This is why I can’t write scary stuff without a slightly corny undertone and I know he (and his colleagues) are responsible for my appreciation of the macabre. As a kid I loved scary movies, mostly the old ones with mummies and vampires, and especially if they featured Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, or Bela Lugosi.
Vincent Price was my favorite because his voice resonated with intonation and he could flutter his hands in a way that seemed menacing and laughable at the same time. A delightful villain.
Back in the day our local library offered audio cassettes for checkout. These were voice recordings of folk tales, scary stories, flash fictions of a sort – and many of them were narrated by Vincent Price. I listened to them all. Many times. For that reason, Vincent Price is the narrator in my head. I flip on a horror movie and the rich timber of his voice flows through my occipital receptors…I can’t help it. Half the time I bust out laughing because the overlay is never a good fit. I wouldn’t give it up though.
He was born in 1911 to a prominent St. Louis family. Well-educated and well-traveled, he started his film career with a mixture of serious and not-so-serious roles. His career was extensive…those of a certain age will recall his role as the well-meaning lonely inventor of Edward Scissorhands. Visit this lovely tribute site to the Sounds of Vincent Price.
No one could utter sardonic mad laughter like Vincent Price, infuse it with a touch of pathos and self-deprecation and still raise the hair on the back of your neck. People remember Mr. Price as an actor, but they are seldom aware he was also an avid art collector with quite eclectic tastes. Many of the works he collected are available for public viewing at the Vincent Price Art Museum.
He left an enduring legacy which included a body of professional performances counted in the thousands, his passion for collecting and sharing art, and a public record of outspoken support for all people and a denunciation of racism. He passed away at the age of 82, a lesser-known icon of old Hollywood, but much loved by his fans.
Every interview I’ve read with Vincent Price demonstrates his awareness of the impact of his professional choices with a sense of humor and inherent value. He had this to say about selecting his roles:
“The best parts in movies are the heavies. The hero is usually someone who has really nothing to do. He comes out on top, but it’s the heavy who has all the fun. To me, films that deal with drug addiction, crime and war are the real horror films. In a world where slaughter and vicious crimes are daily occurrences, a good ghoulish movie is comic relief.”
This man is responsible for why I like my characters to be complex and complicated mixtures of positive and negative. No one thought all those years ago, when a quiet young girl checked out spooky stories narrated by a man with a voice smooth as aged whiskey, how the influence would linger, take root, and grow. The essence of the suave archfiend. Success, he might chortle, with a smirk. I like to think.