’s so Vincent. In makeup Quarry used to [indiscernible] [02:10:53] and Vincent looked around the corner and Quarry said, I bet you didn’t know I was a singer, didn’t you Vincent, at which point Vincent jokingly turned around and said, well I need one of fucking actor. But of course the [indiscernible] was really not from not Vincent and Robert Quarry who in fact could have become best pals. They were both very, very similar. They both loved art. They both were [indiscernible] [02:11:25] cooks. They were both classically trained actors. But it was just that their bosses were trying to put them against each other.
And of course behind the scenes of Dr. Phibes Rises Again, there was drama, because Samuel Arkoff and James Nicholson were really locking heads and in fact they parted company after the completion of this film. And Deke Hayward was also late to quit which basically put an end to any more Phibes adventures. So – and of course on top of that Vincent was contracted to do just one last film for AIP. But before that he got to do something he absolutely loves, eat. In a night in early 1970s, Vincent got his own six path TV show in the UK called Cooking Pricewise. And it was – for him to share his knowledge of that European cuisine which could be replicated in the home quickly and cheaply. And when I say cheaply I also mean of the production values of the TV show. We’re going to treat you to an exclusive clip, because I don’t think anybody has ever seen – oh sorry, in fact one [inaudible] [02:12:37].
[Movie Presentation] [02:12:39 - 02:15:13]
Peter Fuller: And of course his next film Theatre of Blood, shot in July and August of ‘72, this stylish black comedy shot entirely in London and it was of course a tuta force for Vincent and gave him one of the choice’s roles of his film career. Now at 61, Vincent was placing an uncertain future and he certainly wasn’t looking to do another horror film, especially now that his AIP contract was almost over. But he did take up this one, because he felt that in this character, Edward Lionheart, he could not only speak a Shakespeare verse which is something he always wanted to do, but he also could show his range as an actor. And indeed he does, because he gets to do six Shakespearean roles and seven character actors like character [indiscernible] [02:16:06], most notably Butch the hairdresser or fencing instructor or the ones we’ve now love.
Now, he often said that Theatre of Blood was his favorite funny film and you can see why. The gruesome invented death scenes are really comparable, well – sorry are a great companion to the Phibes films. And the role of Lionheart is Vincent Price personified. It also hosted a classic cast of English stage actors and actresses who he really admired. And of course among them was a woman who is going to change his life forever, Coral Browne. And Vincent called her the Great Barrier Reef, beautiful, exotic and dangerous. Dangerous she was, but I’m going to leave that to Victoria to talk about it.
Now Vincent’s last assignment for AIP was the Madhouse and it marked an end of an era. It was another co-production with Amicus. It’s a [indiscernible] [02:17:12] and it continues to divide fans, some of us like him like it, some of us hate it. But Vincent did get the chance to play with – to play opposite of Peter Cushing. Now, very loosely based on the novel Devilday, and if you’ve read it, it’s very loosely based and it’s filled with sex. And when I read it, I was only about 13 and I was like, oh this is great, but not for Vincent Price. It was filmed in April ‘73 and it was another great vehicle for Vincent, but this time he was in much of a stretch to play Paul Toombes, the aging horror actor who was disillusioned with his life and his career. And it’s especially so when you watch Vincent having to sit through his own old movies, you actually think ,oh yeah that’s Vincent and that’s possibly how he is feeling at the time. And – but he did get to ham it up big time and no more so than in the secrets.
[Movie Presentation] [02:18:15 - 02:20:23]
Peter Fuller: So after being loaned out for the [indiscernible] of British sex comedy, Percy’s Progress in 1974 which we got a lovely poster upstairs, Vincent’s association with AIP finally came to an end. Now married to Cobra and living in LA, the workaholic Vincent founds himself playing a whole – being busy as usual doing lots of guests spots on TV, coming on the commercials, especially the [inaudible] [02:20:49] with Coral where he was constantly[indiscernible] . He is no familiar persona. But his next return to the horror genre actually came; courtesy for BBC Radio as he got to do the Price of Fear, a fantastic horror and poetry series in which he actually got one story with Coral called Soul Music. And the two of them will then go off and do another radio play called the Night of the Wolf while Vincent then returned very nicely with Peter Cushing to do Aliens in the Mind which actually stars in life as a classic Dr. Who story.
And in 1975, Vincent returned to the London stage for the first time in 40 years. The play was the light French comedy Adele and he did it as a favor for Coral who at the time was hoping that the two of them will now become a theatrical couple. It was however a commercial and critical failure. And it was one that haunted Vincent who felt he actually let Coral down and he was also ill at the time. But his next venture, Training the Boys will be a completely different story.
Diversions and Delights, now in 1977 Vincent began a long run with this one man show playing Oscar Wilde giving a lecture of 1999. And he went on to perform some 800 shows in some 300 cities, both in the U.S. and Australia where he did 46 of them and I was very, very pleased to be able to go and see one of them. There is a classic line, a line in the play which I feel really sums up Vincent as an actor and it says, he saying goes on, anyone can play the piano well, I play with style. And really that’s Vincent for [indiscernible] [02:22:43]. Now it was a theatrical tribe and a personal best for Vincent and in 1992 he reflected, he said my role as Oscar Wilde was my greatest achievement as an actor and very much so as like he said if Lionheart has come to say yes, I finally found success.
Seven years later, Vincent returns to the UK to do the Amicus horror anthology, the Monster Club. Why, because he wanted to do a fun picture for younger people, something that was scary but not frightening. Well he got his wish, because it’s not as scary, nor frightening. Unfortunately, the Monster Club was – let’s face it, I will stick with the audience’s day and what they wanted from their horror films. And he went straight to video and of course the cover was done by none other than by Graham Humphreys which is also upstairs for you to look at.
Now over the years the Monster Club has grown in cult states and while it does have its flaws, Vincent does get to start stuff with mixtures and some really bad mouths. And he also gets to show off how good he is at remembering big chunks of dialogue and I will give you an example.
[Movie Presentation] [02:24:02 - 02:26:25]
Peter Fuller: But of course then comes the one thing that I was waiting for all my life to see the kings of horror all brought together for 1983s House of the Long Shadows. Unfortunately he got a lukewarm reception and that was by the cast as well. But like I find vintage wine, he gets better with age, I think. And with Pete Walker doing the directing and Michael Armstrong doing the screenplay, I think fans at the time felt they were going to get something with lots of gold. In fact what they got was a pastiche of 1930s thrillers like Cat and the Canary. Unfortunately instead of getting people like Bob Hope as the hero, they got Lucille Ball’s son Desi Arnaz, Jr. Unfortunately he was no match for the likes of Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, John Carradine and Peter Cushing. But this – again this was a Cannon Film. Now if anybody has seen the documentary that came out just recently about Cannon Films, you will know exactly what I mean. Fans expectations were never going to be raised by seeing that.
Short location in – over five weeks in Hampshire in 1992, it was released straight to video. Now, while a film may disappoint although I like it a lot it stars don’t, they are fantastic and let’s face it, Vincent is at his elegant best here. He really gets in some of the funniest lines of the film beginning with his great entrance, it’s just so theatrical where he says, I have returned and also in this clip which again he gets to do lots of dialogue which is so…
[Movie Presentation] [02:28:17 - 02:30:00]
Peter Fuller: Now while Vincent reached sophisticated stackedness in this film, he didn’t in the next. One thought of the House of the Dead, now in 1983 Kenny Edwards gets his big screen debut in this horror spoof featuring lots of famous faces from British TV. Now, it was supposed to be Friday, the 13th and Legend of Hell House meets [indiscernible] [02:30:22]. And it is great fun to play ‘spot a movie’ in the film, but let’s face it; it’s silly, contrived, corny and filled with toilet humor. It did get a – it never got a cinema release, went straight to video in 1984. Now Vincent only agreed to appear in it because he was good mates with the director, Ray Cameron, and he buys as soonest demand. Now he really does get to ham it up big time in this one, only difference is he swears something that really shocked me when I heard it.
[Movie Presentation] [02:31:02 - 02:32:35]
Peter Fuller: Vincent having a funny good time in this and that’s the best thing about Vincent, is that okay, this might not be his proudest moment in screen, but the amount of good stuff that he has done since 1963, but that was part of what Vincent was all about. And I like to end with a quote which I [indiscernible] [02:32:55]. I’ve always tried to give an audience a laugh as well as a chill; actually I like making people laugh most of all. Anyway with that, thank you very much.
Beth Accomando: Thanks for listening to another edition of KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast. I’m Beth Accomando. You can go to kpbs.org/cinemajunkie for more information about the festival and to see some photos from the event. Please check back each week for reviews and interviews and thanks for listening.