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Subject: Archive: Vincent Price, Oct., 1993


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Date Posted: Sunday, October 28, 03:57:31pm

Vincent Price, the suavely menacing star of countless low-budget but often stylish Gothic horror films, died at his home in Los Angeles yesterday. He was 82 years old and died of lung cancer, a personal assistant, Reggie Williams, told the Associated Press.

The flamboyant 6-foot-4-inch actor with a silken voice and mocking air helped start a major revival of science-fiction films in 1953 with his portrayal of a cruelly scarred sculptor in "The House of Wax." He went on to play a succession of macabre characters in the director Roger Corman's film adaptations of stories by Edgar Allan Poe, including "Pit and the Pendulum" and "Masque of the Red Death."

Mr. Price appeared in scores of movies, more than 2,000 television shows and occasionally on stage. In his early films he frequently played historical figures -- Sir Walter Raleigh in "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" (1939); Joseph Smith, the Mormon founder, in "Brigham Young -- Frontiersman" (1940); England's King Charles II in "Hudson's Bay" (1941) and Richelieu in "The Three Musketeers" (1948).

In other supporting roles, Mr. Price was a caddish gigolo in "Laura" (1944), a cynical monsignor in "The Keys of the Kingdom" (1944), a murderous aristocrat in "Dragonwyck" (1946) and a florid actor in "His Kind of Woman" (1951).

The Horror Films

But starting with the three-dimensional "House of Wax," Mr. Price joined the pantheon of horror occupied by Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. His specialty was the tongue-in-cheek archfiend -- often a demented scientist, inventor or doctor -- whose talents had been corrupted and turned to evil ends.



"The best parts in movies are the heavies," Mr. Price said in a 1971 interview. "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."

"Horror movies don't date because they were dated to begin with, they were mannered and consciously so -- Gothic tales with an unreality," he said in 1977. "They have the fun of a fairy tale."

"To me, films that deal with drug addiction, crime and war are the real horror films," he said on another occasion. "In a world where slaughter and vicious crimes are daily occurrences, a good ghoulish movie is comic relief."

He savored acting and dismissed people who looked down on his horror-film roles. "I like to be seen, I love being busy and I believe in being active," he once said. "I know some people think I've lowered myself as an actor, but my idea of 'professional decline' is 'not working.' " Art

Collector and Lecturer

Mr. Price was also a noted art connoisseur and collector. He lectured on art at colleges and clubs, tied for a top prize for his art expertise on "The $64,000 Challenge" television quiz show in 1956 and for years was a syndicated newspaper columnist on art. He was the art-buying consultant of Sears, Roebuck & Company, and he wrote several popular books on fine art. He was also an accomplished cook and was the co-writer of some best-selling cookbooks.

Vincent Leonard Price's manner and speech reflected his cultured background. He was born on May 27, 1911, in St. Louis, one of four children of the former Marguerite Cobb Wilcox and Vincent Leonard Price, the president of a candy-manufacturing company. He attended private schools in St. Louis, made the grand tour of Europe's museums as a teen-ager and earned degrees in art history at Yale and the University of London, where he became hooked on the theater and resolved to be an actor.

He soon won praise on the London stage as Prince Albert in the play "Victoria Regina." He repeated the role opposite Helen Hayes in an 18-month run on Broadway and on tour and honed his craft in summer stock and on Broadway, where he emerged as a first-rate villain in the role of a maniacal husband in "Angel Street" in 1941.

Among his 100-odd movies were "The Song of Bernadette," "Wilson," "Leave Her to Heaven," "Moss Rose," "The Baron of Arizona," "The Tingler," "The Conquerer Worm" and "The Abominable Dr. Phibes." His personal film favorites included the 1973 "Theater of Blood," in which he played a deranged actor who gleefully kills drama critics in ways inspired by Shakespeare; the 1987 "Whales of August," in which he appeared as a Russian nobleman charming two elderly sisters (Bette Davis and Lillian Gish), and "Edward Scissorhands," in 1990, which found him cast as the bizarre inventor of the film's surreal title character.
Diverse Capacities

The irrepressible Mr. Price also did a monologue for Michael Jackson's 1983 hit video "Thriller" and performed an eight-year stint as the host of the "Mystery" series on public television. For decades, he enlivened commercials for sponsors as disparate as Burger King and the United States Treasury.

On the stage, he portrayed the dying Oscar Wilde in John Gay's one-man play "Diversions and Delights" in a tour of more than 200 cities from 1977 to 1982. Reviewers hailed the portrait as a delicate and compelling tour de force.
What matters eventually is the sum total of one's career, Mr. Price observed in 1986. "People remember you as someone who is working for their pleasure. A man came up to me and said, 'Thank you for all the nice times you've given me.' That's really what it's all about."

Mr. Price expressed his passion for art in "I Like What I Know: A Visual Autobiography," published in 1959. He won over reviewers and readers with "The Vincent Price Treasury of American Art" (1972) and several cookbooks written with his second wife, Mary, including "A Treasury of Great Recipes: Famous Specialties of the World's Foremost Restaurants Adapted for the American Kitchen" (1965).

Mr. Price, who lived for decades on a hilltop overlooking Los Angeles, was a member of many arts panels, a former president of the art council of the University of California at Los Angeles and the founder and prime donor of a major art collection at East Los Angeles College.

Mr. Price's third wife, the actress Coral Browne, whom he married in 1974, died in 1991. He was previously married to Edith Barrett, an actress, from 1938 to 1948, and to Mary Grant, a designer, from 1949 to 1973. He is survived by a son, Vincent Barrett, and a daughter, Mary Victoria.

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